Anglican Perspectives

The Anglican Communion Realignment: Full Speed Ahead

Many weeks ago, I received a written request from the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Rev. Dr. Stephen Kaziimba, to address the House of Bishops of Uganda on the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans’ (GSFA) Cairo Covenant (2019).  On Tuesday January 16th, I presented on the crisis of false teaching and lack of discipline within the Anglican Communion for over 50 years and “the way forward” through a covenanted and confessional communion of Anglican Churches. It was a great day of teaching, discussion, and fellowship on the strategic significance of the Covenant for establishing a biblically-faithful Communion within the historic Anglican Communion to help return the Church to its biblical and apostolic roots.

Following the day’s presentations, the Archbishop and Bishops of the Church of Uganda formally convened and voted unanimously to apply for membership in the GSFA Covenantal Structures (The Cairo Covenant 2019) as the second largest within the Anglican Communion, with approximately 11 million members in 37 dioceses. Their unanimous decision was ratified on the 14th of February.

This development represents yet another significant step in the realignment of the Anglican Communion that defines our identity as Anglican followers of Jesus Christ submitted to the clarity and authority of the Scriptures, respectful of the apostolic “Great Tradition” of the interpretation and application of Scripture (the Mind of the Church/Consensus fidelium), and an emphasis on interdependence and mutual accountability rather than radical autonomy. This is the heart of genuine communion.

The decision of the Archbishop and Bishops of Uganda was on the cusp of the much-anticipated decision by the Bishops of the Church of England to push ahead with proposals for prayers and blessings of same-sex relationships as proposed by their report in Living in Love and Faith.  In our last Anglican Perspective Podcast, I interviewed Archbishop Kaziimba in person regarding the implications of this decision.  His response was crystal clear [Listen here]:  such a decision by the Church of England and its General Synod would signal a change in the biblical doctrine of marriage, a definitive departure from the faith once delivered (Jude 3), and cause for the same breaking of communion that Uganda effected with TEC in 2003. 

Today, we released another Anglican Perspective Podcast (see below), this time an in-person interview with the Rt. Rev. Dr. Alfred Olwa (Diocese of Lango).  Bishop Alfred is a senior and rising leader within the Church of Uganda’s House of Bishops and a dear friend I am privileged to work with and visit, particularly through our AAC Bishops Leadership Summits. He is also a past Assisting Chancellor at Uganda Christian University.  You will find Bishop Olwa’s deeply articulate diagnosis of the problems in the Anglican Communion, along with the Church of Uganda’s resolve to help return Anglicanism to its biblical and apostolic roots, absolutely uncompromising [Listen here].

The Church of England General Synod adopts the Proposals for the Blessing of Same Sex Unions

The Church of England General Synod subsequently met February 6-9th to consider the proposal to bless same-sex civil partnerships.  Among those present during the debates was Archbishop Samy Fawzy Shehata (Diocese of Alexandria), a friend and fellow member of the Study Group that drafted the 2019 Cairo Covenant.  Archbishop Samy was allowed to address the General Synod toward the very end of the debates when he reminded every delegate that Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) remains the teaching on marriage and sexuality of the Anglican Communion which declares: “This conference cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions, nor ordaining those involved in same-gender unions.”  Then, he made this impassioned plea on behalf of the majority of biblically-faithful Anglicans worldwide NOT to proceed with the LLF Prayers and Blessings of same-sex relationships:

“In our understanding of marriage and sexuality there is a red line we will never cross.  Crossing this line of blessing same-sex unions will alienate 75% of the Anglican Communion and endanger the ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. This shift in practice will lead eventually to impaired and broken communion.

We inherited the traditional orthodox faith of the Church of England.  Please do not surrender your unique position as the ‘Mother Church’ of the Anglican Communion.

It is your choice.” (emphasis added)

In response to this plea, the Church of England voted to proceed with blessings of same-sex relationships with the following statistics. 

  • House of Bishops: 36 for, 4 against, with 2 abstentions
  • House of Clergy: 111 for, 85 against, with 3 abstentions
  • House of Laity: 103 for, 92 against, with 5 abstentions

We believe three of the four bishops who voted against were evangelicals which means that many more bishops who identify as “evangelical” either voted for the blessings or abstained. []

Majority of Global Anglicans in Gafcon and the Global South are swift to respond: With tears for the Mother Church, you have abandoned the faith

Immediately, Archbishop Foley Beach (ACNA) and Chair of GAFCON published this statement on behalf of GAFCON:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has abrogated his fiduciary responsibility and violated his consecration vows to “banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word” with his advocating this change in the Church of England. He is shredding the last remaining fragile fabric of the Anglican Communion. It is time for the Primate of All England to step down from his role as “first among equals” in leading the Anglican Communion. It is now time for the Primates of the Anglican Communion to choose for themselves their “first among equals” rather than having a secular government of only one nation appoint our leader. We are no longer colonies of Great Britain.” [Read here]

The same day, the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans responded just as GAFCON did, lamenting the decision of the Church of England Synod’s vote “which goes against the overwhelming mind of the Anglican Communion.” The GSFA rejected the legal sophistry that blessings of same sex unions are only of “couples” and not relationships and that therefore there is no formal change in the Mother Church’s definition of marriage stating: “Anglican liturgy expresses its doctrine…[therefore the reality is that] the Church [of England] no longer sees the Union of one man to one woman for life as the only way intended and blessed by God, for the flourishing of marriage, family, communities, and national life.”

