Anne Kennedy and James Wong a GAFCON IV

The Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA) and GAFCON are agreed upon the fundamentals of the Christian faith, the Most Rev. James Wong, Primate of the Indian Ocean said, today, but are not at a place where they will form a single entity to carry out a program of reform and renewal of the Anglican way. 

The leaders of the GFSA, the Most Rev. Justin Badi Arama, Primate of South Sudan, the Most Rev. Hector “Tito” Zavala, Primate of Chile, Archbishop Wong, and the Rt. Rev. Rennis Ponniah, GFSA general secretary, met with GAFCON chairman the Most Rev Foley Beach and the GAFCON standing committee on Tuesday evening in Kigali to discuss points of common agreement between the two Anglican groups – which together comprise over 80 percent of the communion’s worshippers.

Archbishop Wong said the meeting had been productive and “very friendly”. He said he  was “surprised with the love” he experienced from the GAFCON leaders. “A spirit of love” and fellowship permeated the gathering, he explained. 

The two movements have long shared a common view that the Communion is no longer working, but have differed as to how to respond to the crisis. While the GFSA bishops accepted Archbishop Justin Welby’s invitation to attend the 2022 Lambeth Conference, GAFCON boycotted the assembly of Anglican bishops.

Archbishop Wong said he attended Lambeth 2022 “to try to save the Anglican Communion” from further decline, and to ask the conference to reaffirm the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1:10 on Human Sexuality. However, Lambeth had been a “battlefield” and their efforts to turn round the church failed.

The GFSA did not compromise its integrity by attending Lambeth. “We did not take communion at the beginning and end of the conference” with the other bishops, but held our own Eucharist, he said. The GFSA also rejected Archbishop Welby’s call that those with differing views on Scripture, salvation and Christian anthropology “walk together”.

“We are not walking together” with the “Canterbury Communion” of Archbishop Welby and the Church of England, but are in fellowship with the “real” Anglican Communion. On this point the GFSA and GAFCON are of the “same mind,” he said. 

In the weeks leading up to GAFCON IV in Kigali discussions between the top leadership of the two groups took place in a bid to find a common response. Several GAFCON primates favored the approach laid out by Prof. Stephen Noll (the principal author of the Jerusalem Declaration of 2008) that a United Anglican Communion be formed alongside the Canterbury Communion.

The GFSA declined to accept the Noll proposal as it was not going to surrender the Anglican Communion to the Canterbury Communion.

At the 19 April 2023 press conference at GAFCON IV, Archbishop Wong noted the constitutions of several GSFA provinces made explicit reference to being in communion with the See of Canterbury. Unlike the Church of Nigeria, whose constitution does not contain such a condition, these provinces could not lawfully break with Canterbury until after they had reformed their constitutions. “We are the remnant. We are the real Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Wong said.

The GSFA is understood to have countered with the proposal GAFCON endorse their Covental Structure as adopted by its 2019 assembly in Cairo. Not all GAFCON provinces could sign on to the Cairo covenant, however, without also compromising their constitutions and theological principles.

Differences as to the approach to take towards the Church of England in light of General Synod’s decision to permit same-sex blessings are present. Both agreed Archbishop Welby and the General Synod had promulgated false teaching that separated them from the fellowship of Anglican believers. The “Church of England was now joining those who are in impaired communion” with the majority of the church, he said.

But no consensus about what to do about the Synod gay blessings vote has been reached.

On 19 April 2023 delegates to GAFCON IV were presented with a draft copy of the conference’s final communique. Delegates later met in provincial and national groups to give their feedback to the drafting committee. The content of the draft document and the national discussions are not being released to the public. However, Archbishop Wong said he expected to see some statement of unity between GAFCON and the GFSA in the communique.

The final communique will be released on 21 April 2023 at the conference closing ceremony, along with the name of the new chairman of GAFCON, who succeeds Archbishop Beach.