GAFCON IV is set to kick off this evening, Monday 17 April 2023, at the Kigali Convention Center in Rwanda. In the hours before the opening ceremony, delegates drawn from 53 countries are settling into their rooms, tracking down lost luggage, and milling about in lobbies and cafes setting forth their hopes for this gathering of 1300 delegates.

A casual observer of the scene will hear 1300 different views on what must be done. Taken as a whole, the American contingent is relaxed and upbeat. The fortunes of the Anglican Church in North America can only improve from this global gathering. They can demonstrate a record of growth and church planting to their GAFCON confreres. 

The Australians too are upbeat, but also ready for the fight they see on the horizon when their general synod takes up the issue of same-sex blessings. 

Without episcopal leaders to channel their energies, the English contingent is unfocused. Some are calling for this conference to dethrone the Archbishop of Canterbury as the leader of the Anglican world. Others are calling for overseas intervention through flying bishops – while others are fiercely opposed to flying bishops. There is a sense of gloom among some. One delegate said they need to take something substantial home from this gathering, or the Welby machine will grind them into powder.

Delegates from the non-Western world too are not of one mind. The Church of Uganda’s archbishop announced on television that his church will call for the Church of England to be disciplined for synod’s actions on same-sex blessings. The Most Rev. Stephen Kaziimba said: “we expect the conference participants to provide input into a conference statement that is likely to chart a direction for reclaiming the authority of the Bible for Global anglicanism and setting up leadership and the governance structures that will ensure this continuity.”

Other Asian and African provinces agree synod’s actions were contrary to the gospel, but they do not see an outright break with the Church of England as being the appropriate response – at this time.

Conference leaders told Anglican.Ink that during the first few days they will sound out the views of the delegates, to ensure the drafting committee of the conference communique prepares a document that speaks for the gathering. Anglican.Ink has been asked not to print individual comments during the early days of the conference, to prevent individual comments from hijacking the proceedings.

The official rationale for this gathering comes from GAFCON’s chairman, the Most Rev. Foley Beach. In the welcome letter given to delegates this afternoon, he writes:

“We have gathered this week as Anglicans from all parts of the earth seeking to honor Jesus and the mission he has given to his Church – Go and make disciples of all nations”. At its core, GAFCON IV is time of prayer, praise and fellowship in the name of Jesus Christ.

“However, he noted “We have also gathered at a time when Anglicans all around the world are experiencing confusion, disillusionment, persecution, and disappointment because of the actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England. Shortly after Lambeth Resolution 1.10 was passed in 1998, there has been a concerted effort by church leaders in the West to change the understanding of biblical morality, of marriage and of gender. This has led to the acceptance of same-sex relationships as normative in these churches. Just recently the Church of England bishops and General Synod have approved special prayers of blessing for persons living in same-sex relationships.

“These departures from the historical and clear teaching of Holy Scripture have created a cataclysmic attack on the unity of the Anglican Communion and has left many Anglicans around the world bewildered the those who were lifted high on such a godly pedestal have fallen to such a degree.”

All those present at GAFCON IV would agree with Archbishop Beach’s summary of the current state of play. Where the difficulties will come at this meeting is what to do in response.

Archbishop Beach acknowledges that there is not one mind as of yet on what must be done. He stated: “This week we will wresly with how to respond in a godly and loving way that honours God and gives hope and vision to faithful followers of Jesus in our time.”