Has Nigel Farage joined the GAFCON primates council? Political and church worlds collide.
The Archbishop of Canterbury should resign, Nigel Farage told Sky News this week, as he appears unwilling or unable to defend Britain’s Christian culture. Though they are not likely to share the UKIP leader’s political sentiments, the leaders of the Global South movement in the Anglican Communion are likely to agree with his conclusions — The Most Rev. & Rt Hon. Justin Portal Welby is a spent force in the Anglican world and should leave the stage.
In an interview broadcast on 16 Sept 2016 with Sky Politics correspondent Darren McCaffrey, Farage — who was among the leaders of the Brexit movement — voiced his disdain for Archbishop Welby. Sky News reported:
The outgoing UKIP leader has said the Archbishop of Canterbury should go because he is not prepared to “stand up for Christian values”.
Speaking to Sky News as he prepared to give his last conference speech as leader of the party, he rounded on Justin Welby, who criticised him for giving legitimacy to racism during the EU referendum campaign.
Mr Farage accused the Archbishop of failing to do his job properly, claiming he had not adequately protected Christian values in the UK.
He said: “It’s a great shame that the head of our established church is not actually prepared to stand up and fight for our Christian culture in this country.
“He’s somebody else who should go too.”
Relations between the populist MEP and UKIP party leader have been poor for some time. In June the Guardian reported:
Justin Welby told MPs in the home affairs select committee that he “utterly condemned” comments made by Farage at the weekend that sexual assaults by migrants were the “nuclear bomb” of the EU referendum.
The archbishop said Farage was guilty of “inexcusable pandering to people’s worries and prejudices, that is giving legitimisation to racism”. The Ukip leader was “accentuating [people’s] fear for political gain and that is absolutely unacceptable”, he added.
In response to questions by committee chair Keith Vaz, Welby said he agreed that Farage’s remarks were racist, adding “absolutely, without hesitation, I utterly condemn [them]”.
N.b. For those following the British political scene Keith Vaz, the (dis)honorable member for Leicester East (Lab), has been generating his own press that is far more interesting to the man in the street than the goings on at Lambeth Palace
The Newshub.com, a UK-based internet news website, speculated that not just Farage fans would like to see Welby go.
There will be many Christians on the evangelical side of the church agreeing with this especially as Justin Welby said he knew about a Bishop in the church Nicholas Chamberlain of Grantham being gay before he outed himself on television recently.
Putting British secular and ecclesial politics to one side, it is safe to say these sentiments are shared by a number of overseas archbishops and primates. (Are they my sentiments? I am not offering my views, but those of the great and good).
It was not always so. Justin Welby expended a great deal of political and personal capital to get the primates to come to Canterbury. All but two came — and those who were not present were unable attend due to illness or the death of a spouse.
In the eighteen months that followed his installation Archbishop Welby visited each of the provinces of the Anglican Communion and urged the fissiparous members of the church to stick together — to trust him. They did. And they came. And while the meeting got off to a rocky start, by the penultimate day the conservative and center right groups believed that this time, at long last, they would not be tricked. This time an Archbishop of Canterbury would honor his word.
Yet as the taxis were pulling away after lunch on Friday, Justin Welby appeared to be walking back his commitments to do something about the Episcopal Church.
In his press conference Archbishop Welby kow-towed to gay activists and a hostile press, appearing to apologize for standing by the church’s unchanged teaching on human sexuality.
The performance was excused as the “price that had to be paid” to satisfy a hostile media, one primate told Anglican TV, noting that what was important was the agreement committed to paper. Yet in the months that followed the hope that this time it would be different faded away. The words of the agreement have not changed — merely the meaning of those words.
For different primates dawn broke at different moments of the day — disquiet over the archbishop’s domestic utterances on humans sexuality, his failure to reign in his subordinates when they attacked the primates as fools and liars, his acceptance of full and active participation by the Episcopal Church at the ACC meeting in Lusaka, his appointment of American and Canadian bishops to the Task Group to monitor the American church. For one overseas leader the moment came amidst the press frenzy about Justin Welby’s parentage — the realization that if he could throw his mother under the bus he could throw “us” too.
We now appear to have returned to the status quo of the Spring of 2008. At the Jerusalem GAFCON Conference Archbishop Henry Orombi told Anglican TV/Anglican Ink the Church of Uganda remained Anglican, remained a part of the Anglican Communion, honored the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury — but would stay home until the situation in London sorted itself out. In September 2016 there is nothing to boycott, nothing to protest, nothing to focus upon as the make or break meeting within the communion. The next Lambeth Conference might be in 2020. The next GAFCON meeting will be in Jerusalem in 2018. The next General Convention of the Episcopal Church takes place in 2018.
Relations continue to some degree. Visits take place and statements on global warming, mosquito nets and other worthy causes are released. But as a communion, we appear to be dead in the water. They are not likely to restart until there is a change at Lambeth Palace — either of the man or the message.