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As Anglicans Aspire to 'Re-order' Communion, Structures Take Backseat to Doctrine, Mission

As Anglicans Aspire to 'Re-order' Communion, Structures Take Backseat to Doctrine, Mission

Jeffrey Walton
April 24, 2023

[Editor's note: this report is part of a series written as theologically orthodox/traditionalist Anglicans from around the world gather April 2023 in Kigali, Rwanda for the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON).]

As has been widely reported, the "Kigali Commitment" released at the conclusion of the Global Anglican Future Conference meeting April 17-21 in Rwanda seeks to re-order the Anglican Communion away from the See of Canterbury as the "First Among Equals."

"Our Chairman [Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)] in his opening address encouraged us to be a repenting church, a reconciling church, a reproducing church and a relentlessly compassionate church," the conference statement reads. "This is the church we want to be."

Key points of the conference were a response to the Church of England General Synod decision in February to bless those in same-sex unions, a call for the centrality of God's Word as the final authority, and GAFCON's identity as a missional movement.

"It grieves the Holy Spirit and us that the leadership of the Church of England is determined to bless sin," the conference statement, crafted across the duration of the event and speaking for the more than 1,300 delegates from 52 countries registered for the gathering.

At five pages, the conference statement is succinct and I encourage reading it in entirety here.

GAFCON and the Global South

Central to the statement is the call to "re-order" the Anglican Communion in cooperation with the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA). Both organizations share a significantly overlapping membership and the same orthodox theology.

In a press conference on the opening day of GAFCON, Beach responded to a question that he did not see a merger between GAFCON and GSFA soon. The GAFCON official noted that each group has a distinct mission.

"The leadership of both groups affirmed and celebrated their complementary roles in the Anglican Communion. Gafcon is a movement focused on evangelism and mission, church planting and providing support and a home for faithful Anglicans who are pressured by or alienated from revisionist dioceses and provinces. GSFA, on the other hand, is focused on establishing doctrinally based structures within the Communion," the statement reads.

Essentially, GSFA aims to address an ecclesial deficit and sought chiefly to work inside Canterbury-recognized structures. GAFCON more and more sees itself as a missional body working to provide alternative structures where historic, Canterbury-recognized ones have abandoned scriptural orthodoxy. This has shifted in more recent years, and GSFA recognizes and includes groups like ACNA outside of the Canterbury-led Communion.

"Resetting the Communion is an urgent matter. It needs an adequate and robust foundation that addresses the legal and constitutional complexities in various Provinces. The goal is that orthodox Anglicans worldwide will have a clear identity, a global 'spiritual home' of which they can be proud, and a strong leadership structure that gives them stability and direction as Global Anglicans," the Kigali Commitment states.


Structural matters were not how most time was allocated at GAFCON's Kigali meeting.

Instead, conferees heard ministry updates from new GAFCON-aligned churches and scriptural teaching emphasized, with studies on the letter to the Colossians offered each morning. Church of England Minister Rico Tice of All Souls Langham Place in London discussed the importance of one-on-one evangelism and study of the scriptures alongside Richard Borgonon. The Rev. Dr. Ashley Null, Canon Theologian for the Province of Alexandria (Egypt), addressed the conference on "The Heart of Anglicanism" emphasizing shared theological belief rooted in the English reformation rather than structural connections.

One measure of the conference statement's success was that the Archbishop of Canterbury's office at Lambeth Palace apparently felt obliged to respond.

"The Archbishop continues to be in regular contact with his fellow Primates and looks forward to discussing this and many other matters with them over the coming period," the statement from Canterbury read.

Perhaps more to the point, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell seemingly made oblique reference to GAFCON in his presidential address to the York Synod.

"The criteria by which we will be judged, is not doctrinal orthodoxy, because many of us -- probably most of us -- will from time to time, and even with the very best intentions, gets things wrong, but by our love," Cottrell insisted.

How many primates are prepared to disregard a Canterbury invitation to the next Primates' Meeting?

If every primate who attended GAFCON stays true to the words of the Kigali Commitment, it will be a rude awakening for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

For those at GAFCON, a priority has been set.

"Life is here. Make your commitment," preached GAFCON Secretary and Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Jos, Nigeria, pointing to the body and blood of Christ as GAFCON prepared to share in Holy Communion at the conclusion of the event.

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