Anglican leaders in the Global South say the decision by the Church of England to allow clergy to bless same-sex unions has strengthened their resolve to reset, reform and renew the worldwide Communion.
The leaders also reject the authority of Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury after he led the General Synod of the Church of England in allowing the clergy to bless same-sex civil marriages and offer additional prayers for such occasions. The General Synod did not allow same-sex church marriages, however.
The move has since triggered sharp reactions from traditionalists within the Anglican Communion and also widened an existing split within the church.
“What the Church of England has done is the ‘last nail in the coffin.’ Therefore we do not recognize Canterbury and the authority of the archbishop of Canterbury,” Archbishop Laurent Mbanda, the primate of Rwanda, told OSV News in a telephone interview.
“It is unbiblical and the archbishop of Canterbury does not have the authority to lead anymore. He cannot lead the synod into a heresy.”
“He (Archbishop Welby) says he will not resign, but as far as I know he resigned a long time ago when he departed from his vow. The authority has shifted. He has to understand that he is not first among equals,” Archbishop Mbanda said.
In April, his province will host the fourth meeting of the Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON, a movement of conservative Anglican bishops and leaders within the communion. The movement says on its website that it represents 85 million Anglicans worldwide.
The archbishop said someday, somewhere and somehow, “a first among equals will emerge,” because the archbishop of Canterbury lost his authority.
“So I think it’s time for a new Anglican Communion,” he said. “When you depart from Scriptures, you may have all the money, but nothing to hang on to.”
Congolese Anglican Bishop Steven Ayule Milenge of Bukavu viewed the latest development as “the work of a devil” within the church and through some leaders.
“Many leaders are running the church as a secular entity,” Bishop Milenge told OSV News. “We must follow and teach what the Bible says and teaches.”
On Feb. 20, the 10 primates from Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches expressed “great sorrow” at what they termed a decision by the Church of England to “depart from the historic faith.”
The archbishops from Africa, North and South America, and Asia-Pacific said as much as they wanted “to keep the unity … and the fabric of the Anglican Communion,” their calling to be “a holy remnant” did not allow them to be in communion with those provinces that have “departed from the historic faith” and “taken the path of false teachings,” the statement read.
“This breaks our hearts, and we pray for the revisionist provinces to return to the faith once delivered and to us,” the group, whose chairman is Archbishop Justin Badi Arama of South Sudan, said in a Feb. 20 statement.
Archbishop Arama said in the statement that with the Church of England and the archbishop of Canterbury forfeiting their leadership role in the communion, the Global South primates will meet, consult and work with other traditionalist primates to reset the communion on its biblical foundation.
The Global African Future Conference — “a global family of authentic Anglicans standing together to retain and restore the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion” — said in a Feb. 9 statement that the Archbishop of Canterbury is “shredding the last remaining fragile fabric of the Anglican Communion” and that they will have to make a decision.
In a statement signed by Archbishop Foley Beach, chair of the GAFCON Primates Council, Anglican leaders said, “The archbishop of Canterbury has abrogated his fiduciary responsibility and violated his consecration vows to ‘banish and drive away from the church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s word’ with his advocating this change in the Church of England.”
“It is now time for the primates of Anglican Communion to choose for themselves their first among equals rather than having a secular government of one nation appoint our leader. We are no longer colonies of Great Britain,” said a statement signed by Archbishop Beach.