As the archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen leads one of the most evangelical branches of global Anglicanism. After becoming archbishop in 2001, true to evangelical form, he announced an ambitious goal to grow the church. But this call was to all "Bible-based" churches to reach 10 percent of Sydney's 4.2 million people by 2012. Among other things, these efforts triggered the planting of 60 new congregations and a 30 percent increase in candidates for Anglican ministryall at a time when Christian growth in Australia has leveled off significantly.
Starting on Sunday, June 22, Jensen will be among the 1,000 top conservatives from around the world to assemble in Jerusalem for GAFCON, the Global Anglican Futures conference. This event was organized quickly after leading conservatives decided not to attend Lambeth, the once-a-decade gathering of the 900-plus Anglican bishops. Many conservatives pulled out of Lambeth in the ongoing dispute over homosexual ordination and same-sex blessings. Jensen is serving as GAFCON's chief organizer. Christianity Today spoke with Archbishop Jensen by phone from Amman, Jordan, where a pre-conference event took place.
What is the purpose of GAFCON?
Two great events have occurred. One is that liberalism in our Anglican Church has manifested itself in such a powerful way in the area of human sexuality. The intention is to export this new teaching right through the Anglican world. Second, as a response, Anglicans around the world have crossed boundaries and have provided protection and care and hope for orthodox people caught up in liberal diocese. That has changed the shape of Anglicanism. What GAFCON is trying to say is: How are we going to live with this? What changes now need to be made in order for us to be able to live in a church that has changed its shape?
GAFCON is not just a conference. It's a movement. From the very beginning, the emphasis has been on truth and transformation. There's a very strong evangelical strain in this movement. It's not only evangelical by any means, but there is a strong evangelical strain. Evangelicals are particularly interested in truth. We believe the truth, that we have access to truth in Scripture, and we believe in transformation.
We believe that people's lives could be changed. Our interest is not so much in human sexuality as such, but our interest is in that gospel of Jesus Christ, the truth that transforms, and the impact of that gospel in the whole world.
We believe that the current developments actually get in the way of serving that gospel. So that's what GAFCON's about. GAFCON is trying to bring together as many people as possible who will serve the gospel of truth and transformation.
What is GAFCON going to look like as a movement?
One of the strong emphases of the leadership team of GAFCON is listening to God, getting together, listening to what God is saying to us, discerning the mind of God, naturally, through the Scriptures, but as they apply to today. It's premature to answer the question at one level, because we need to hear what we've all got to say to each other and listen to God. On the other hand, I would have to say that speaking personally, I would be very surprised if GAFCON didn't turn itself into a movement with sufficient institutional reality to make it a new force within the Anglican Communion. I don't hear much interest in breaking up the Communion or splitting it or dividing it further than it is divided. What I hear is the idea of a new force embracing orthodoxy and empowering people to serve the gospel of truth and transformation.