The GSFA then repeated the same clarion call as GAFCON:

“The role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in leading the House of Bishops to make the recommendations that undergird the Motion, together with his statements, alongside the Archbishop of York, and the Bishop of London leading up to the General Synod, cause the GSFA to question his fitness to lead what is still a largely orthodox world-wide Communion. 

In view of these developments, the GSFA will be taking decisive steps towards re-setting the Anglican Communion (as outlined in our ‘Communique’ following the 2022 Lambeth Conference). Orthodox Provinces in GSFA are not leaving the Anglican Communion, but with great sadness must recognise that the Church of England has now joined those Provinces with which communion is impaired. The historical Church which spawned the global Communion, and which for centuries was accorded ‘first among equals’ status, has now triggered a widespread loss of confidence in her leadership of the Communion.”  [Read the entire statement here: ]

The GAFCON and GSFA statements were followed rapidly by statements from the following GAFCON and Global South churches, including some of the largest in the Communion: the Church of Uganda [Read here], the Anglican Church of Kenya [Read here], the Church of Nigeria [Read here], and the Anglican Church of Rwanda [Read here].

Yesterday, the GSFA Primates, many of whom are also GAFCON Primates, met for prayer and discussion of next steps.  What might this “re-setting” of the Anglican Communion look like in the days ahead?

  • A Joint Statement by the GAFCON and GSFA Primates, either before or during GAFCON Kigali in April 2023, laying out the road ahead?
  • Declarations of impaired or broken communion with the Mother Church of England?
  • Coordination and collaboration between the best and the brightest biblical theologians in GSFA and GAFCON in teaching about how Anglicans should read the Bible with priority to the text of the Bible rather than our own cultural context?
  • Coordination and collaboration between GAFCON and GSFA on other areas such as bishops training, missional partnerships, and economic sustainability?
  • A GSFA Global Synod in the not-too-distant future of all Anglicans willing to sign onto the Cairo Covenant (2019) and its terms for membership including a GSFA House of Bishops and a Faith and Order Commission that will make decisions on doctrine, discipline, order, and mission of the Church in accordance with the clarity and authority of the Bible (see Cairo Covenant sec 1.5) and within the boundaries of the Great Tradition—the “mind of the Church”— at all times, and in all places? 
  • Refuge, recognition, and authentication by GSFA and GAFCON of biblically-faithful Anglicans in the UK, and in dioceses and networks elsewhere, increasingly marginalized by heterodox leadership.

Archbishop Welby surrenders Canterbury leadership…

But what does that really mean?

The Archbishop of Canterbury tried several means to soften the blow and control the damage.  First, he wrote to other Primates in the Global South assuring them that the Church of England’s prayers for same-sex couples were for the couple only and NOT the relationship, thereby NOT changing the doctrine of marriage.  As the GSFA leaders noted, such legal sophistry flies in the face of reality. He then tried to suggest to leaders at the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) that he was under pressure from the UK Parliament to force same-sex marriage on the established Church of England.  But this claim was debunked by a January 12 press release from a new organization, Anglican Orthodox [‘threatened-parliamentary-action’-bring-same-sex] that noted that the “pressure” in question came from a small few. Not only that, but also such “pressure” would require Parliament to do the unthinkable: suspend religious freedoms for all faiths on this issue, not just the Church of England.

So, in the face of sophistry and half-truths, what are we to make of Archbishop Welby’s statement that he is surrendering his right to lead the Anglican Communion? He stated, “I will not cling to place or position as an Instrument of Communion.” []  He said this on Sunday, February 12th to the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Ghana (ACC-18) referring to the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as one of the four current “Instruments of Communion” holding global Anglicans together.  The other three Instruments are the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, the Primates Meeting, and the ACC. 

But is the ABC really surrendering to GAFCON and the GSFA?

Don’t count on it.  Consider what he said in the context of his apparent surrender:

  • He will not be dictated to by GAFCON and the GSFA: “I will not cling to place or position. I hold it very lightly, provided that the other Instruments of Communion choose the new shape, that we are not dictated to by people, blackmailed, bribed to do what others want us to do.” In other words, he will reject any solution that is not endorsed by the other failed Instruments of Communion, the most recent of which (The Lambeth Conference of Bishops 2022) he “re-set” to never again express the mind of the Church and its teaching.
  • He continues to embrace “pluriform truth” based on interpreting the Bible through the lens of culture: “…we are deeply in disagreement, not through lack of integrity, corruption, lying, or surrendering to the culture, but because we do interpret Scripture differently, we understand the work of the Spirit differently, and we look at these things with different cultural lenses. And are therefore all always wrong to some degree.”
  • He continues to champion a process of “good disagreement” and postponement of decision on doctrinal disagreements through the same endless and failed processes employed over the last 25 years.  This is shown through the report of the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith, and Order (IASCUFO) to ACC-18 this week which questions whether there is “a single faith and order shared by Anglicans” anymore and instead “affirms the importance of seeking to walk together to the highest degree possible, and learning from our ecumenical conversations how to accommodate disagreement patiently and respectfully.”[ ]

The American Anglican Council will continue to support the leaders of GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA) as they seek to “re-set” the Anglican Communion in keeping with the GSFA ‘Communique’ following the 2022 Lambeth Conference and the ongoing work of GAFCON.  We will have more to report as details unfold.  Please join us in praying for these faithful, courageous, and resilient leaders!

Share this post