Majority of world's Anglicans formally reject leadership of Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury preaching at the closing service of Lambeth 2022.(Photo: Lambeth Conference)

The Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) has committed to join with the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans in the "urgent matter" of resetting and reordering the Anglican Communion.

It cannot come as a surprise to those who have kept an eye on events in the Anglican Communion. The decision of the bishops of the Church of England to commend Prayers of Love and Faith for those in relationships other than holy matrimony may have been the last straw, but as the GAFCON Conference Commitment states:

"Despite 25 years of persistent warnings by most Anglican Primates, repeated departures from the authority of God's Word have torn the fabric of the Communion. These warnings were blatantly and deliberately disregarded and now without repentance this tear cannot be mended."

The document says it is "pastorally deceptive and blasphemous to craft prayers that invoke blessing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit", and calls public statements by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other leaders of the Church of England in support of same-sex blessings "a betrayal of their ordination and consecration vows to banish error and to uphold and defend the truth taught in Scripture".

The document continues, "We have no confidence that the Archbishop of Canterbury nor the other Instruments of Communion led by him (the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meetings) are able to provide a godly way forward that will be acceptable to those who are committed to the truthfulness, clarity, sufficiency and authority of Scripture.

"The Instruments of Communion have failed to maintain true communion based on the Word of God and shared faith in Christ.

"Successive Archbishops of Canterbury have failed to guard the faith by inviting bishops to Lambeth who have embraced or promoted practices contrary to Scripture.

"This failure of church discipline has been compounded by the current Archbishop of Canterbury who has himself welcomed the provision of liturgical resources to bless these practices contrary to Scripture. This renders his leadership role in the Anglican Communion entirely indefensible."

So, the repeated failure of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other Instruments of Communion (the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meetings) to offer godly leadership have now led to a vote of "no confidence" by the majority of the world's Anglicans.

Bishop Stead, who chaired the statement writing group, explained, "This grieves us, but it is they who have walked away from us."

As the Kigali Commitment - the name given to the conference statement - was read to the gathered delegates, the weight of what was happening descended on those gathered. There was a time of silence and the doxology was sung before the conference shared the Eucharist together.

Afterwards, there were tears, mourning the sin and broken relationships that have led to this point, but there was also the joy of those freed from oppression.

Archbishop Samy Shehata, the Primate of South Sudan, who warned the Church of England's General Synod of the consequences of moving foward with the Prayers of Love and Faith, said, "It is sad but at least it is now clear."

Since the inception of Gafcon, it has been necessary for the Gafcon Primates to recognise new orthodox jurisdictions for faithful Anglicans, including the Anglican Network in Europe, which stands ready to welcome those who feel they can no longer remain in the Church of England or Church in Wales because of the failure of the leadership.

Susie Leafe is director of Anglican Futures, which supports orthodox Anglicans in the UK.