LEADERS of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) pledged on Friday that they would not leave the Anglican Communion, but instead work to effect a “reset” within the Communion.
Their announcement coincided with the news that 170 bishops had signed a statement affirming support for LGBT+ people and proclaiming the “holiness” of their “committed relationships”.
At a press conference on the outskirts of the University of Kent campus, where the Lambeth Conference is being held, the leader of the GSFA, the Archbishop of South Sudan, the Most Revd Justin Badi, said: “There needs to be limits to theological diversity, limits that are set by a plain and canonical reading of scripture, and supported by church history. We cannot accept a plurality of views on essential truths.”
Although there was no explicit talk of “sanctions” against provinces that had allowed same-sex marriage, as there was in the statement at the outset of the conference (News, 29 July), Archbishop Badi said: “If there is not authentic repentance by the revisionist Provinces, then we will sadly accept a state of impaired communion with them.”
When pressed on what “authentic repentance” meant in practical terms, Archbishop Badi replied that, if someone was trying to break a window to get out of a room, he would say: “My brother, that is not the way to come. There is a door here.” He continued: “If you don’t hear, and you continue through the window, I will not follow you. I will politely go out through the door.”
Asked directly whether, by “authentic repentance”, they wanted bishops in same-sex marriages to cease to be bishops, Archbishop Badi said that he had no authority to make someone resign.
He was joined at the press conference by the GSFA’s deputy leader, the Archbishop of Chile, the Most Revd Tito Zavala. He said: “We want to make it clear that we have no intention of leaving the Anglican Communion.”
Archbishop Badi explained that the GSFA considers itself a “holy remnant” within the Anglican Communion, which it wishes to reform. Unlike conservative bishops who had stayed away from the Conference (principally from Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda), he said that the GSFA bishops had “come to register our collective ownership and stewardship of a Communion that in God’s grace, has outgrown the Western world”.
He said that the Communion was “drifting more and more into become an association of Churches. . . The hard reality is that we cannot be a true Communion if some provinces insist on their own autonomy and disregard the necessity of being an interdependent body.”
Asked whether the GSFA’s pledge to remain within the Anglican Communion would survive a decision by the C of E to bless same-sex unions or allow same-sex marriage, he replied: “When the snake enters your hut, you don’t run away. You struggle and let the snake go out, because it is your house. So we are not leaving the Communion, as it is our home. . .
“Whatever the Church of England does, we will be the ones coming to England, going to Canterbury, and then let those with the revisionist theology form something else, or repent according to the Gospel.”
The day before, the GSFA had released a 15-page communiqué by the group’s five-man executive committee. According to a spokesman for Archbishop Badi, the text was presented to just under 200 bishops from the Global South on Thursday evening, who approved of its content.
The first two sections of the communiqué set out thanks for the opportunities that the Lambeth Conference has provided, and the pressing issues that face Provinces in the Global South. It then turns to the GSFA’s dominant theme in the past few weeks: Resolution 1.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference.
When asked whether this repeated focus distracted from other, more important, topics outlined in the communiqué, such as poverty, the climate crisis, and conflict, Archbishop Badi demurred. “What we are talking about is not just sexuality but the authority of scripture.” He suggested that other organisations could talk about those issues, but only the Church was able to speak on issues of sexuality.
The communiqué highlighted that the GSFA wished to reaffirm 1.10 in its entirety, which meant that it was committed to “listen to the experience of homosexual persons, to minister pastorally and sensitively to all and to condemn all irrational fear, homophobic behaviour and violence”.
Asked whether this commitment required bishops to decry laws that criminalise homosexuality, Archbishop Badi said: “As a Church, we are there to protect the vulnerable” — but he could not speak to the different political contexts in which bishops found themselves.
In January, bishops in Ghana spoke out against a proposed law criminalising LGBT+ people and their supporters (News, 2 February). The Anglican Church in Ghana falls under the Province of West Africa, which is listed as a member of GSFA.
Bishops at the Lambeth Conference have been asked by the GSFA to sign-up to a reaffirmation of Resolution 1.10 in an anonymous ballot (News, 2 August). The number of signatories is expected to be released on Sunday or Monday, at the conclusion of the Conference.
Later on Friday, the Bishop of Central Tanganyika in Tanzania, the Rt Revd Dickson Chilongani, suggested that the Western Provinces of the Communion could learn from those in the Global South, though he was not talking primarily about the sexuality debate, he said.
In an interview focused on the food crisis facing East Africa (News, 5 August), Bishop Chilongani said that the Church in Africa could show how it was possible to continue being joyful in the midst of suffering.
He downplayed the importance of the sexuality debate. “Issues of sexuality are issues mainly in the West,” he said. “It does not really bother people in the villages in rural areas [of his diocese]; so, for me, this was not actually the main agenda. The main agenda was about the unity of the Church, and I’m glad that we managed to sustain that.”
Bishop Chilongani suggested that “within Africa, we need to learn a lot before we come to a conclusion” on the sexuality debate, and for this it was “important to walk together trying to understand one another”.
Moments before the GSFA press conference began, it was announced that 170 bishops and archbishops had signed a statement that affirmed “the holiness of LGBT+ people’s love” and recognised that many LGBT+ people “have historically been wounded by the Church and particularly hurt by the events of the last few weeks”.
A large proportion of the signatories are bishops in the Episcopal Church in the United States, although the Primates and many bishops in Scotland, Wales, Brazil, and Canada had also signed the document.
There is an agreement in place that Church of England bishops refrain from signing petitions during the Living in Love and Faith process, though two broke ranks: the Suffragan Bishop in Europe, the Rt Revd David Hamid, and the Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson. Several others are said to have indicated their support for the statement.