It is an understatement that Anglicanism is not always neat and tidy. The very nature of our decision making in councils, as ancient as it may be, is messy. Things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes people don’t respect what the whole decides together in scripture, prayerful study and discussion, and waiting on the Lord’s timing. Sometimes a part demands that the whole adjust to it and runs ahead rather than waiting on the counsel of the whole church.
That seems to be at the heart Bishop Michael Nazir Ali’s decision to leave the Church of England to join the Anglican Ordinariate in the Roman Catholic Church. “The Anglican Church has become splintered, a loose collection of churches, many of whom have conflicting interpretations of Christianity,” he wrote of his departure [https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10101671/Former-Bishop-Rochester-Dr-Michael-Nazir-Ali-explains-defection-CofE-Catholic-church.html]. “Even when the Church manages to agree on things, these decisions don’t seem to carry much weight—people go off and do it their own way.” Bishop Michael was a senior leader in the GAFCON movement, and he is a great leader and friend. I couldn’t help but wonder if the GAFCON Primates’ inability to do the hard work of conciliarism committed to in their Interim Report [https://americananglican.org/featured/if-gafcon-is-merely-a-conference-what-is-the-point/] was one factor in his departure.
We have included a few articles in today’s weekly newsletter responding to his departure, but I want to offer some good news with some cautious optimism. On Sunday, October 17, the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) issued their Communique (“The Eighth Trumpet”) after a four-day conference on Zoom attended by 90 delegates from 16 Provinces and one diocese (Sydney), including the Anglican Church in North America. In the words of the Communique, the purpose of this GSFA gathering was to “address the unchecked spread of revisionism” among all the Churches of the Anglican Communion by enacting a “covenantal structure” that will “enhance ecclesial responsibility” and mutual accountability among the churches of the GSFA (sec. 9).
Section 13 of the Communique puts it plainly:
“The Global South Fellowship will continue to be a ‘voice’ (Isa. 40:3) calling the Anglican Communion to be faithful to the authority of Scripture and the historic faith handed down to us by our Anglican heritage. In the power of the Spirit, we will remain steadfast against compromise and pressures from the surrounding culture. In God’s grace, the Global South Fellowship will support and nurture Anglican provinces, dioceses and networks of churches that hold on to the orthodox teaching of holy Scripture across our worldwide Communion.”
At last, the possibility exists for a communion that is fully confessional and fully conciliar led by those who are determined to be a voice for biblical faithfulness within the larger Anglican Communion! For biblically faithful congregations and dioceses in heterodox Provinces, this is another beacon of hope.
Additionally, with a definition of Anglican “belonging” (Communion) that is based on orthodoxy rather than geography (Canterbury) (sec. 10), membership will be based on assent to the Fundamental Declarations of the Covenantal Structures. You can find these Fundamental Declarations in Section 1 of the GSFA Cairo Covenant (2019) [https://747b77b3-3ca1-42f3-a922-abc73d137838.filesusr.com/ugd/6e992c_7b13136ea9d14d4eb53b614a775aa265.pdf]. For those of us who have witnessed Anglican leaders historically assault and undermine the clarity and authority of the Bible, this one sentence from Section 1.5 of the Fundamental Declarations provides great conviction and hope: “The authority of the Scripture is its Spirit-bestowed capacity to quicken the Church to truthful speech and righteous action. We reject therefore the hermeneutical skepticism that commits the Church to a near-infinite deferral of decisions on matters of faith and morals.”
Here are a few other highlights of this Communique:
- It states the election of a Pro Tem Board of the GSFA that will focus on membership applications into the GSFA and preparation for the first General Assembly in 2023 or 2024 (sec. 20).
- It reaffirmed the membership of provinces, dioceses, and networks of churches by assent to the Fundamental Declarations (Doctrinal Foundations) of the GSFA Covenantal Structure (The Cairo Covenant) “and agreement with the conciliar structures that bind us together as an ecclesial body” (sec. 12).
- It reaffirmed that the GSFA will major on Gospel mission and ministry.
There is now a home being built, a Communion for biblically faithful Anglicans all over the world, including those that have left or may choose to leave compromised Anglican churches that no longer follow “the faith once delivered to the saints,” the Anglican patrimony that Bishop Michael Nazir Ali felt he could no longer find in the mother Church of England. Now there is an ecclesial body, a Communion to which the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON) can bring distressed, biblically faithful, orthodox Anglicans from heterodox dioceses and provinces for membership. GAFCON can authenticate and recognize those in distress and gather them for membership in GSFA—just as St. Paul gathered Gentile converts into churches that enjoyed communion with the established church in Jerusalem under St. Peter.
While the Global South is continuing to do the hard work of Anglican conciliarism, there is still messiness involved. There are differences of opinion among the GSFA members on whether they should attend Canterbury-sponsored meetings. Each Province will make its own decision about attending Lambeth Conference 2022 (sec. 7). It remains to be seen whether the screening of membership applications will include a review of the practices of an applicant to see if they are in keeping with the GSFA Fundamental Declarations. This screening may require difficult decisions by the Pro Tem Board.
And yet, as we have written elsewhere [https://www.amazon.com/Anglican-Conciliarism-Church-Meeting-Together/dp/0997921196] and throughout our video series on the GSFA Cairo Covenant [https://americananglican.org/american-anglican-media/the-cairo-covenant-introduction /], we believe this is the last best chance for biblically faithful Anglicans to cure what ails the Communion, especially for Western churches that are caving in to the pressures of an increasingly secular and sexualizing culture. Our AAC Bishops Leadership Summits [https://americananglican.org/bishops-leadership-summit/] have already been knitting together ACNA leadership with biblically faithful Anglicans across the globe—bishop to bishop and diocese to diocese—based on Sections 1 and 2 of the GSFA Cairo Covenant. We believe this GSFA Covenantal Structure contains all the biblical and apostolic elements that have shaped the decision making of Anglicans at the local, diocesan, and national levels of the Church. Now it is possible at the global Communion level. It is a joy to commend this development to you in the spirit and promise of Jeremiah 29:11, for hope and for a future.
May God grant these leaders the courage to persevere in this work and see it through to the end.