What's the difference? Are both necessary?
Rev’d Richard Crocker, General Secretary, EFAC (Global)
EFAC had an exhibit stand at the recent GAFCON gathering in Jerusalem, Many of the GAFCON conference delegates stopped by the EFAC exhibit and the response was overwhelmingly positive. We are now in regular contact with Anglican leaders from 31 countries and many of those either have or want an EFAC chapter. They have no doubt that EFAC will benefit their churches. But upon returning to the USA we have been asked, ‘Why is EFAC needed, since we have GAFCON?’ or, ‘Why was GAFCON needed, since we have EFAC? What’s the difference? Are EFAC and GAFCON competing? Or cooperating? Or does one make the other redundant? This article addresses these questions.
At GAFCON it was obvious that GAFCON and EFAC are related on a deep level. Many of the newly announced leaders of GAFCON—the Chairman, General Secretary, and Assistant Secretaries—were mentored through, or held leadership positions in, EFAC at some point. A recent article by Chris Sugden and Vinay Samuel demonstrates that the GAFCON movement itself derives from earlier work by emerging provinces in the Lambeth Conferences of 1988 and 1998. The character, growth and maturity of these provinces, in turn, developed to a great extent from the ministry of John Stott and EFAC. It would not stretch a point to claim that the prevailing churchmanship of GAFCON 2018 was evangelical. The style of worship, the biblical nature of the week’s events, the expository style of the teaching, and the extempore prayer expected in the small group times, would be familiar to those of evangelical background. This aspect made GAFCON very similar to EFAC, which is evangelical by charter. This brings us back to the questions: ‘Do we need both EFAC and GAFCON today? Is there an important difference between them?’
That EFAC and GAFCON are complementary, not competitive, becomes clear as we examine both organizations. Rev. Dr. Stephen Noll, in his Commentary on the 2018 GAFCON Letter to the Churches writes,
‘The GAFCON Assembly is an ecclesial body, a confessional body (every attendee subscribed to the Jerusalem Declaration), and a missional body…So the Conference is upper-case GAFCON and the movement that spans the Conferences and the ongoing structures and relationships that give it life, this is title-case GAFCON.’ (Emphasis added.)
Similarly, EFAC is confessional: it operates with a Basis of Faith that is distinctively evangelical in nature. EFAC is also missional: it works to spread the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. And, it is ecclesial: its very name references the Anglican Communion. EFAC aims to serve and build up, by biblical teaching, the Anglican family of churches, which we understand in a wide and generous sense. EFAC is not, however, ecclesial, in the way GAFCON is. It does not gather primatial councils or appoint episcopal leadership for provinces departing orthodox beliefs. Sugden says that as a recent political coalition, ‘GAFCON is rapidly institutionalizing’.1 EFAC is not; it will not match GAFCON’s ‘ongoing structures’ beyond those minimally required by its 1961 Constitution. EFAC is, rather, a resource to leadership, wherever it may be located, encouraging and developing biblically faithful teaching and mission by its activities in teaching, theological development through the Theological Resource Network, publishing online and through partner organizations. It desires the development of the more informal fellowship or partnership envisaged in its name. Therefore, EFAC and GAFCON are complementary, not competitive, pursuing different, necessary vocations.
Structures aside, another difference is that EFAC is distinctly evangelical, whereas GAFCON is not. GAFCON includes all who count themselves Anglican, whether inside the formal charity called the Anglican Communion or not, and confess biblically faithful Anglican teaching, whatever their churchmanship. EFAC is deliberately evangelical. The recognized EFAC brand allows EFAC to minister to evangelicals both inside and outside the GAFCON network among those evangelicals who are not persuaded by the GAFCON approach. Thus again EFAC and GAFCON are complementary, extending each other’s work for the Gospel. In the USA, where evangelicals in both TEC and ACNA are part of EFAC-USA, EFAC is a bridge between GAFCON and non-GAFCON evangelicals. Historically, EFAC has also formed a bridge between evangelicals in the different expressions of Anglican life in South Africa. EFAC is active in areas not represented at GAFCON and supports evangelicals whose orthodox commitments are under pressure from unsympathetic or hostile leadership. EFAC provides a link between beleaguered evangelicals in certain provinces and the wider Communion, and a partnership between evangelicals in one place and those in another for the sake of mission.
In this world of walls and chasms, bridges are vital, and so, as a bridge, EFAC offers hope for the future. The Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, President of EFAC Australia and Assistant Secretary to GAFCON, said it best upon hearing about the relaunch of EFAC, ‘It’s about time!’ EFAC and GAFCON have the same goal of promoting the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ, but in different ways. Both are necessary.