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By David W. Virtue, DD
May 22, 2024

Two orthodox Anglican ministries representing millions of Anglicans globally, find themselves contending for the Anglican mind even as Western Anglicanism declines; the consequences of moral and theological decisions that have shriveled its pews and pulpits.

The Gafcon journey began in 2008 when moral compromise, doctrinal error, and the collapse of biblical witness in parts of the Anglican communion had reached such a level that the leaders of the majority of the world's Anglicans felt it was necessary to take a united stand for truth.

The Global South Fellowship of Anglican churches (GSFA) made up of 25 provinces
was born in 1994, and includes 22 provinces of the Anglican Communion, plus the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Church in Brazil. The Anglican Diocese of Sydney is also officially listed as a member.

Both have an honorable history in resisting the revisionist trends in the mostly western Anglican churches who have capitulated on human sexuality under pressure from a handful of pansexualists, and other faith issues, that have gnawed away at global Anglicanism and the historic faith for nearly four decades.

Compounding the dance is that many of the same archbishops can be found in both camps.

The consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003 caused a division in the worldwide Anglican Communion, and out of this came the ACNA. This capitulation to the cultural zeitgeist was the final straw. In 2008 GAFCON was formed. The Episcopal Church (TEC) has never recovered from this apostate act. Robinson has refused to repent and TEC has gone full steam ahead ordaining more homosexuals to the episcopacy. The only other Anglican province to follow suit is the Anglican Church of Canada.

The Church of England, while not formally allowing same sex marriage, allows the blessing of same sex unions, a position that is busy tearing the church apart with Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals asking themselves what place they still have in the mother church.

The Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), represent most of the Southern Hemisphere and Third World provinces within the Anglican Communion, including all those from Africa, the largest from South America, most from Asia and two Oceania provinces. Global South provinces are characterized by their theological traditionalism on matters of sexual ethics and life issues, and by their evangelicalism in churchmanship.

As stated earlier, Global South encounters started in 1994. The Global South standing gained impetus concerning the controversies over the acceptance of non-celibate homosexuality, as the blessing of same-sex unions and the allowing of non-celibate homosexual clergy was being promoted by the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada. The Global South churches have vigorously opposed the legitimacy of any acceptance of same-sex relationships within the Anglican Communion.

The differences between the two orthodox movements are both clear and muddled at the same time. It has become a delicate dance with common goals like different spokes of a wheel but with similar outcomes.

But each do have similar commitments. They each have a commitment to the ultimate authority of Holy Scripture, and to the historic Anglican formularies that uphold and explain our commitment to God's inspired Word.

Each is attempting to live out 'what it means to be Anglican'. GSFA is more conciliar in orientation as opposed to GAFCON's more confessional view; GSFA sees its identity in community (that includes the ABC and Lambeth Conferences) while GAFCON has left the ABC behind for a more confessional, Reformational understanding of what it means to be Anglican. The question then becomes, can theological differences be settled by something other than good theology?

GAFCON is a renewal movement, with no ambitions to be an ecclesiastical structure.

GSFA seeks to be an alternative-seeking-to-become-the-main-event ecclesial structure.

Each is rooted in a different understanding of the church:
Did Jesus proclaim a message that has the power to create community? If so, the first step to renewal is not new structures but a recommitment to the message, like the Reformation--that's GAFCON's vision.

Did Jesus establish an institution to which he entrusted a message? If so, the first step to renewal is new structures which can more effectively communicate the message, an approach much more in keeping with Anglo-Catholicism--that is GSFA's vision for a renewed conciliarism.

That clarity, however, gets muddled in the midst of the current political realities.

GSFA doesn't have enough internal political support for recognition of extra-provincial entities outside of the Anglican Communion, so it's presentation of itself as an alternative Communion, at this point, is rather limited to being an Orthodox group of Anglican provinces within the Communion. That is why what happens in Cairo next month concerning Archbishop Justin Welby's leadership is a huge litmus test for how much support there is within GSFA for a new communion structure.

Although Gafcon is a renewal movement, it has agreed to recognize extra-provincial entities as a way to make sure that Christ's message is effectively proclaimed where the Anglican structures have put the message in jeopardy. As a result, it is a renewal movement with quasi-ecclesiastical aspects.

There are other issues, like Sydney not wanting to be under any ecclesial structure that could pass judgment on its practice of Anglicanism, so it stresses proclaiming the message; GAFCON having a culture comfortable with public confrontation, while GSFA is rooted in a more behind-the-scenes-resolution of conflicts. These are key theological differences.

What happens going forward is anybody's guess. It would appear that the weight of the communion's future lies with GSFA as the issue of the communion's structure is now in question even by Archbishop Welby himself.

Will the West, particularly the Church of England's primate continue to hold themselves up as the communion's prima facie head in the face of his increasing capitulation on sexuality issues; will the Global South wrest it from him by simply no longer recognizing Canterbury and Archbishop Welby as the titular head of the church? Time will tell.

These are profound issues of identity. Western Anglicanism is slowly sinking into the demographic sunset; with global Anglicanism increasingly now black, under 30 and female.

Will a Reform Anglicanism arise that is biblically faithful, true to its foundational formularies and its first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury (1533 to 1555 CE), Thomas Cranmer, one of the prime architects of the English Reformation?

The real question is: can we really vote on what it means to be Anglican (ABC, Lambeth, other instruments of unity), or is someone "Anglican" who subscribes to the authority of Scripture as upheld and taught in the historic Anglican formularies! GAFCON and the GSFA must soon tell us.

If you like this story and would like to read more in this vein, click here: www.virtueonline.org

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