The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, has called on participants in the conservative Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) to approach their summit in a spirit of "peace, reconciliation and goodwill."
He says that that "it is crucial to the Anglican witness here in Jerusalem and to the wider world that this is so."
Bishop Dawani, who has expressed concerns that the June 22-29 conference would import "inter-Anglican conflict" into his diocese and made earlier calls for it to be moved, addressed GAFCON participants during a June 22 service of Evening Prayer at St George's Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem.
Describing the Anglican community in the Holy Land as "orthodox," Dawani told ENS: "We do not agree with recent developments in the Episcopal Church concerning sexuality, but that is not going to divide us. Unity is at the heart of the gospel and we as indigenous Christians in this Holy Land are committed to the work of peace, justice and reconciliation."
Expected to draw more than 1,000 conservative Anglicans, including some 280 bishops, the GAFCON summit is viewed by some critics as a "divisive event" and a rival to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, but is described by its organizers as an opportunity to develop a "renewed understanding of our
identity as Anglican Christians."
Among GAFCON's participants are Episcopal Church bishops Keith Ackerman of Quincy, Jack Iker of Fort Worth, Peter Beckwith of Springfield, Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, five Anglican primates and several former Episcopalians, some of whom have been consecrated as bishops in other Anglican provinces but are not officially recognized as such by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
GAFCON also brings together several Anglican breakaway groups that have formed in recent years.
Refuting claims that GAFCON is about schism, Iker told Episcopal News Service in the USA that the conference is "all about a renewal of confidence in Anglicanism."
Ackerman said that some of the bishops at GAFCON will also be attending the Lambeth Conference. "If this is a rival to Lambeth, nobody told us," he said.
During his address, Dawani underscored his commitment to the Lambeth Conference, emphasizing that the once-a-decade gathering of bishops, set for 16 July - 3 August in Canterbury, England, "is so important to our ongoing life together and for the mission of the church."
With acknowledgments to ENS.
Ekklesia's latest book, Fear or freedom? Why a warring church must change, edited by Simon Barrow, is published by Shoving Leopard on 30 June 2008.