Orthodox Anglicans meet in Rwanda to discuss their future in the Communion

The most significant GAFCON yet?(Photo: Gafcon)

Tonight, the fourth Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) begins in Kigali, Rwanda.

Around 1,300 bishops, clergy and lay people have travelled from the four corners of the earth to the heart of Africa to celebrate the good news of Jesus Christ, and to consider the future of the Anglican Communion.

While not the largest, this conference has the potential to be the most significant Gafcon* gathering yet. In the past, many members of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA) have not attended, but this time the senior leaders of both organisations will be meeting to take counsel with one another before and during the five-day event. The Archbishop of Canterbury is not invited.

For many years the leaders of Gafcon and GSFA have been very clear that they could not follow the Archbishop of Canterbury's plan to "walk together" with Provinces such as The Episcopal Church USA, Scottish Episcopal Church and New Zealand, who have walked away from the historic, catholic teaching of the church. They have, however, disagreed on strategy.

While not leaving the Anglican Communion, Gafcon has chosen to stay away from the various Primates Meetings and last summer's Lambeth Conference. GSFA chose to attend and explain their concerns, while making it clear that they were not "walking together".

The recent decision of the bishops of the Church of England to commend the blessing of couples in committed, faithful relationships other than heterosexual marriage, is in the words of Archbishop Foley Beach, Chair of the Gafcon Primates Council, "shredding the last remaining fragile fabric of the Anglican Communion."

He also said that the Archbishop of Canterbury had "abrogated his fiduciary responsibility and violated his consecration vows".

In his Holy Week message, Archbishop Justin Badi, the Chair of the GSFA, agreed, saying, "The leadership role played by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the revisionist path adopted by the General Synod renders the GSFA unable to recognise the present incumbent as the 'first among equals' leader of the global Communion."

So, those who remain committed to the historic catholic teachings of the Church, are now united in seeking to reset and reshape the Anglican Communion and providentially GAFCON in Kigali has come at just the right time for serious conversations to begin.

The conference continues until Friday and is being livestreamed here.

*GAFCON is used as the name of the five-yearly conferences. Gafcon is used to refer to the movement of those committed to the 2008 Jerusalem Statement and Declaration.

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