Will he be 'sacked in the morning'?

Justin Welby delivering his presidential address to the Church of England General Synod in London.(Photo: Geoff Crawford/Church of England)

This has not been a good weekend for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Immediately after the General Synod of the CofE passed a motion in support of the House of Bishops' proposal to commend prayers of blessing for couples in same-sex unions, the statements challenging his leadership and the place of the Church of England in the Anglican Communion began to emerge.

The Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), who represent 75 per cent of the Anglican Communion were first to speak, saying the decision had triggered "a widespread loss of confidence in [the Church of England's] leadership of the Communion," and caused them to question the Archbishop of Canterbury's "fitness to lead".

Statements from individual Provinces followed.

The Church of Nigeria focused on the impossibility of upholding the doctrine of marriage while offering blessings to couple sin other relationships.

"This disingenuous manipulation of language to conceal their true intentions and unwillingness to stand by principled positions and Biblical truth has characterized the behaviour and statements of the Church of England for a while," its statement said.

The Most Rev Dr Jackson Ole Sapit, the Archbishop of Kenya, drew a similar conclusion: "This is hypocritical and a blatant lie for there is only one truth and not many versions or opinions of it."

The Archbishop of Sydney spoke of the "perilous state" of the Church of England's position in the Anglican Communion, while the Archbishop of Rwanda said this decision "drives the last nail into the coffin" of their relationship with the Church of England.

Meanwhile in Ghana, the Archbishop of Canterbury made some interesting comments in his address to the Anglican Consultative Council over the weekend in which he claimed to hold his senior position in the Anglican Communion very lightly. 

"I will not cling to place or position. I hold it very lightly, provided that the other Instruments of Communion choose the new shape, that we are not dictated to by people, blackmailed, bribed to do what others want us to do, but that we act in good conscience before God seeking a judge that is not for our power, but exists for the new world with its extraordinary and terrifying threats. To proclaim Christ and turn our opportunities into realities to bless the world." 

In further comments, he appeared to be looking for sympathy from the collected members of the ACC. 

He went on: "In the last few weeks, as part of our discussions about sexuality and the rules around sexuality in the Church of England, I talked of our interdependence with all Christians, not just Anglicans, particularly those in the Global South with other faith majorities.

"As a result, I was summoned twice to Parliament and threatened with parliamentary action to force same-sex marriage on us, called in England 'equal marriage'.

"When I speak of the impact that actions by the Church of England will have on those abroad in the Anglican Communion, those concerns are dismissed by many. Not all, but by many in the General Synod."

The first of these statements is an exaggeration – it is true that the Archbishop was involved in an urgent debate in the House of Commons, but about five per cent of Members of Parliament were involved. The second is very strange indeed.

It is true that the Archbishop of Canterbury made an impassioned speech to the General Synod, saying: "I am genuinely torn. It is not just about listening to the rest of the world, it is caring. Let's just be clear on that. It's about people who will die, women who will be raped, children who will be tortured."

"When we vote", he added, "we need to think about that – It is not just about what people will say – it is about what they will suffer."

Yet the Archbishop concluded, "We must also do right here," which, in the light of his "extremely joyful" affirmation of the House of Bishops' proposals, would suggest he himself voted in favour of the motion.

It also seems he was one of those who dismissed these concerns along with the Archbishop of York, who said, "I have a very strong relationship with Kenya and I cannot make any decision without thinking about the impact it might have on my brothers and sisters in Kenya," while strongly supporting the motion.

Any football manager knows that when the chants of "You'll be sacked in the morning" echo round the stadium, it might be time to pack their bags. The Anglican Communion may move more slowly but there is no doubt that the Mother Church and her leadership have been put on notice.