Launch of traditionalist Church of Ireland group is ‘not about schism’

Retired Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, is Grand Secretary of GAFCOM
Retired Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, is Grand Secretary of GAFCOM

The launch today of a Church of Ireland group opposed to what it sees as growing secularisation in Anglican churches is “not about schism”, a Belfast rector has insisted.

Rev Trevor Johnston, rector of All Saints’ in Belfast, was speaking ahead of the launch of a Church of Ireland branch of the GAFCON movement.

GAFCON , an abbreviation of Global Anglican Future Conference, is formally opposed to “the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions” and the ordination of “those involved in same gender unions”.

It has its origins in a conference held in Jerusalem in 2008.

Adherents to the GAFCON movement believe the more liberal stance taken by some Anglican churches on homosexuality is symptomatic of a growing secularisation of the church and important to the deeper question of the authority of the Bible in the church.

The launch event takes place in Belfast today at 10am, at the Waterfront Hall’s Riverside Suite, with speakers including Archbishop Ali Buba Lamido from Nigeria, the renowned speaker Rev Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbe’s Church in Oxford, the retired Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen, and the Archbishop Greg Venables of South America.

Asked about fears of a split in the Anglican Church, Rev Johnston said: “GAFCON is not about schism, internationally and in Ireland.

“It is a movement, not necessarily an organisation, which seeks to strengthen and bolster people in their Anglican faith.”

He continued: “That is its rationale. It is not seeking schism, it does not want division.

“It wants unity, but unity in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“The distinctive thing is that Anglicanism is not defined by an institution, it is defined by theological conviction.”

Dr Peter Jensen, one of the speakers at today’s event and grand secretary of GAFCON, described news in 2016 that Nicholas Chamberlain, Bishop of Grantham, was in a same sex relationship as “serious cause for concern for biblically orthodox Anglicans around the world”.

On the issue of sexuality, the All Saints’ rector Trevor Johnston said: “In the 21st century the manifestation of the question of whether we know that the Bible is really ruling the church has been through this issue of sexuality.

“That has been manifested in America and in Scotland.”

He added: “To my mind this is probably one of the most historic and significant Anglican gatherings on the island of Ireland.”