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Chilean Primate says the Anglican Communion is out of Fashion in the way it is Led and Organized

Chilean Primate says the Anglican Communion is out of Fashion in the way it is Led and Organized
The role of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the rest of the Instruments of Unity must be reshaped, he says We need a new structure.
The Anglican Communion needs a Second Reformation and must return to the Bible as our final source of authority
GSFA Bishops will Not Break with the Anglican Communion

David W. Virtue, DD obtained this exclusive interview with the Most Rev. Hector Tito Zavala, 68, in his home city of Santiago, Chile.

By David W. Virtue in Santiago
March 6, 2023

VOL: Archbishop, would you tell us about your conversion and how you became an Anglican. I gather you were a Roman Catholic before your conversion to Christ.

ZAVALA: It happened in 1972 when I was invited to the local Anglican Church by my second brother. I was 17. I was born into a Roman Catholic family, confirmed, baptized and took my first communion, but I never went back to the church. I became a very nominal Christian. When I got invited to the Anglican church, I began to talk about Jesus. For the first time I heard directly that Christ died for me on the cross and Jesus came to save me. I was asked would I like to receive him as my Lord and Savior. It was the first time I had ever heard Christ died for me on the cross and it was in an Anglican Church! The pastor of the church asked if I had a Bible in my room. I did not. He gave me a Bible as a gift and I read it every day. The very first time I took a Bible in my hand, it was in an Anglican church. In those days I became an active member of the church's youth group. It was here that I met Myrian, who is now my wife. We have been married for 45 years. We met at in St. Paul's cathedral in Valparaiso. It was the first non-Catholic building built in this country.

Historically, among Protestant churches Anglicans came first and then came others like the Presbyterians. I was very surprised to be in a parish where the priest was married. I was more familiar with celibate Catholic priests. It was interesting to find an alive community in the way they worshipped the Lord, studied the Bible, and led the Christian life. It was very different from my Catholic upbringing. One example was the sign of the peace. Anglicans would hug, Catholics had a stiff handshake.

I studied first to become a pharmacist (chemist), training at the University of Concepcion. I finished my degree in college, and worked as a pharmacist for six years. Later, I felt a call to the ministry.

VOL: Tell us about that experience, your theological education as you climbed through the ranks of the Anglican Church in Chile.

ZAVALA:I did all my basic theological training in Chile and then I was invited to study at the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, in Ambridge, PA. (now TSM) in 1987 and obtained an MAR degree in 1989. In 2015, I obtained my Doctorate of Ministry also at Trinity.

At university I was actively part of Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship. In my third year of my studies my friends began to call me pastor. I began to investigate this and I sought advice from older pastors. I felt something was happening in my life. I knew then that I wanted to serve the Lord. Everything began to converge. I accepted that Jesus was calling me to ministry.

I then left my profession to become a full-time pastor. I became a tent maker from 1982 to 1986, working as a pharmacist and in the local Anglican church. I was ordained deacon in 1982, in Valparaiso, my home town. I was then ordained a presbyter in 1984 by then Bishop Colin Beasley and was consecrated a bishop in 1998.

After I was ordained deacon in Valparaiso, I was offered the Providencia Church in Santiago, a small, vibrant, growing church that was able to support me.

VOL: Looking at the present state of the Anglican Communion, a far cry from what it was when you started your ministry, do you think GSFA and GAFCON will come together at some future point because of the actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Church of England blessing same-sex marriages?

ZAVALA: My dream and desire is to contribute in the best way I can, because both movements are working for the same purpose - to keep the church safe for orthodoxy and mission; to work for the Kingdom of God. They are on the same page and need to be one body.

VOL: The GSFA in their recent statement talked of the communion undergoing a "reset." How do you define "reset" considering Justin Welby's actions? What does reset mean and look like to you?

