THE crisis in the Anglican Communion is being caused largely by autocratic Primates and bishops in the Global South who do not behave as Anglicans, the Communion’s secretary-general, the Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, suggested on Monday.
In a robust address to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), meeting in Hong Kong, Dr Idowu-Fearon asked directly: “How should we respond to GAFCON?” — the Global Anglican Fellowship of conservative Provinces that has been acting increasingly independently in recent years, after a split over sexuality. “How do we handle this to prevent a schism in our Communion?”
He spoke of “deliberate ignorance”: “When you see a Primate, when you see a bishop, who knows that this is what it means to be an Anglican Church . . . and he pretends that he doesn’t, that’s very frustrating.”
There was a more general lack of understanding, too, since Anglicanism was not even taught in many theological colleges and seminaries around the world, he said. “Where it is taught, it is not Anglicanism: it is self-made Anglicanism. . .
“How do we fight this ignorance, that is chewing us up, and creating further divisions within the Communion?”
The Anglican polity, he said, involved consultation between bishops, clergy, and laity. “But I’m sharing with you that, in a good number of our provinces and dioceses, particularly in the Global South, there are no debates.
“When you get to some of them you think — and pardon me if some people are offended by this — you would think we are a Roman Church, where decisions are taken and passed down.
“There are no debates, and, where you have debates, they are not well informed. This is a major problem.”
He later clarified that he had not intended to denigrate the Roman Catholic Church, and had apologised to the Vatican representative at the ACC.
Dr Idowu-Fearon also spoke of the way in which some had snubbed the Archbishop of Canterbury, who invites all new Primates to stay at Lambeth Palace. “It is disheartening to hear a Primate give one excuse or other to avoid this hospitality.”
For a solution, he cited the example of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion (EFAC), which, in the 1960s, had deliberated breaking away to form an independent Evangelical Church, but had been dissuaded by the late Revd Dr John Stott.
”If GAFCON would be just that kind of movement, it should be embraced.”
He was happy to echo Archbishop Welby’s response to the last GAFCON meeting in June 2018: “In as much as GAFCON is committed to renewal and growth, what is there that could be criticised? If that is what GAFCON is about, then it is right for the Communion to welcome it as an influence for good and for the Kingdom.
“The difficulty arises when GAFCON involves itself in the structures of the Communion in a way that caused confusion and potential division.”
As well as duplicate structures, Dr Idowu-Fearon “had difficulty” with calls to invite, as full participants to the Lambeth Conference, people “who are clearly not members of the Communion”, and for calls to boycott the conference because of the disagreements with other Provinces.
In another part of his address, Dr Idowu-Fearon also castigated Provinces that were able to contribute to the Communion’s finances, but were being “financially irresponsible”. Nearly two-thirds of the Communion’s budget comes from just two Provinces: England (41 per cent), and the United States (22 per cent).
Dr Idowu-Fearon did not name any Provinces, and the published ACC budget does not distinguish between Provinces that are unable to pay, and those that are unwilling. No contribution, however, has been received, since 2014, from Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, and West Africa.
The secretary-general ended by affirming that exciting things were happening in the Communion, and spoke of seeing many converts in his travels. “The Spirit of the Lord is moving more because of our crisis — but I believe he will move the more if we can focus on discipleship.”
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