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Welby Pushes Anglican Communion to the Edge, Hoping for Redemption

Welby Pushes Anglican Communion to the Edge, Hoping for Redemption
ACC-17 meeting turns into a bust for Welby and ACC
GAFCON primates call for conference in Africa before Lambeth 2020


By David W. Virtue, DD
May 6, 2019

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, wants his cake and to eat it too.

He is not as bright as Rowan Williams (who is), but he knows how to duck and weave, demonstrating a cunningness that is breathless in its range and devious in its depth. He is the closest thing to an Anglican politician that we have ever had, or are likely to, and he is hoping that his considerable business skills will win the day, using pluriform truths - who can and cannot attend Lambeth 2020 and how he can keep the bishops from ever discussing Lambeth resolution 1:10.

If the UK has a Brexit issue with Mrs. May, the Anglican Communion has a Lambexit issue in Justin Welby. Like Mrs. May who keeps kicking the can down the road (or long grass as the Brits would say) looking for answers, Welby keeps looking for ways to hold the Communion together. He has become a master tactician. He keeps telling us that the he is the "focus of unity" for the communion. However, that now appears to be in tatters.

I experienced first-hand his deviousness in Canterbury several years ago following a meeting of Primates, when I put a question to him about the growing influence of GAFCON. He brushed me off by suggesting I was doing PR for the movement. It was a lie of course, but it was a clever, dare I say, political pushback from an awkward question.

However, unlike politicians who are forced to make compromises to achieve desired ends, The Christian Faith will not allow for such compromises. We deal in Absolute Truths, as Anglican writer Susan Howatch opined in one of her novels.

Welby is trying to thread the needle of orthodoxy and heterodoxy on sexuality issues that simply can't be done. But he keeps trying, and he has consiglieres and theological lieutenants who do his bidding for him.

He attempted it again this week in Hong Kong, where he apologized for getting the Lambeth spousal decisions to Lambeth 2020 all wrong and then set about trying to square the circle between himself and the Anglican Consultative Council. The ACC is apparently not permitted to comment on the issue, as that is not their mandate, only the Archbishop can do that. "I ask your forgiveness where I made mistakes," Welby said.

But then it all fell apart. The Archbishop of Canterbury was defeated on a measure that could adjudicate who's in or out of the Anglican Communion. Oklahoma Bishop Ed Konieczny objected to the resolution. He said it had "hidden within it, [something] which sets us up to create some other body, or somebody, to adjudicate who's in and who's out of the Anglican Communion."

Then the Africans got in on the act. Kwame Asiedu-Basoah (West Africa) called it a "very funny subject" to emerge at the meeting. And he asked: "Who has marginalized who? . . . We are not sending anyone away." In spite of all their efforts, he said, without specifying of whom he spoke, "they were not willing to speak to us."

The Rt. Rev. Joel Waweru (Kenya) declared that he would not support the resolution. "What are we reaffirming?" he asked. He called the wording ambiguous and ambivalent.

There were many other people who were being marginalized in the world, he said. "We have talked about race. We have talked about ethnicity." He suggested refocusing the resolution on general human dignity. As it stood, he said, "I feel that you are giving fodder to GAFCON", and would cause a "a red signal" in many Provinces.

The Rt. Rev. Eraste Bigirimana (Burundi) complained that sexuality had continued to divide the Communion since 1998. "In the Bible, human sexuality was very clear: fornication is a sin. Homosexuality is a sin -- for the Christians."

"This case has been discussed. It is now dividing our Anglican Communion. That is why we have GAFCON [the Global Anglican Fellowship of conservative provinces] and other movements fighting against these kinds of things."

Attacks on the resolution continued. Canon Anthony Eiwuley (West Africa) called for the resolution to be dropped. The Most Revd Ezekiel Kondo (Sudan) spoke of living in a Muslim-majority country. "If we pass this, and we are taking it to my country, tomorrow the Church would be closed."

The Rt. Rev. Stephen Cottrell (England) attempted to rescue the original motion by deleting the section that contained the welcome to those marginalized on account of their sexuality.

Bishop Konieczny responded to the plan, and the debate thus far, saying: "I am distressed. My heart is broken. My faith is challenged -- that, one, we cannot even affirm our own ethos of faith and code of conduct . . . and that we want to send a message to the world that we will respect you from a distance. This is not the body of Christ in which I belong. . .

In the end the resolution was defeated by 43 votes to 35, with 8 abstentions.

The bigger issue is believing that God has changed His mind on how we humans should behave sexually. Welby's apology is owed to God, not ACC members.

GAFCON leaders wrote to Welby asking him "to restore godly order in the communion". Welby ignored their request, preferring to make nice with The Episcopal Church and the ACC, ignoring the wishes of 50 million of the 70 million Anglicans who make up GAFCON!

"We were reminded of the words of Jeremiah 6:14, "They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace." They respectfully called upon the Archbishop of Canterbury to effect the necessary changes that fell within his power and responsibility. They accused Welby of violating Lambeth Resolution I.10, thereby putting the conference itself in violation of its own resolution: failing to uphold faithfulness in marriage and legitimizing practices incompatible with Scripture. This incoherence further tears the fabric of the Anglican Communion and undermines the foundations for reconciliation, they opined.

What exactly does Welby not understand? He is watching the Church of England descend down the same hell-bound pathway as the Episcopal Church in declining church attendance because of theological and moral heterodoxy, oblivious to the fact that 50 million Anglicans are staring him in the face telling him, in no uncertain terms, that he is a fool.

Now Welby faces a conference of believing Anglicans meeting on a continent full of evangelical Anglicans who will profess the faith given "once for all". Welby faces a group of pansexual spouses holding press conferences under his nose in Canterbury while he continues to endlessly apologize for not "listening" to the pain of a handful of aggrieved homosexuals. There are none so blind as those who will not see (Jer. 5:21) loosely translated.

The deeper truth is that "fixing" the problem between Welby and the ACC is not the issue. The real issue is fixing the problem between Welby and GAFCON, and that he is not willing to do. Making nice with liberal progressive Episcopal bishops like the bishop of Oklahoma and two African bishops is not going to win the day.

A GAFCON press release described the situation of Lambeth 2020 as one of descending into "chaos" and they won't be attending Lambeth 2020 they have said.

As a result, GAFCON primates and archbishops meeting in Sydney said they will hold their own conference in Kilgali, Rwanda in June of next year, just a month before the Lambeth conference, which must have Welby writhing in anger and the ACC General Secretary Idowu-Fearon gnashing his teeth, as he has been on a tear about GAFCON forming its own networks in defiance of him and the ACC!

"On the one hand, we have no interest in attempting to rival Lambeth 2020. On the other hand, we do not want our bishops to be deprived of faithful fellowship while we wait for order in the Communion to be restored. Therefore, we have decided to call together a meeting of bishops of the Anglican Communion in June of 2020. The conference will be primarily designed for those who will not be attending Lambeth, but all bishops of the Anglican Communion who subscribe to the Jerusalem Statement," said a press release. Perhaps Welby will be invited as an "ecumenical observer."

To all intents and purposes Welby's grip on the Anglican Communion is over. He has become irrelevant to more than 70% of the communion. The unofficial leader of the Anglican Communion is now an American archbishop -- Foley Beach -- and you might forgive him if he is laughing, standing on a sandy beach in Sydney, watching the spiritual tide going out, carrying the Anglican Communion's progressive bishops with it.


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