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New Dean of Canterbury comes under fire from GAFCON Primates

21 October 2022


The GAFCON Primates in Rwanda earlier this week

The GAFCON Primates in Rwanda earlier this week

PRIMATES allied to the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) have condemned the Archbishop of Canterbury for “refusing to prevent” the appointment of the Very Revd David Monteith as Dean of Canterbury Cathedral (News, 14 October). They have urged Archbishop Welby to repent. Lambeth Palace has responded by saying that the statement is inaccurate.

The subject of Dean Monteith’s appointment takes up a large section of the communiqué issued by the Primates of North America (ACNA), Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, All Nigeria, and the Indian Ocean after a meeting of the GAFCON Primates Council meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, which ended on Wednesday. GAFCON is a conservative grouping of Anglicans, founded in 2008 after the consecration of a gay bishop in the United States. Kigali will host its next full meeting in April next year.

The Primates question the “moral character” of the Dean, who has been Dean of Leicester since 2013, and who has been in a civil partnership since 2008. They also question the appointment of Stephen Knott, who is in a same-sex marriage, as the Archbishop’s Secretary for Appointments, declaring such relationships to be “perceived as a cloak for homosexual activity”.

“It is disingenuous if not duplicitous for the Archbishop to claim that the Church of England has not changed its doctrine of marriage when he has engaged an Appointments Secretary whose own union is a living contradiction of marriage as God has ordained it, and which the Church of England claims to uphold,” they say in their communiqué.

With regard to Dean Monteith, they describe themselves as “deeply grieved”, and write of the “heart-breaking provocation that such a departure from biblical standards would be thrust upon the Communion in the historic See of Canterbury and in opposition to the established teaching and practice of the majority of Anglicans”.

They suggest that while Dean Monteith’s civil partnership “may have gone under the radar at Leicester Cathedral, the moral character of the Dean of Canterbury has ramifications for the whole Communion. Canterbury has a place in our history which needs to be preserved, rather than undermined.”

And they point the finger firmly at Archbishop Welby: “The announcement from the Archbishop of Canterbury distanced himself from this appointment, as it was the recommendation of a Selection Panel, requiring the Queen’s approval. Yet it is difficult to see how a Diocesan Bishop, let alone the Archbishop of Canterbury, could not influence the appointment of the Dean of his own Cathedral, especially given the published process for the Appointment of Deans. . .

“At the recent Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury affirmed Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Regrettably, the Archbishop will be perceived as advocating the very opposite of this resolution by refusing to prevent this appointment. The so-called instrument of unity has suddenly become an instrument of disunity. The tear in the fabric of the Communion has only deepened, perhaps irreparably.”

With regard to Mr Knott’s appointment, they say: “Clearly, the process for appointing senior positions in the Church of England needs to be reformed, so that decisions are in the hands of those who abide by the teaching of the Church of England, especially in relation to same-sex marriage and civil partnerships, which are generally perceived as a cloak for homosexual activity.”

Three of the signatories — the Primates of Rwanda, Uganda, and Nigeria — did not attend the Lambeth Conference, where, according to the communiqué, “revisionists sought to push forward their agenda. . .

“As Gafcon leaders, we agree with those from the Global South who pointed out that the Archbishop of Canterbury has departed from the authentic exercise of his office by normalising and praising those who have departed from biblical teaching and practice, and giving equal place to practices that are contrary to biblical norms, as Anglicans have received them. We urge him to repent.”

A spokesperson from Lambeth Palace on Friday described the statement as “inaccurate in a number of ways including the nature of the Anglican Communion, the appointment of the Dean of Canterbury, and the understanding of civil partnerships in England”.

Lambeth also confirmed, in answer to a question from the Church Times, that the Archbishop was engaged in ongoing WhatsApp conversations with Primates. These are described as “closed and private groups and as a matter of policy, all conversations remain private and confidential”.

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