The push by the Gafcon primates to bring wayward African provinces back into the fold has worked
The push by the Gafcon primates to bring wayward African provinces back into the fold appears to have worked, George Conger writes. While the Anglican Church in Southern Africa did not sign up for membership in Gafcon, the CAPA communiqué signed by its primate Archbishop Thabo Makgoba endorses the base position of the conservative fellowship – that homosexual relations are contrary to God’s word.
What does this mean? The Indaba process of conversation has reached its end. The African churches have come to the consensus that they are not persuaded by the claims of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada in favor of gay blessings.
The March 9-10 CAPA meeting was marked by the absence of some Gafcon primates – Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda — who also happen to be the leaders of the largest provinces in Africa. In January their leaders took the unprecedented step of chastising the chairman of CAPA, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoruti for his participation in a meeting at the General Theological Seminary last year (along with the Archbishops of Central & West Africa, and Tanzania) with bishops of the Episcopal Church of the USA. The Gafcon archbishops demanded an apology from Archbishop Ntahoturi and stated they would boycott future CAPA meetings until he repented of his accommodation of the Episcopal Church.
However, one of the members of the Gafcon Archbishop’s council, Archbishop Daniel Deng of Sudan, attended the Cape Town gathering along with conservatives from the Global South movement – Archbishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt, Archbishop Ian Ernest of the Indian Ocean, and Archbishop Bolly Lapok of South East Asia.
In their communiqué, the archbishops present: Burundi, Central Africa, Indian Ocean, Southern Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Middle East and South East Asia, endorsed the position of the Global South coalition, which differs from Gafcon only in its appreciation of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The communiqué affirmed the church’s traditional teaching on human sexuality and asked the Episcopal Church, Anglican Church of Canada and other progressive “white” provinces to halt moves towards implementing same-sex marriage liturgies.
After speaking of the misunderstanding that had arisen with those who had not attended, the communiqué backed the Gafcon position on human sexuality, but stated they still wanted to give the Archbishop of Canterbury an opportunity to try to resolve the crisis within the Communion.
The key paragraphs stated:
7- We are deeply concerned about the divisions within our beloved Anglican Communion. These divisions emerged when some Churches in the west allowed the worldly cultures, to reshape the message of church to the society especially in the area of marriage and human sexuality. These issues not only contradict the traditional teaching of the scripture but also impede our witness to the Gospel, which is the reason of our presence in this world. We believe that the church is entrusted with the message of Gospel in order to transform the culture not the other way around. We do accept diversity but not diversity on the expense of the truth. Therefore we call upon these churches to refrain from making unilateral decisions which will further the divisions between the provinces of the Anglican Communion.
8-We, by God’s Grace, continue to uphold the traditional biblical teaching in regard to human sexuality and marriage and affirm Lambeth Resolution 1:10 in its entirety. We believe that this is the only way to safeguard the life of the Christian families and we should resist the pressures of the secular western cultures to alter God’s purpose in creating Man and woman.
By affirming cultural diversity and doctrinal unity, the CAPA archbishops repudiated the program of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada in seeking to make marriage and sexual behavior a second order issue – one that would permit of differing interpretations. For the CAPA provinces, the move among the US and other provinces to introduce gay marriage is an abandonment of Scripture, tradition and natural law in favor of the “spirit of the age”. The CAPA archbishops also kicked out the prop for the argument that if the Episcopal Church endorses gay marriage, it will not loose its remaining links in Africa. “Further divisions” will come if the 2015 General Convention endorses same-sex blessing liturgies.
Paragraph 9 offers an olive branch to Archbishop Justin Welby, whose efforts thus far have not been well received by the majority of African church leaders. While backing the idea of future primates meetings, CAPA called for new meetings to honor the agreements reached in Dar es Salaam and Alexandria to discipline the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
9- We extend our support for the Archbishop of Canterbury in His efforts to bring restoration to our Communion. We affirm the necessity of the Primates meeting, however we emphasize the importance of following through the recommendations of the previous Primates meetings.
How is this likely to play out? For the time being, African solidarity has been restored on the international scene. There is a united front against the innovations under way in the US and Canada, and some space for Canterbury to move between the two blocks. Africa will not be a monolith though – the Archbishop of Cape Town remains firmly committed to the progressive agenda, but will not move ahead of his fellows. Provinces that are conservative at home, but are happy to take Western money such as Central Africa, will continue to act as they have. Some African bishops will continue to accept free air tickets to visit the US and UK for Indaba sessions — but they will now do so purely as tourists.
The Africans, in the persons of Gafcon and CAPA, have spoken clearly to the Episcopal Church that they have reached their limits.