ZAVALA: I have no specific answer. I have some ideas. First, we believe that we are Anglicans. We belong to the Anglican communion. Our desire is not to leave the Anglican Communion. We see ourselves as the faithful remnant. We did not approve a solution like that approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury. We need to think what to do without leaving the Anglican Communion. We can continue to work together, to continue being Anglicans. The Church of England is going in the wrong direction, it is going in a wrong way. It is complicated to the point that we can no longer recognize the ABC as the first among equals.

The issue is that the ABC is elected and appointed to be Primate of all England not for the Anglican Communion, that means he is elected for the English reality and he is more concerned and concentrated on internal matters in England, the Anglican Communion and the Primates have nothing to say and do in this election and appointment.

I agree with the ABC when he said at the ACC-18 meeting that he should step down in his role as one of the Instruments of Unity. If the ABC leaves his position as first among equals the Primates should work and act as a collegiate body. With the recent decision of the Church of England, for sure, the dynamic of the Anglican Communion will change. We will need to work and reflect in what way we will reinforce the Communion in order not to be a federation, we have to continue being Anglicans around the world but without the leadership of the ABC. I think it will be a great blessing for the Communion if one of the primates from the Global South Anglican Fellowship or GAFCON is the president at meetings of the Instruments of Communion.

The Church of England is not the Anglican Communion. The CofE is one out of 42 provinces. They take their own decisions for their own church. Their decisions do affect us, but we don't want them to be affecting us. When The Episcopal Church approved the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003, I was invited to speak about this in Chile. I said the church of Chile will continue to be faithful to the Word of God. The Episcopal Church's actions, I said, will affect our internal Communion for worse and would affect ecumenical dialogues.

VOL: What did the Roman Catholic Church in Chile have to say about this?

ZAVALA: The Roman Catholic leadership do not express publicly what they think. They want to get along. They don't express strong opinions, they say nothing.

VOL: You say we cannot "walk together" with revisionist provinces, yet you say you want a renewed and "reset" communion. It sounds a little contradictory. How can you reset something where there is no repentance on the other side?

ZAVALA: In 2016, when I was primate of South America, Welby invited us to walk together. He asked, 'would you like to split the communion?' 'No, I said, we want to stay together.' It means dialogue, working together. In 1983, the Diocese of Chile applied for lay presidency in the whole communion. We provided theological, biblical, and pastoral reasons, but the communion said no, we cannot accept lay presidency and because we are in communion, we decided not to do it because we respect the communion. I have my way of doing things, but if it affects my brothers and sisters, I won't do it.

But in Canterbury at the Lambeth Conference in 1998, in my Bible Study group there were two TEC bishops who next day approved of Resolution 1:10. They then said we don't care what was approved yesterday we will continue with our agenda. I say that is not to be in communion. Five years later, Robinson was consecrated.

In order to work together, we need to start talking and stop any decision that will affect the rest of the communion. In the recent provincial synod in England, the Primate of the province of Alexandria, the Most Rev. Samy Fawzy, was invited as one of the Global South Primates and he addressed the synod and said 'in our understanding of marriage and sexuality there is a red line we will never cross.

Crossing this line to bless same sex unions will alienate 75% of the Anglican communion and endanger Ecumenical and Interfaith dialogue. This shift in practices will lead eventually to impaired communion and eventually 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' we pleaded. They didn't listen to or hear the rest of the communion. They went ahead and said our reality is that we don't care what the rest of the world decides. According to our representatives in the recent Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) it was managed by England. We had no time to talk the real issues that are affecting the Communion. They were living in their own reality, not caring what the rest of us thought or the impact it would have on us.

In the Anglican Communion it is not clear what the concept of being equal, that is first among equals. We are all equals, big and small provinces, but in the way some provinces are treated, we are not equal. Even in the ACC, we are not first among equals, but first among what, I am not sure what.

If we want to continue to be one big holy communion, we need to respect one another and how they affect the rest of the world...what happens in all the world. Some dioceses are stronger than others, there is a need for balance.

VOL: Is schism off the table completely?

