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By the Rev. Dr. Stephen Noll
March 12, 2023

Thesis 11
In its “Letter to the Churches” from Jerusalem in 2018, the Gafcon Assembly urged the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite bishops from the Gafcon churches in North America and Brazil and to disinvite those bishops who had rejected and violated the teaching of Lambeth Resolution I.10, with a warning that otherwise Gafcon bishops would once again not attend the next Lambeth Conference.

Introduction to Theses 11-14
In this third section of my commentary, I intend to sketch the movement of Global South Anglicans in the decade-and-a-half after GAFCON 2008, during which two opposing roads were charted for the future of the Anglican Communion. One road – that taken by many churches in the West - was identified by Gafcon based on a false Gospel and leading to destruction. The other road was grounded in faithfulness to God’s Word as expressed in historic Anglican formularies and lived out in a worldwide community of churches. The divergence of these two roads has become critical as the Church of England and Archbishop of Canterbury have made their unfortunate choice. In reacting to this crisis, Gafcon and the Global South Fellowship have taken two parallel lanes of this second road, but it is now time for those lanes to converge.

Where do Global Anglicans go from here? That will be my proposal for GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship: a united communion of gospel-centered Global Anglicans independent of Canterbury.

2008. Gafcon was launched. A movement of global Anglicans had taken its stand. A clear and concise statement of identity had been published in the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. A Council of Primates began to meet and recognize alternate jurisdictions within the Communion.

The next decade was to see two further Conferences, GAFCON II in Nairobi (2013) and GAFCON III again in Jerusalem (2018). By this time there had been significant retirements of leading Primates, Peter Akinola and Henry Orombi, and the emergence of new Primates, Nicholas Okoh from Nigeria, Eliud Wabukala from Kenya, and Robert Duncan from the Anglican Church in North America. Archbishop Peter Jensen, while not a Primate, served as General Secretary during this decade, assisted by Bishop Martyn Minns and the Rev. Charles Raven. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali came to serve as an important theological advisor during these years.

The Gafcon Primates met regularly, semi-annually or annually, in person or by Zoom. Six months after GAFCON I, the Primates admitted the Anglican Church in North America as a full-fledged Province and seated Archbishop Robert Duncan as a member of the Primates Council. Bob Duncan had been the architect of the Common Cause movement that brought together North American Anglicans under one banner, and he contributed his wisdom now to the global scene.

GAFCON II was held in the tense atmosphere following an Islamist bombing two weeks before in Nairobi. Despite strict security protocols, 1,358 gathered in the same spirit of fellowship and worship as in Jerusalem five years before. The Nairobi Communique and Commitment reaffirmed the work of GAFCON I:

“Our willingness to submit to the written Word of God and our unwillingness to be in Christian fellowship with those who will not, is clearly expressed in The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. This means that the divisions in the Anglican Communion will not be healed without a change of heart from those promoting the false gospel, and to that end we pray.”

The Communique was jointly read at the final Assembly by the Rev. Canon Dr. John and Mrs. (Dr.) Ruth Senyonyi of Uganda. John and Ruth are heirs of the East African Revival (many of the early revivalist were married couples), and they highlighted the Conference theme of repentance, both personal and institutional.

GAFCON III was held again in Jerusalem attended by 1,950 delegates from 50 countries. In the Conference statement – “Letter to the Churches” – Gafcon grounded its ecclesial identity in the Gospel: “The Gospel of God creates the Church of God.” The Gospel, it says, leads to proclamation and reformation, which requires confronting the false Gospel which had continued unaddressed by Canterbury. For this reason, the Gafcon bishops warned Justin Welby that they would not attend the upcoming Lambeth Conference unless he invited the bishops of the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Church of Brazil and refused invitation to those churches that had defied Lambeth I.10.

GAFCON III also addressed the matter of perpetuating its mission. While the structure of Primatial governance had followed naturally from the existing Communion practice, in some cases when a Primate retired, the successor did not share his commitment to Gafcon and the Province was lost or divided. The Letter to the Churches proposed a Council of Advisors for each Province to give deeper rooting in the life of the churches. This proposal, while approved by the Assembly, has not been carried out as yet.

The Global South Fellowship
I described (Thesis 6) the diversion in the road between Gafcon and the Global South Fellowship when Archbishop John Chew was appointed to head the Lambeth-sponsored covenant process. Until that time, almost all Global South Anglicans favored some sort of covenant as a way forward, and in a real sense the Jerusalem Statement was a preamble of sorts to such a covenant. The “official” Anglican Communion Covenant went through three editions, each doctrinally weaker, and under intense pressure from the Left, Rowan Williams gutted it of any disciplinary authority. Recognizing its weakness, South East Asia appended a long “Preamble” to its Letter of Accession. In the meantime, many churches in Gafcon and then the Episcopal Church and Church of England rejected it. The truth was simple: there was no way to paper over the divide between orthodoxy and heresy in the Anglican Communion.

The Global South Fellowship began again in 2016 to draft a detailed “Covenantal Structure for the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches.” This proposal has many of the same features of the Jerusalem Statement. It defines the Anglican Communion in terms of its historical origin and its Reformation formularies, and it makes no mention of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the “Instruments of Unity.” Its “Fundamental Declarations” largely overlap with the Jerusalem Declaration. In line with clause 13, the covenant declares that “our churches are out of communion” with those who allow same-sex blessings or marriage or ordination of those in same-sex unions.

The Global South Covenant outlines a governing structure far more detailed than the Jerusalem Statement, but one can see basic similarities in the role of Provinces and dioceses (“Branches”), of periodic Assemblies, and of mutual accountability.

The parallel lanes seem to be converging. The only major matter that separated them was tactical: whether or not to attend the Lambeth Conference in 2022.

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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