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By the Rev. Dr. Stephen Noll
March 15, 2023

Thesis 12
Archbishop Welby dismissed Gafcon as a mere pressure group, ignored its plea, and has sought to divide and conquer its members. Three Provinces and their Primates (Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda), representing over 30 million Anglicans, chose not to attend the Lambeth Conference in 2020 and explained their determination not to associate with heretics. Another group of Primates and bishops, representing nearly 10 million Anglicans of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches, attended Lambeth, appealed to the Conference to uphold Lambeth I.10 and refused Communion with those who violated it. As ever, Canterbury and the Conference ignored their appeal.

GAFCON III addressed its appeal to Canterbury along with a warning of absenting its bishops from the 2020 Lambeth Conference. Covid-19, however, had other ideas, and Lambeth was rescheduled for July-August 2022. But no amount of time was needed by Archbishop Welby to turn a deaf ear to what he contemptuously called a "ginger group." There would be no invitations forthcoming to the bishops of the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Church of Brazil.

As Lambeth 2022 drew near, three of the Gafcon Primates from among the largest Anglican Provinces -- Henry Ndukuba of Nigeria, Laurent Mbanda of Rwanda, and Stephen Kaziimba of Uganda -- published a forthright statement of their position:

"The Anglican Communion has been in a crisis of unity, faith, and ethics since about two decades ago. Although the presenting issue is the recognition of homosexual relations and consecration of active Gay Bishops by The Episcopal Church (of America) and allied Provinces, the underlying question has been that of Biblical revisionism, arising from the adoption of secular culture within the Church.

"The Anglican Church in the West is in rebellion; having rejected fundamental beliefs in the authority of the Holy Bible, sound Biblical ethics, uniqueness, and Lordship of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This is a form of apostasy, which Jesus Christ warned against in Matthew 16:11.

"The Anglican Communion is undoubtedly experiencing spiritual warfare between the Kingdom of God and that of Satan. The Cry of Moses, "Who is on The Lord's side?" (Exodus 32:36) calls for the crucial decision which all genuine Christians and church denominations must make at this period."

Consequently, the bishops of three Provinces stayed away from the Lambeth Conference en bloc. The Primate of Kenya and other individual bishops joined in this boycott.

In the meantime, a second approach -- I would call it a strategy of engagement -- was taken by the Global South Fellowship: to attend Lambeth with the stated objectives to:
• Foster the Unity of the Orthodox, whilst being a faithful witness, and defender of 'the faith once delivered';
• Sound a 'Clarion Call' to Biblical Faithfulness, including seeking the 're-affirmation of Lambeth 1.10' as the 'official teaching' of the Anglican Church on marriage and sexuality;
• Stand by GSFA's principle of not being a 'breakaway group' from the Anglican Communion. (GSFA sees itself, and seeks to be part of, the 'holy remnant' that God has preserved in the Anglican Communion), and to
• Spur on the faithful in the Communion to get the Gospel out into the world, earnestly defending the purity of the faith in order that it might be propagated to a lost and needy world.
On this basis, several Gafcon Primates and Provinces, whose membership overlapped with the Global South Fellowship, attended Lambeth. Justin Welby saw the willingness to attend as an opportunity to split the Global South opposition. He had no intention, however, of acceding to their substantive objectives or of affirming Lambeth I.10 without insisting on "good disagreement" and "walking together" with those who openly violated it. This duplicity resulted in several stressful confrontations with Global South leaders and their refusing to take Communion at the final plenary worship.

If there is any doubt about the direction the Archbishop of Canterbury intends to take, it has been settled by his recent support of same-sex blessings in the Church of England.

So the question for the Gafcon movement and the Global South Fellowship is this: in what sense do they, in fact, constitute the Anglican Communion? As I noted (Thesis 8), since GAFCON 2008 no one intends to "leave" the Anglican Communion, but neither are they willing to compromise the fundamental doctrine, discipline and worship of classic Anglicanism. What may be emerging from the past year is the conviction that the "official" Communion and its Instruments have forfeited their birthright and legacy and have set out on another road to a far country.

Does there come a time when the Lord declares that a particular people are "not my people"? Looking through the prism of his own broken marriage, the prophet Hosea wrestled with this question with regard to the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Hosea 1). The Lord made clear to him that the current kingdom -- "the house of Jehu" -- would be destroyed and that its claim to represent God's covenant people was null and void. Yet at the same time, He assured Hosea that the Covenant itself remained unbroken and that He would ultimately unite His people under one Head.

Those of us in North America passed through a similar quandary. At what point, we asked, has the official church forfeited its claim to authority? At what point must a person come out and say of his beloved church, "You are not my people." For most of us in North America this was a decades-long struggle, but when we finally did depart or were expelled, the Gafcon Primates and the Global South Fellowship recognized the Anglican Church in North America not as a "breakaway group" nor as one option alongside the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada but as the legitimate replacement for two churches that had become irrecoverably heretical and hence schismatic.

This same troubling question is now raised for the Communion as a whole and its Instruments.

Note: See here the Introduction to the Fourteen Theses. On each subsequent week, I shall comment on one of the Fourteen Theses. THESES 1-5 WITH COMMENTARY on "The Crisis of Contemporary Anglicanism" and THESES 6-10 WITH COMMENTARY on "The Gafcon Response" have now been collated and are available HERE https://stephenswitness.org/2023/02/12/the-crisis-of-contemporary-anglicanism-theses-1-5/ and HERE https://stephenswitness.org/2023/03/06/the-gafcon-response-theses-6-10/

Stephen Noll is Professor Emeritus at Trinity School for Ministry, former Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University and author of two books and numerous articles on global Anglicanism.

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