ZAVALA: I don't think it is going to happen. We have spoken. We don't want to leave the communion. We feel ourselves as truly Anglican. If we leave, we are renouncing our heritage to Cranmer's teaching, the liturgy of 1662 which is part of our history. Cranmer died defending the faith we belong to. Our role today as Communion is to continue being faithful to Jesus and his gospel, we have to continue declaring that the Bible is the Word of God and not say that the Bible contains the word of God. Anglicanism is based on the pure word of God. This is what we received in South America and Chile by Anglican missionaries from South America Missionary Society (SAMS).

With the recent decision taken by the Church of England and supported by the ABC, as I said, we will need to work about new headship in the Communion. We would need to have canons and a constitution for this new reality. We do not have any canons. I can't do anything against any province to take decisions that affect the communion including TEC and other provinces. It is not my role to do that. I can't take disciplinary action against anyone in the communion. I am primate only of Chile.

The only possibility is to write a constitution and laws that will regulate our coexistence; for the sake of the Communion, it is the only way for a healthy body and good relationships.

The Windsor Report called on TEC to stop any actions contrary to Resolution 1:10. It asked TEC to stop actions and have dialogue. But big provinces never accept the document because of how it would affect them. That is big ego. If we are working for God and the Kingdom, we have to put everything on the table and be regulated in order to be in communion. We need true equality, and be a primus of first among equals.

VOL: Speaking to the opening ceremony of the Anglican consultative Council meeting in Accra, Ghana, Welby stated "I will not cling to place or position as an instrument of communion." Do you think he means it or is he just virtue signaling?

ZAVALA: I thought that he knew that being primate of all England and the decisions affecting the communion, he is willing leave being the first among equal. He can continue to be primate of England, but another primate will decide the call for meetings. Welby must step down as first among equals, but he can remain the Archbishop of Canterbury. Do you know that the ABC has 7 different roles? only one of them is related to and for the Anglican Communion; the rest are for internal things in England. The situation in the world and the Anglican Communion have changed, we need a new way and system for the future and unity for our Communion.

VOL: What would a new leader of the communion do?

ZAVALA: The first action of that person is to create confidence in the group because there are many suspicious amongst us. The second issue is to ask provinces to stop decisions that affect the communion. We need to build a basic platform as to where we stand as a communion.

This is the reality of being in society. My point of view is that we are called by the Lord to change society; sadly, what is now happening is that society is changing the church. The effect and influences on and by society are stronger in other places. We must ask, 'how can we be a church without compromising the gospel.'

VOL: How do you see the church as a counter culture that does not go along with the society's culture? How do you approach evangelism in Chile?

ZAVALA: True Christianity is a counter culture. It has its own values and principles that bless the fallen world. With these values and principles, we have to work in order to make this world a better world for individuals, families and societies. We do evangelism one by one. We are training youth groups for evangelism. We have Marriage Encounter as an evangelistic tool and the Cursillo movement is evangelistic. Everything we create is designed to be evangelistic.

My Cursillo in Pittsburgh in 1988 brought me alive. It was a powerful tool for the church. People who were lukewarm began to burn with Jesus. It affected the life of the people, people were baptized. We urge people to come to Cursillo.
ALPHA is very good, also Christianity Explored.

VOL: What is the state of your church in Chile today?

ZAVALA: The church has grown under my watch. We now have 10,000 practicing Anglicans in all four dioceses. The church has grown through cell groups. A pastor goes to a new place. He rents a school hall. From there he develops house communities throughout the week. Many of our churches are worshipping in schools.

VOL: How many priests are bi-vocational; how many are in full time ministry?

ZAVALA: 90% are full time. They receive a salary of about $1,000 a month. The average income is $12,000 a year. Many pastors' wives work. Something that really changed my life and ministry is when I took the concept myself of being mission minded person instead of maintenance minded. I tell my priests they are to be in mission mode instead of maintenance mode. We have six bishops and 50 presbyters and pastors and they are all in mission mode.

VOL: How often do you talk to your bishops and pastors?

ZAVALA: Every month I meet with them online. Before the pandemic we would meet twice a year in person, and the rest of the time online. We have very good communication.

VOL: Thank you archbishop.

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