Anglican Communion, GAFCON, Lambeth Conference

Leaked minutes of GAFCON Primates meeting w/ Jerusalem bishop Suheil Dawani

Found this on Ruth Gledhill’s blog.

Quite enlightening when viewed with Graham Kings letter on the Fulcrum website.

January 22, 2008

Gafcon ‘disastrous’ for Holy Land says local bishop

BishopThinking Anglicans, the Guardian and I have been leaked (and posted almost simultaneously!)
a copy of the minutes of two recent meetings that took place in
Jerusalem between Bishop Suheil Dawani, Archbishop Peter Akinola and
Archbishop Peter Jensen. The other attendees are listed below. You can
read my news story on our online faith page. (See also Libby’s latest blog on Britain’s first Jedi church.) Bishop Suheil did not mince his words. Gafcon would be ‘disastrous’ for his ministry in the Holy Land. The minutes are self-explanatory. It rather fits with what Rowan Williams was saying yesterday
at Lambeth. If any of you want a reminder of what Lambeth was like last
time, and what Rowan Williams might be trying to avoid by turning it
into something approaching a university seminar, read Andrew Brown’s long essay which he’s dug out of his archives for me. Meanwhile, Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson has dreamed up Ten Rules for Cooking up a Schism. Quite amusing. See below for the Gafcon-Jerusalem minutes in full.


On Meeting of Bishop Suheil Dawani, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, with

Archbishop Dr Peter F. Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney
Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria

by Janina Zang
Acting PA to the bishop
12 January 2008 and 15 January 2008


To discuss Bishop Suheil’s concerns about the Global Anglican Future
Conference in Holy Land (GAFCON), following his press release dated 2
January 2008.

Bishop Suheil has not been consulted about this planned conference.
He first learned of it through a press release. He is deeply troubled
that this meeting, of which we had no prior knowledge, will import
inter-Anglican conflict into his diocese – the Episcopal Diocese of
Jerusalem, which seeks to be a place of welcome for all Anglicans.

Bishop Suheil: “It could also have serious consequences for our
ongoing ministry of reconciliation in this divided land. Indeed, it
could further inflame tensions here. We who minister here know only too
well what happens when two sides cease talking to each other. We do not
want to see any further dividing walls!

The Primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Dr.
Mouneer Hanna Anis, is also concerned about this event. His advice to
the organizers that this was not the right time or place for such a
meeting was ignored.

Minutes of Meeting with Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter F. Jensen, on 12 January 2008:

Participants: The Rt Rev’d Suheil Dawani, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem
Archbishop Dr Peter F. Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney
The Rev’d Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary

After mutual words of welcome and thanks, Archbishop Jensen informed
Bishop Suheil that the idea of holding such a conference was only
developed in December 2007, which was probably the reason for the
problems that have arisen. He invited Bishop Suheil to share his
concerns about the conference and he apologized for having rushed into
organizing this conference without Bishop Suheil’s approval.

Bishop Suheil was then inquiring about the general idea of the
conference. Archbishop Jensen responded that some bishops have come to
the conclusion that they cannot attend Lambeth Conference. He said that
he respected those who have different opinions, but he was concerned
about what the future was going to be like. He said that he felt a deep
sadness about the terrible situation the Anglican Communion finds
itself in and found it important to gather at this conference to
discuss how the future will unfold. He said that there have been a
number of possible venues, but when someone suggested the Biblical
Land, he immediately felt that this was the right venue.

Bishop Suheil then began to share his concerns, saying that we are
the body of Christ and thus have to listen and pray for each other. He
emphasized that as the heart of the Anglican Communion, Jerusalem was a
place of welcome for all.

He continued that Christians in the Holy Land are diminishing and
that there was a real need to sustain dialogue and unity among the
traditional churches. Bishop Suheil said that he was concerned about
any issues that may appear to threaten unity and dialogue. The language
that was used in the GAFCON press release was very concerning to him
and to all the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem. The Orthodox churches
did not welcome this language.

Bishop Suheil then went on to say that Christians in the Holy Land,
including the Diocese of Jerusalem, were struggling with their own
issues and that issues of peace and dialogue between the different
faith communities of the Holy Land were far more important at this time
than issues of homosexuality. Bishop Suheil said that as traditional
churches they were deeply rooted in the bible and that he agreed that
these issues needed to be discussed, but he felt that the venue was not
right at this sensitive time.

Bishop Suheil said that he was happy to welcome the bishops as
pilgrims. However, he repeated that at this critical time, political
and other leaders would exploit such a conference. It would be
misunderstood by many, and would threaten ecumenism and interfaith
dialogue. Bishop Suheil felt that this conference would be disastrous
for his ministry in the Holy Land.

Bishop Suheil explained that the international world has largely
ignored the local Christians of the Holy Land in the past, and has
continued to do so to some extent until today (holding the conference
in the Holy Land would be one example). Bishop Suheil said that the
Anglican Christians in the Holy Land are trying to be simple and humble
and that their contribution is reconciliation. Anglicans are very much
respected in the Holy Land, but their reputation would suffer as a
divided Church if such a conference was to be held in the Holy Land.
Suheil concluded by saying that he would prefer that all Anglicans came
together at Lambeth Conference to discuss their concerns there together.

