Members of CEEC and its constituent networks were privileged to attend GAFCON IV in Kigali, Rwanda from 17 to 21 April 2023. The Conference brought together over 1,300 Anglicans from 52 countries, including more than 100 from England, under the title ‘To Whom Shall We Go’.
The Conference was encouraged and challenged by Bible studies on Colossians, was led in vibrant worship by a largely Rwandan band and choir and gave time to praying in small mixed-Province groups for the needs of God’s world and church.
Inspiring testimonies were shared that humbled those of us from the West who have not experienced the persecution, famine and war that Anglicans from other continents have had to face. We heard stories of God’s provision, protection and power that encouraged us in our faith and will make us bolder in prayer.
We prayed particularly for the family of Archbishop Laurent Mbanda, host and Primate of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, whose son, Edwin, died unexpectedly during the time of the Conference.
Every GAFCON gathering has produced a statement (following consultation among delegates) and The Kigali Commitment is significant in various respects.
First, in its reminder to us of the authority of God’s word. The Commitment declares that it is a consequence of God’s word no longer being treated as authoritative in parts of the Anglican Communion which has led to the current divisions.
Second, in calling us all to repent ‘’because repentance defines and shapes the Christian life and the life of the church”.
Third, in its drawing on the whole of Lambeth 1.10 to call us to provide appropriate pastoral care to all in our churches. In particular: ‘We affirm that every person is loved by God and we are determined to love as God loves. As Resolution 1.10 affirms, we oppose the vilification or demeaning of any person …’, and ‘we are thankful to God for all those who seek to live a life of faithfulness to God’s Word in the face of all forms of sexual temptation’.
Fourth, in its identification of the current crisis within the Anglican Communion as the failure of the Instruments of Communion to address matters in a timely or adequate manner, and the consequent need for a ‘reset’ of the Communion. The sense of grief, dismay and betrayal expressed by delegates from all around the Communion towards the English bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury, was both palpable and profound.
Fifth, in its commitment of closer partnership between GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA) on the basis of their shared fundamental commitments. Fostering greater collaboration between these two bodies as they work together for the reform and renewal of the Communion and the advance of the kingdom was the clear mood and mind of the delegates.
Finally, in its support expressed towards those like ourselves within the Church of England. We are thankful for these words of the Commitment, which were a great encouragement to us: ‘We also continue to stand with and pray for those faithful Anglicans who remain within the Church of England. We support their efforts to uphold biblical orthodoxy and to resist breaches of Resolution I.10.
What is now clear is that, in the event of the General Synod endorsing blessings for people in sexually active relationships outside of heterosexual marriage, the Church of England will confirm she has “chosen to impair her relationship with the orthodox provinces in the Communion”. She will thereby ensure that the Anglican Communion will cease to exist in anything like its current form.
CEEC therefore urges the House and College of Bishops to step back from the brink in order to explore a “settlement” in England urgently that might avoid the Church of England suffering the same internal division as the Communion has experienced in the last two decades.
Given that about 45% of the General Synod has clearly articulated the conviction that the proposals of the bishops are unacceptable, urgent consideration needs to be given to a form of good differentiation involving structural re-organisation without theological compromise. Following this path could prevent the unity of the Church of England being torn apart in the same way that the Communion has been.