Bishop Mouneer Anis writes to GAFCON: Calls on Orthodox Anglican Bishops to attend Lambeth

BB NOTE: Bishop Anis writes that “it is a great honour to have been invited to GAFCON,” but due to personal reasons will not be able to attend. His advice to GAFCON, though is wise and should be taken to heart. As we recall, Bishop Anis was one of the first Anglican bishops to indicate his alarm after the events of General Convention in Minneapolis in 2003. He has proved himself a leader, a wise leader, indeed.

08 May 2008

My very dear brothers in Christ,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

First I want to make it clear that this letter expresses my views as the Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt, not the views of the whole Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. I count it a great honour to have been invited to GAFCON.

I appreciate the fact that GAFCON provides an important meeting place for leaders from the South and from the North. I very much understand the frustrations as well as the hopes that led to the organisation of this conference.

I do share your frustration in regard to what is going on in our Communion, as well as your hopes for strong and faithful Anglican church.

I am very disappointed with the direction taken by the Episcopal Church in the USA and the Anglican Church in Canada. This direction is not only about sexual ethics, which are contrary to Scripture, but also in regard to the fundamentals of the Apostolic Faith as we received it, like the Nature of Christ, the authority of scripture and God’s Salvation through Jesus Christ.

In addition they use very ambiguous language and contradictory phrases in their responses to the clear Windsor recommendation as well as the Dar es Salaam ones. It was shocking for me to hear that some now ask for the definition of ‘moratorium’ after four years of issuing The Windsor Report!

I am deeply concerned that The Windsor Report and Dar es Salaam recommendations were not followed through and now the very people who caused the Communion’s crisis are invited to the most important Anglican council which is the Lambeth Conference. It is wrong to sweep all these problems under the carpet!

I also share your hopes that we can go forward to advance the mission of the Gospel and be instruments in building the Church of Christ, founded on the Biblical truth.

Having said all this I am sorry that I will not be able to be with you at your Conference but I assure you that you will be in my prayers. Please accept my apologies. I also look forward to receiving your recommendations before going to Lambeth. My brothers I want to draw your attention to the following: 1) The unity of the Global South (GS) is our great concern.

As you know the Global South was established in 1997 and has been recognized by the whole Anglican Communion. It has been effective in strengthening the South to South links. The GS is composed of more than twenty provinces.

There is now increasing interest from Orthodox Bishops in the North to be affiliated with the Global South. This is because we use a moderate but form of language. In our last Steering Committee of the Global South in March we, in our statement, affirmed the importance of the Global South and its mission: We see an increasing conviction and confirmation of the prophetic and priestly vocation of the Global South in the Anglican Communion.

As Primates coming from different contexts, we were led into deep conversations and helpful clarifications on the challenges before us (Ps 133; Eph 4:1-6; Phil 2:1-5). We reaffirmed our total and collegial commitment to the solemn vocation of the Global South. We resolved, and urge all in the Global South and other orthodox constituencies of the wider Communion to strengthen our hearts and wills to work together for the fundamental renewal and transformation of the global Anglican Communion. ?

We also stated: Through our conversations together and clarifications made, we are led to understand and appreciate the principled reasons for participation in GAFCON (June 2008) and Lambeth Conference (Jul 2008). Even if there are different perspectives on these, they do not and should not be allowed to disrupt the common vision, unity and trust within the Global South.

For this reason I appeal to you to take the above statements fully into your consideration and to be careful not to make binding decisions which may result in dividing Anglicans in the Global South and elsewhere. At the same time I would like to share with you a little more of my own thinking.

I believe that the best strategy for safeguarding orthodox faith and unhindered mission is to have parallel processes for building unity among those loyal to the biblical historic faith and ethics in both the South and the North. Orthodox leaders in the South and in the North need to continue to work together and support each other.

I would respectfully add that the Global South must not be driven by an exclusively Northern agenda or Northern personalities. The meeting of the Global South in ‘09 will be critical for the future, and the agenda will need careful preparation ahead of time.

The constitution of the Global South needs to be reviewed in such a way as to clarify representation and appointment of office bearers. The Global South has contributed much to the initiation of the Covenant process, and will need to consider how it is progressing.

If there is no prospect of a Covenant that safeguards orthodoxy and unhindered mission within a reasonable timescale, then the possibility of adopting a “holding covenant” may need to be considered. I urge you all to consider participating in the Lambeth Conference.

The absence of any of your voices will be a great loss. God has spoken to me through the Book of Jonah. So I decided not to withdraw but to go and speak the truth, and leave the rest to God. Please remember that there will be bishops who are not fully aware of the seriousness of the situation. They need to be alerted. Your presence would be a help, as indeed it was in 1998.

I am reminded by the words of Jesus that we continue to live in the world: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” John 17: 14-16 One last point: we need to combine steadfastness, a peaceable spirit and gracious language.

I believe that the language we use needs to be especially appealing to the “people in the pews” who may be confused or misled, having less understanding of the issues of the controversy, but who want to remain true Christians and Anglicans. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thess 5:24 May the Lord bless you.

Yours in Christ,

+Mouneer Egypt
The Most Rev Dr Mouneer H. Anis
Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.