Can GAFCON and the GSFA mend fences?

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The Most Rev Justin Badi Aram of South Sudan and the Most Rev. Justin Welby

Can the Anglican Communion reform? If so, when will it happen? The Rev. Paul Eddy, the communications advisor for the Global South Fellowship of Anglican primates at Lambeth 2022 sees a rapproachment amongst conservatives in opposition to Justin Welby – but not immediately. He writes:

Before the General Synod vote on gay blessings last month, from my detailed work with the Global South, without breaching client confidentiality, I would have said we were two years away from detailed plans to reset the Anglican Communion, and invite all sorts of extra members into a new movement.

Anyone who has worked closely with Anglican Communion primates, or been on ACC like Andrew Goddard, knows that these Primates are often leading Churches in countries of famine, civil war, terrorism – and the liberal cultural conformity of a small province like the CofE is simply not on their agenda – other than to condemn the gay blessing vote.

The umbrella groups of the Global South (GAFCON and GSFA) have similarities, but also major differences – including personalities and leadership styles, and these Primates rarely get together.

Hence post Lambeth Conference, I think most insiders estimated two years for any structural changes to the AC and its leader – the Archbishop of Canterbury. Certainly the GSFA Assembly is not until 2024.

The Church of England synod’s decision has fast forwarded a major split and the GAFCON conference is looming!

GAFCON, publicly, has already walked away from the archbishop of Canterbury and my gut reaction is their conference will announce offers of alternative episcopal oversight of some form – but do look at the complexities of that in the recent tussle of ACNA and the Church of Nigeria in the USA – it’s not easy.

The GSFA statement said discussions would follow with other global south leaders, and it is public knowledge they are meeting GAFCON primates ahead of Kigali. Whether a detailed United statement can follow in such a short space of time – with all 20+ GSFA primates agreeing, I genuinely don’t know. South Sudan archbishop Justin Badi Arama is a prayerful, Godly, reflective man who likes to consult and reflect before a major decision – as do the majority of Primates I used to work with.

What is often hard to understand in the West is that many global south provinces are solidly orthodox but they have a huge connection to Canterbury at the parish level, if not at the provincial level.  Many tell stories how the British missionaries ‘from Canterbury’ evangelised their nation. Others have recognition of their Province and status, civic wise, thanks to the Archbishop of Canterbury and his liaison with national civic bodies. It’s all there under the surface.

Other global south provinces receive funding via Canterbury-introduced sources, or via parishes in the Episcopal Church of the USA. 

Getting an united agreement on major issues across the global south related to the future of the Anglican  Communion of formal, recognised alternative episcopal oversight might take longer than Kigali if it is to be a united, recognised policy.

Finally, I urge everyone thinking about alternative episcopal oversight and the potential culture clash between conservative evangelical parishes and overseas archbishops.

A CEEC negotiated structured differential between conservative parishes and liberal bishops will take years to implement. So might good, mutually beneficial links between orthodox parishes and the Global South. I urge folk to be prayerfully patient for God’s leading in all this and for clergy/parishes not to jump at the first offer.  More, more reflective links and opportunities might follow.