Bishops’ presence at Gafcon an ‘absolute disgrace’

Church of Ireland dean accuses conferenceof ‘tactical use of homophobic rallying calls’

Two Church of Ireland bishops’ attendance at Gafcon has been described as  “an absolute disgrace”. Photograph: iStock

Two Church of Ireland bishops’ attendance at Gafcon has been described as “an absolute disgrace”. Photograph: iStock


Attendance by two Church of Ireland bishops at the conservative Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) meeting in Jerusalem last week has provoked deep anger among the church’s clergy.

They have described it as “an absolute disgrace”, “schismatic”, and as illustrating “how utterly out of touch some senior clergy” were with church membership.

Bishop Harold Miller of Down and Dromore and Bishop Ferran Glenfield of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh attended the meeting with other senior clergy from the Church of Ireland and members of Gafcon Ireland set up last April.

Gafcon came into being after the election in the US Episcopal Church (Anglican) of the openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

It describes itself as “a global family of authentic Anglicans standing together to retain and restore the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion”.

Gafcon includes Anglican Primates from many Africa countries as well as bishops and clergy from Australia, Canada and the US who boycotted the last gathering of the worldwide Anglican Communion at the 2008 Lambeth Conference.


In a statement at the end of its Jerusalem meeting, it urged Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury not to invite bishops to the next Lambeth Conference in 2020 who endorsed sexual practices deemed in contradiction of scripture.

It urged Gafcon members to boycott the 2020 Lambeth Conference if this does not happen.

On Sunday, Church of Ireland dean of Waterford Maria Jansson asked “how can Bishops Harold Miller and Ferran Glenfield reconcile the vows they made at their consecrations as bishops to ‘maintain and further the unity of the church’ with their support of Gafcon which stridently endeavours to undermine that very unity?”

Their presence in Jerusalem illustrated “how utterly out of touch some senior clergy can become from the average member of the Church of Ireland”, she said.

Subversive movement

Speaking to The Irish Times, she accused Gafcon of “tactical use of homophobic and misogynistic rallying calls to gain a base from which they can access C of I governance, resources, parishes, schools and young. This has to be called out for what it is –religious extremism.”

Church of Ireland rector of Celbridge, Co Kildare, Rev Stephen Neill said the bishops’s attendance in Jerusalem was “an absolute disgrace”.

In Gafcon’s “black and white world” there was “only a ruthless certainty which is hard and unforgiving and leaves no room for the doubt and questioning which leads to a richer, fuller faith,” he said.

A Church of Ireland spokesman said Bishop Miller would be making “reflective comment” on the meeting in coming days. Bishop Glenfield could not be reached.