African Anglicans fall out over support for the Episcopal Church of the USA

CAPA is on the verge of disintegration after leaders of the Gafcon coalition called upon its chairman, the Archbishop of Burundi, to repent or resign in the wake of an October communiqué he endorsed that backed the Episcopal Church of the USA.

The Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa [CAPA] is on the verge of disintegration after leaders of the Gafcon coalition called upon its chairman, the Archbishop of Burundi, to repent or resign in the wake of an October communiqué he endorsed that backed the Episcopal Church of the USA.

The collapse of CAPA, sources within the Gafcon movement tell Anglican Ink, is merely a sign of the wider collapse of the Anglican Communion. On 22 Jan 2015, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, the Primate of Kenya released a copy of a letter prepared at the December Gafcon primates meeting in Nairobi for Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi. He stated that as “no reply has been received, the letter is now being made public in order to avoid misunderstanding.”

The public rebuke of Archbishop Ntahoturi by the Gafcon primates is unprecedented in African church history, but was not unexpected. In his Advent letter to Gafcon, Archbishop Wabukala called Africa’s bishops to order.  Archbisho Ntahoturi’s failure to heed the warnings coming out of Nairobi prompted the public release of his rebuke.

The Gafcon archbishops chastised Archbishop Ntahoturi for claiming to speak on behalf of Africa’s Anglicans, when the position he represents is that of a minority.  

By allowing his office and name to be attached to the October 2014 “Transformation Through Friendship” communiqué prepared with the Episcopal Church, the archbishop had become party to a fraud upon the church and a slander against African Anglicans by asserting support for the “unbiblical and false teaching of The Episcopal Church.”

The Gafcon leaders stated they believed Archbishop Ntahoturi had been misled. “We know that this agenda does not represent the faith of your Province, Diocese, or even your own heart. We call you to repentance and restoration to join with us in fellowship that is founded on Christ’s truth and is faithful to His Word.”

The Gafcon leaders, representing a strong majority of the continent’s Anglicans, and the communion’s largest churches, also objected to what they saw as manipulation by Western interests of African Christians. The pro-Episcopal Church African Anglicans had sold their faith to the US in return for economic assistance. “We reject alliances that seek to capitalise on economic vulnerability to advance an agenda,” they said.

The letter stated Archbishop Ntahoturi’s actions likely spelled the end of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa unless he repented of his actions. “Given the fact that you are the Chairman of CAPA, and are supposed to represent the agreed positions of African Primates, your actions have created a tremendous obstacle to our participation in any CAPA gatherings until this can be properly sorted out.”

On 27 Nov 2014 Archbishop Wabukala warned there would be consequences for African bishops who broke ranks and went over to the American side. Without naming names, the Gafcon leader wrote:

“For instance, the ‘Bishops in Dialogue’ group after their Coventry meeting earlier this year claimed that we must maintain visible unity despite everything because ‘now we see through a glass, darkly’ (1 Corinthians 13:12). In other words, things will only become clear in heaven. This is a bad mistake. It is true that there is much about our future state that we do not yet understand, but God has given us the inspired Scriptures as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps.119:105). Our future hope cannot be turned into an excuse for compromise or silence when Scripture is clear. For Anglicans the collegial mind of the Communion on sexuality and Scripture remains the orthodox position as strongly reaffirmed by the 1998 Lambeth Conference which continues to call us to obedience and pastoral responsibility. Dialogue is no substitute for doctrine.”

The public and private warnings issued by Gafcon appear to have had no effective, prompting an unambiguous statement of the majority’s disquiet over what they saw as an unwholesome compromise of truth in return for aid.

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