The Telegraph is reporting that GAFCON, instead of going for a full split and the creation of a new ecclesiastical body for "Orthodox" Anglicanism, will instead continue to work for change as a "church within the church."
This is not the first time this language has appeared upon the Anglican/Episcopal scene. In fact, this has been the language of Puritan (and puritan) movements from the very beginning: the separation of a portion of the church, the "true believers" from the bulk of the less-than-perfect members.
Not all of these efforts were born of failed schism — some were based more on piety and asceticism, and it was a fairly common usage for some of the more austere religious communities of bygone days to refer to themselves by the sobriquet ecclesiola in ecclesia — the little church in the church. Of course, such groups, unlike the radical puritans and protestants, were kept from going off the deep end by their particular devotion to the church catholic — with an emphasis on their own "littleness" and being "in" that larger church.
In more recent times (1989), the phrase reappeared in the language of the Episcopal Synod of America and its successor Forward in Faith / North America, both styling themselves as a "church within the church." This language has now been picked up by some of the folk at GAFCON. As time goes on it remains to be seen if disappointed or unwilling schismatists will, like the good catholic Cistercians, take cognizance of their place within the larger church, or like the sectarian puritans try to have as little to do with the whole church as possible, and attempt to fortify the boundaries between them and it while stopping short of complete separation — for the time being. But I fear the tendency is not to be at the center, but rather centrifugal, and when enough energy is built up, to launch out into the emptiness.
Tobias Haller BSG