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Eyes now on Lambeth 2020 delegates

29 June 2018

Global South bishops eager, while GAFCON attaches conditions

Jessie Parks/GAFCON

Bishops at GAFCON

Bishops at GAFCON

ATTENTION has turned to attendance at the Lambeth Conference two years before it is due to gather in Canterbury. GAFCON has attached conditions to attendance, while the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) has published videos of bishops from the Global south expressing their eagerness to attend.

In a letter published at the end of its third gathering last Friday, GAFCON urged the Archbishop to Canterbury to invite the bishops of both the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and the new Anglican Church in Brazil to the Conference, and not to invite bishops of Provinces who had “endorsed by word or deed sexual practices which are in contradiction to the teaching of Scripture and Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, unless they have repented of their actions and reversed their decisions”.

If the Archbishop did not comply, the letter went on, “we urge GAFCON members to decline the invitation to attend Lambeth 2020 and all other meetings of the Instruments of Communion.”

In recent days, ACNS has published six videos of Primates expressing their eagerness to attend the Conference and their hope that others will join them. The Primate of West Africa, the Most Revd Daniel Sarfo, described it as a “family reunion” while the Archbishop of Congo, the Most Revd Masimango Katanda, a member of GAFCON’s Primates Council, said: “When we talk with Anglican Christians in Congo their identity is in the see of Canterbury; so breaking the see of Canterbury is like starting a new Church, which is not the Anglican Church.”

Last week, the Primates’ Council was expanded to include the Archbishop of the breakaway Anglican Church in Brazil, the Most Revd Miguel Uchoa, and the Archbishop of Myanmar, the Most Revd Stephen Than. A press release said that the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd Jackson Ole Sapit, had “expressed his desire to join the Primates Council and will be welcomed at the next meeting”.

It was also announced that the current chair, the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, who is due to retire next year, will be succeeded by the Archbishop of ACNA, the Most Revd Foley Beach. The Archbishop of Jos, Dr Ben Kwashi, will take over as General Secretary.

Archbishop Foley, who will take over in April, told Anglican Unscripted that the conference had highlighted “the need for reforming the Anglican Communion away from colonial structures and a colonial mindset that limits the participation of those around the world”.

He also suggested that “a lot of people were dumbfounded” that the Archbishop of Canterbury was not present at the meeting.

In an online GAFCON video, the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas, one of three C of E bishops present (News, 22 June), described the reading aloud of the final letter as a “lovely moment . . . I do just wish that more people around the whole Communion, including in England, could actually come here to experience it, because it’s not divisive, it’s not trying to separate ourselves, it’s simply trying to stand faithfully to Christ and to encourage others to do exactly the same.”

It was a “great sadness” that more C of E Bishops were not present, he said. He knew of concern about “particular words and ways in which they are construed” in the Jerusalem Declaration, but it was “just a wonderful expression of things that Anglicans have always believed”. There was a need to “get over that particular concern about words and join in with the spirit of what GAFCON is doing”.

Last week, Archbishop Welby issued statements on both Twitter and Facebook confirming that he was praying for “our Anglican brothers and sisters meeting in Jerusalem this week”.

“Jesus tells us that when we gather in his name, he is there among us,” he wrote on Facebook. “I pray that the Holy Spirit is blessing this gathering with wisdom, insight and fresh vision for the renewal of God’s world — and our role as Anglicans in that great work. Wherever you are around the Communion, please join me in these prayers.”

On the eve of the second GAFCON meeting, in Kenya, he delivered two sermons (News, 18 October 2013). Last week’s letter reiterated the assertion that GAFCON was not leaving the Anglican Communion, referring instead to a “reordering” of the Communion.

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