Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has challenged the statement issued by a global group of conservative Anglicans accusing the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church in the United States of proclaiming a “false gospel that has paralyzed” the Anglican Communion.
“The Gospel of God in Christ is faithfully proclaimed by Canadian Anglicans today just as it has been by generations who have gone before us,” Archbishop Hiltz said in a press statement issued July 2. “I believe it is important to state this truth in response to the recent statement from the GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) gathering in Jerusalem, which suggests otherwise.”
About 1,000 conservative Anglican leaders, at the end of their June 22 to 29 meeting, announced the formation of a network within the Communion, which promised to be the alternative to what they call a “false gospel” on issues such as homosexuality. The network, called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, is being spearheaded by primates and bishops opposed to the consecration in 2003 of V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay divorced father, as bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire, and the approval in 2002 by the synod of the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster of a motion asking its bishop to allow same-sex blessings.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has criticized the formation of the network as “problematic in all sorts of ways.”
Archbishop Hiltz said the GAFCON statement “is based on a premise that there is ‘acceptance and promotion within the provinces of the Anglican Communion of a different gospel which is contrary to the apostolic gospel.” He added: “The statement specifically accuses Anglican churches in Canada and the United States of proclaiming this ‘false gospel that has paralyzed the Communion.’ I challenge and repudiate this charge.”
Archbishop Hiltz said that in his visit to churches across Canada he has witnessed “a faithful proclamation of the apostolic gospel” and has met clergy and laity “who care deeply for the church, its unity and witness.”
Archbishop Hiltz also said that while he recognizes that “our relationships (within the Communion) are bruised and broken, the gospel calls us to be reconciled, to pursue healing and to seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit.” He added: “I do not believe the Anglican Communion is paralyzed by a false gospel.”
The Canadian Anglican church, the primate added, values its role in the 77-million strong Anglican Communion. “We are committed to constructive dialogue on all issues facing our beloved church and the Communion, including the very difficult issue of the blessing of same-sex unions.” He reiterated that Anglicans in Canada “remain convinced that, as contentious as this issue may be, it should not be a Communion-breaking issue.”
Archbishop Hiltz also expressed his church’s support for Archbishop Williams, whose leadership has been strongly criticized by Archbishop Peter Akinola, the primate of Nigeria and one of the GAFCON leaders. Archbishop Akinola said he rejected the “revisionist leadership” of the Communion and said Anglicanism needed to be rescued “from the error of the apostates.”
Archbishop Hiltz said the Canadian church cherishes its relationship with the See of Canterbury “and honour our Archbishop as ‘first among equals’ and as a vital instrument of Communion.” He added that Canadian bishops and their spouses would participate in the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of bishops scheduled in Canterbury this July 15 to Aug. 3. “They go, mindful of the Archbishop’s hope that through this conference, our relationships in Christ will be deepened and our capacity as leaders will be strengthened.”
A number of the 300 bishops present at the GAFCON conference have announced plans to boycott the Lambeth Conference.
In his statement, posted on the Anglican Church of Canada’s Web site, www.anglican.ca, Archbishop Hiltz also sought prayers so that “we may be faithful to the gospel of Him in whom we are forever one.”