A MEETING of GAFCON Primates in Lagos has agreed to provide a “missionary bishop” for conservative Evangelicals in the UK.
The move, made without the approval of Anglican leaders in this country, was prompted by an impending vote on same-sex marriage in the general synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and continuing disagreements in England over the same matter (News, 28 April).
In their communiqué, issued last Saturday, the GAFCON Primates state that they represent the majority of global Anglicans. In response to a request for help from a small group of breakaway churches in the UK, they speak of “faithful Anglicans in some parts of the Global North who are in need of biblically faithful episcopal leadership”.
The GAFCON statement continues: “Therefore we have decided to consecrate a missionary bishop who will be tasked with providing episcopal leadership for those who are outside the structures of any Anglican province, especially in Europe.”
But the Primates also address Christians in the mainstream Anglican Churches: “We are aware that some Christians within these provinces who are contending for the faith may at first perceive the news of a missionary bishop as a threat to their hopes for reform from within.
“We believe that the complexity of the current situation in Europe does not admit of a single solution. Faithful Christians may be called to different courses of action. We bless those whose context and conscience have led them to remain and contend for the faith within the current structures. If you are successful, you will not need a missionary bishop; if you are not successful, an alternative is at hand.”
The Scottish Primus, Dr David Chillingworth called the move “regrettable. . . The Anglican Communion functions as a global communion on the basis of respect for the territorial integrity of each province. This move is a breach of that understanding.”
The Scottish synodical vote was not a foregone conclusion, he said, and the Church was “working closely with those who find this proposal difficult to accept”. Whatever the outcome, they intended to remain “a Church which honours diversity”.
The national branch, GAFCON UK, warmly welcomed the move as a means to combat “the revisionist trajectory” of the UK Churches.
The GAFCON Primates also considered various African concerns, including the Islamist threat; the widespread drought; and the renewed fighting in South Sudan, which had created many thousands of refugees: “The Anglican Church there is caring for these refugees as best it can, but the region’s resources are currently overwhelmed.”
In contrast, they state: “In our Global North provinces, the challenges are different. With the increasing influence of materialism, secularism, and the loss of moral foundations, our people in these provinces face dangers that are subtle, but spiritually dangerous.”