THE GAFCON Primates have accepted the Archbishop of Canterbury’s invitation to meet in January.
A communiqué issued by the Global South Primates after a meeting in Cairo last week also welcomed Archbishop Welby’s invitation to the Primates to set the agenda for the meeting as a “very helpful approach”. They have agreed on the agenda items they wish to request.
A GAFCON spokesman confirmed on Monday that the communiqué meant that its Primates had agreed to attend. The group had previously advised Archbishop Welby that it would not attend any meeting at which the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States or the Anglican Church of Canada were represented. But the decision by the Archbishop to invite the Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, Dr Foley Beach, has met one of their criteria for attendance.
"It was our hope for an ever more Christ-like Communion that compelled us to graciously accept the invitation to Canterbury," the Presiding Bishop in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Dr Mouneer Anis, who chairs the Global South Primates Steering Committee, said on Thursday.
"We are hopeful not for the survival of a divided Church but for a continuing unity and flourishing of the Communion. We recognise the work yet to be done but are hopeful for the renewed bonds of fellowship it will bring."
His personal belief was that such unity could not be achieved "if we ignore the recommendations of previous Primates meetings or of the Windsor report", he said. The Windsor report was commissioned in 2004 in response to the consecration in TEC of the Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, who was in a committed same-sex relationship. Its recommendations included the introduction of a Covenant for all Anglican provinces, and a strengthening of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office.
Archbishop Welby joined the meeting in Cairo on Thursday of last week, “for prayer and discussion on the challenges facing the Church and the world”, a statement from Lambeth Palace said. He preached at the closing eucharist.
He arrived after visiting the US, where, during an interview at the Council on Foreign Relations, he suggested that the Global South Primates “may well be right” in being critical of some of his actions. “There’s often plenty to be critical of.”
Leaders in these regions sensed that “colonisation has not stopped, it’s merely undergone a metamorphosis,” he said. “The issue of sexuality is one that goes intensely deeply into the way that the world is understood by all of us. It’s a question of identity for many people. . . And the imposition, as it is seen in the Global South, of new approaches to what it is to be human is resented more deeply than it is possible to describe. And this isn’t obscurantism. It is a sense of ‘Hang on. You are telling us whom and what we should be.’”
He went on: “Our understanding of the nature of the human being has changed very dramatically in the postwar period. . . The postmodernist move toward radical autonomy has a profound effect on the way we see how society should be structured, which does not cohere with many other countries.”