Archbishop Jensen responded by saying that he would do his best to
present Bishop Suheil’s point of view to the leadership, but that he
could not promise that this matter would change. Admitting that it
would be wrong to come to the Holy Land without acknowledging the local
Christians, Archbishop Jensen said that his hope was that Bishop Suheil
would be able to contribute something to the conference.

Minutes of Meeting with Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Jasper Akinola, on 15 January 2008:

Participants: The Rt Rev’d Suheil Dawani, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem
Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria
The Rev’d Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary
The Very Rev’d Michael Sellors, Coordinator to the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem
The Rev’d Canon Hosam Naoum, Acting Dean, St. George’s Cathedral

After a few words of welcome by Bishop Suheil, Archbishop Akinola
thanked Bishop Suheil for receiving him in Jerusalem. He acknowledged
receiving the minutes for the above meeting.

Archbishop Akinola explained that in the beginning of the matter he
had called for a consultation in Nairobi, which led to the idea of
holding the conference in Jerusalem. He explained that he had led many
pilgrimages but had been in Jerusalem and at St. George’s Cathedral
only once. He said that this pilgrimage would be different from
previous ones, since it included primates, bishops, clergy, and laity
from 20 countries around the world. The conference would have a great
impact on all taking part and their communities.

Archbishop Akinola apologized for sending his letter to Bishop
Suheil at a very inconvenient time (at Christmas) and at such short
notice, but he said that he could not see how this conference could
become a “political problem”. He stressed that liberty was important
for Africa and that he could not allow anyone to tell his community
what to do and to say. He repeated that his interests were not
political, and that his major concern was about how to grow and how to
be strengthened and exchange experiences.

Responding to the question of unity within the Anglican Communion,
Archbishop Akinola said that in 2003 there had already been a huge
eruption leading to the divide within the Anglican Communion.
went on to say that coming together in the Holy Land would help them to
find the road map. He also stressed that there would be more
conferences of this kind in the future all around the world.

Bishop Suheil responded by saying that he wished he had been
consulted beforehand. In his eyes, the conference would raise many
issues, politically, ecumenically, and in the area of interfaith
dialogue. He said that Jerusalem is a place of reconciliation and that
on an ecumenical level and in his efforts to maintain his diocese that
covers five countries with different cultures and traditions, it was
very important to keep the balance.

Bishop Suheil also emphasized that the issues to be raised at the
conference should be discussed internally, because they are internal
matters. Outsiders should not be involved in the problems of the
Anglican Communion. He stressed that it was very important for
Archbishop Akinola to understand that Christian leaders of the Holy
Land are working very hard to maintain indigenous Christian presence in
the Holy Land.

Bishop Suheil underlined that for all Anglicans Lambeth is the place and the time to have such a conference.

The Rev’d Canon Hosam referred to his studies in Africa, saying that
he got a good idea of what Africa and Africans have gone through in the
past. Yet, he wished to stress that the indigenous Christians of the
Holy Land also did not want to see themselves being told what to do and
what to say. They did not want to be forced to deal with issues that
are not on their agenda yet and that could create serious disputes on
the level of the local churches in general and the Diocese of Jerusalem
in particular, as well as ecumenically, theologically, and socially. He
stressed that Christians in the Holy Land still had their own problems
to deal with.

The Rev’d Canon Dr Chris Sugden then posed the question in what way the conference was imposing on the diocese?

The Rev’d Canon Hosam answered that the conference was imposing the issue of homosexuality on the diocese.

The Rev’d Canon Dr Chris Sugden responded by saying that this conference was not about homosexuality.

The Rev’d Canon Hosam replied by reminding Archbishop Akinola that
he had referred to the split of the Anglican Communion in 2003.

Archbishop Akinola refrained from answering. Instead, he said that
he could not understand how this conference would have all these
impacts on the diocese.

The Very Rev’d Michael Sellors highlighted that this could not be
fully understood unless you lived in the Holy Land and experienced the
sensitivity. He stressed that the Holy Land was a fishy ground for the
media and for those who wanted to destroy or distract the peace process
and the role that the Christian Church in general and the Anglican
Church in particular plays in it.

Archbishop Akinola then said, that this was a pilgrimage and wondered what the difference was to other pilgrimages.

The Rev’d Canon Hosam responded by saying that this was not only a
pilgrimage, since the Archbishop himself was talking about a conference
with an agenda.

Archbishop Akinola replied that he would be happy to change the
terminology and refrain from calling it a conference, in which case he
would call it a pilgrimage.

Bishop Suheil closed the discussion by saying that for the sake of
making progress in this discussion he would like to suggest that
Archbishop Akinola either reconsiders the venue and time for the
conference, or divides his program into two parts: to have the
conference in Cyprus, and to have a pure pilgrimage in the Holy Land.

Should Archbishop Akinola be ready to accept this suggestion, Bishop Suheil would warmly welcome him and his pilgrims.


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