Naturally, I was going to mock their chosen name. What kind of a group deliberately chooses an acronym (GAFCON) so manifestly satirizable? A GAFFEPRONE group, obviously.
I intended to be a bit snarky about their shabby treatment of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, whom they made into their unwilling host without so much as a by your leave.
I intended to observe on their patent dishonesty in promising the said Bishop that they would hold their meetings in Jordan and that the Jerusalem portion would be a pilgrimage.
I wanted to make appropriate horrified h'rumphs about the fact that many of their leading figures cannot even manage to say that beating the living crap out of homosexuals is perhaps not in keeping with the Gospel.
I intended to have much fun at their expense over their ridiculous "banned" list - and over the fact that it took them three days to come up with the cover story that it was really just an overenthusiastic and misguided volunteer. (I might have believed that if it had come promptly. But three days? C'mon.)
But now, they have produced their manifesto. Despite the claim that they are not splitting, it really is nothing less than a declaration of war on any and all Anglicans who choose not to conform to their views and submit to their authority. It is a veritable coup d'eglise.
Yes, it is larded with bumph about staying in the Anglican Communion, but the media have outed it for what it is - a scheme for schism. Some of the best coverage is from the Guardian, here, here and here.
It has already been panned by an assortment of liberals - quel suprise.
The most withering comment has been from progressive Episcopal commentator Jim Naughton, who said:
Step back from the details of this particular document for a moment, and consider the nature of GAFCON. It has brought together bishops from some of the poorest countries on Earth to deliver the residents of some of the richest suburbs in America from living in a Church to which they cannot dictate terms. Zimbabwe is on fire. Darfur is bleeding. Ethnic strife and pandemic disease rage across the African continent while these bishops devote themselves to rescuing the Episcopalians of Orange County, California and Fairfax County, Virginia from persecution that does not exist. And how will they achieve this? By calling the world to faith in the Gospel as it was delivered to them by representatives of an empire that conquered their homelands, stole their resources and denied their ancestors even the most basic human rights.One doesn’t know whether to laugh or weep.
This criticism from the American Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is vigorous if predictable. The Episcopal Bishop of Washington. John Chane, points to the "slanderous boilerplate" which misrespresents the reality of the North American provinces.
But it has likewise been panned by a number of conservatives - thoughtful and intelligent conservative commentators like Tony Clavier and Dan Martins. Fresh from his triumphal appearance on the Colbert Report and doubtless enjoying the Colbert Bump, Bishop of Durham Tom Wright sugarcoats a blow to the solar plexus.
Most important, however, is the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury has finally had enough. He criticizes both the caricatures these pretendy "conservatives" employ to slander North American Anglicanism. And he makes it very clear that there is no room in authentic Anglicanism for a posse of self-appointed vigilantes to dispense their own form of frontier rough justice.
That particular criticism is directed at the most breathtakingly arrogant piece of all - the declared intention to establish a Council of Primates to police the Communion. This self-selecting inquisition - the six most dyspeptic prelates - would then determine which provinces were to be recognized and which were to be cast away.
There is a technical ecclesiastical term, episcopi vagantes. It refers to "independent" bishops of possibly valid apostolic succession but who operate outside of any recognizable structures.
This new Council of Primates (self-designated Good COPS) might best be described as Episcopi Vigilantes. What they propose is that the Anglican Communion be governed by vigilantes, by self-appointed posses, by doctrinal lynch mobs.
The good news is that these latter day inquisitors don't have anywhere near as much support as they think they do. By their over the top bullying, they have managed to alienate a goodly number of their potential sympathizers. Liberal, moderate and conservative Bishops and Primates have no interest in having pseudo-Anglican Wahaabists or Taliban imposing their own narrow definitions.
We don't need this:
from these (mind the salty language):