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Lambeth 2022: Global South 1.10 vote will be transparent, says Archbishop Wong

03 August 2022

GSFA

Archbishop Wong at a press conference held by the GSFA during the Lambeth Conference, on Tuesday

Archbishop Wong at a press conference held by the GSFA during the Lambeth Conference, on Tuesday

THE Primate of the Indian Ocean, the Most Revd James Wong, who is one of the leading figures in the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), has insisted that the process of reckoning support for Resolution 1.10 will be “transparent”.

Unlike the official Lambeth Calls, there is no opportunity for the bishops to state their disagreement with the reaffirmation of Resolution 1.10.

“We as the Global South want to see this generation of bishops reaffirming their allegiance to 1.10,” Archbishop Wong said on Tuesday.

The GSFA says that it speaks for 75 per cent of Anglicans around the world, with 25 member Provinces, although this number includes the breakaway Anglican Church in North America and the diocese of Sydney, which, despite being in the southern hemisphere, is not usually considered to be in the “Global South”.

Archbishop Wong was sceptical about suggestions that there was any dissent from members of the GSFA, although conversations around the University of Kent campus, where the conference is being held, suggest that not all bishops in the Provinces linked to the GSFA are happy with the organisation’s recent actions.

“As Archbishops, we represent our Provinces and our dioceses,” he said; therefore “we are talking for the whole Church that we are serving.” He said that he has not received any complaints.

Many of the Provinces in the GSFA are in countries where homosexuality is criminalised. Did Archbishop Wong think that support for the punishment of gay people was contrary to the call in Resolution 1.10, repeated in the new resolution, for “all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation”?

Archbishop Wong noted that, in the Seychelles, homosexual acts had recently been decriminalised, but would not say explicitly whether he welcomed or lamented the change.

“I love them [homosexual people] as I will love all people in the Church, even those outside the Church,” he said. “But as I will walk with someone who is a thief, I will not tell him that stealing is a sin and that I don’t love you; I will manifest my love to the thief, and then tell the person that stealing is against God’s law,” he said.

Bishops in Ghana were criticised by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York last year for supporting a new law that would criminalise homosexuality. Asked whether this infringed the reaffirmed resolution 1.10, Archbishop Wong said: “It’s the bishops of these nations who will have to work their theology.”

If bishops in Ghana were free to decide their position on the criminalisation of homosexuality, why not those in Provinces that have allowed same-sex marriage? Archbishop Wong did not answer the question directly, but, instead, said that “the Episcopal Church [in the United States] is suing the other part of the Church defending 1.10 . . . and bishops leading the dioceses with their understanding of 1.10 are being asked to leave the structure of the Episcopal Church.

“In both situations — the Ghana situation and the American situation — I think there should be a time . . . to be able to come together and say: Where do we stand? And what does the Bible say?”

Questions about biblical interpretation are central to the GSFA’s mission: Archbishop Wong characterised the group as “defenders of a Church that has its foundation in the Bible”.

Also at play are questions about the structure of Anglicanism, as illustrated by Archbishop’s Wong injunction that the Communion should be able to “come together and say: Where do we stand?”

In a recent interview with the Church Times, the secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, the Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said that the Communion should be regarded as similar to the World Council of Churches (WCC): independent Churches joined in a network (Feature, 29 July).

On Tuesday, Archbishop Wong agreed, but said: “We are also interdependent, and we need to be able to respect the position of one another.”

The interdependence of Provinces explained why the GSFA was present at the Conference, he said: “We are here . . . because we believe that dialogue is still possible.”

And how had it been to sit among bishops with whom he disagreed?

“In my Bible study group, there are leaders who will defend the views of homosexual activists in the Church,” Archbishop Wong said. “We have been sharing the word of God together; we have been able to voice out our concern. . . But, up till now, despite our differences, we have been able to talk with one another, and this is the joy of the Anglican Communion.”

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