By Revd Richard Crocker, General Secretary, EFAC Global
EFAC (The Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion) had an exhibit stand at the recent GAFCON gathering in Jerusalem, a notable conference of Anglican leaders from around the world. Fifty countries were represented, including 316 Bishops and Archbishops, demonstrating the widespread impact of this biblically orthodox movement.
Many of the GAFCON conference delegates stopped by the EFAC exhibit and, as reported earlier on the Global EFAC website, 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?” Why is EFAC needed, since we have GAFCON? 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 is meant to address these questions.
EFAC is Distinctly Evangelical/ GAFCON is Mostly Evangelical
It would not stretch a point to claim that the prevailing churchmanship of GAFCON 2018 was evangelical. The style of worship, the biblical design of the week’s events, the expository style of the biblical 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.
It was obvious that GAFCON and EFAC are related on a deep level. Indeed, many of the newly-announced leaders of GAFCON, the Chairman, General Secretary, and Assistant Secretaries, were mentored by, or held leadership positions in, EFAC at some point. Furthermore, a recent article published 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. This brings us back to the question: “Do we need both EFAC and GAFCON today?” Is there a difference between them?
EFAC is a Resource/GAFCON is Becoming an Institution
The answer becomes clear as we examine both organizations. Rev. Dr. Stephen Noll, in his Commentary on the 2018 GAFCON Letter to the Churches: Introducing the Letter 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. As a recent political coalition, “GAFCON is rapidly institutionalizing” (Sugden). 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 TRN, publishing on line 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.
EFAC is Distinctly Evangelical/ GAFCON is Not
EFAC delights in the growth of GAFCON, but there are significant differences in our approach and possibilities. For example, the churchmanship of GAFCON, while predominantly evangelical, is wider than simply evangelical. “GAFCON is clear that it is broader than evangelicalism and includes…Anglo-Catholics in its membership,” according to Canon Dr. Chris Sugden. So 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.
Evangelicals are also to be found in the Anglican Churches beyond GAFCON. There the recognized EFAC “brand,” originating from John Stott in 1961, allows EFAC to minister to evangelicals both inside and outside the GAFCON network. While EFAC has many members who are part of GAFCON, it also has members among those evangelicals who are not persuaded by the GAFCON approach. EFAC and GAFCON are complementary, extending each other’s work for the Gospel.
EFAC is a Bridge
EFAC performs a bridge function—it provides connectedness or fellowship. In the USA, where evangelicals in both TEC and ACNA are part of EFAC-USA, it is a link between GAFCON and non-GAFCON evangelicals. EFAC has also historically served 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.
Moreover, EFAC provides a link between beleaguered evangelicals in a province 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, therefore, EFAC offers hope for the future. 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!” This is because EFAC and GAFCON are complementary, having the same goal of promoting the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ, but in different ways. Both are necessary.