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GSFA 1st Assembly - Who's going and what's on the agenda?

Updated: Jun 11

This is the third of three blogs giving some background to the 1st Assembly of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA), which takes place at the Coptic Orthodox monastery of St Mark, Khatatba , Egypt next week.


Almost 200 Anglican leaders from around the world are on their way to Egypt for the first Global South Fellowship of Anglican Assembly, under their new covenantal structure. The Opening Eucharist, will take place on the evening of Tuesday 11th June (3 hours ahead of GMT).

The 'guest list' is complicated, to say the least.

On the 'top table' are the representatives of the 'Ordinary Members' of the GSFA Assembly. According to the GSFA website, eleven provinces have formally accepted the terms of the Cairo Covenant, and are therefore in full communion with one another. Each of these provinces has been allowed to send a proportionate number of bishops, clergy and laity, who will be able to speak and vote on Assembly matters and stand for positions as Officers of the Assembly & Members of the Board.

Next, are the "Associate Members" - currently, the three non-Provincial Gafcon jurisdictions. Each of these 'networks' have been able to send bishops, clergy and laity to represent them at the Assembly. There are some limitations on their eligibility to vote and stand for office, while they work towards full ordinary member status.

Ordinary Members

Associate Members

The Episcopal / Anglican Province of Alexandria

Anglican Network in Europe (ANiE)

Church of Bangladesh

Church of Confessing Anglicans New Zealand

Anglican Church in Brazil

Diocese of the Southern Cross

Iglesia Anglicana de Chile (The Anglican Church of Chile)


Province de L'Eglise Anglicane Du Congo (Province of the Anglican Church of Congo)​


The Church of the Province of Myanmar (Burma)


The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)


Church of the Province of South East Asia


Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan


Province of the Episcopal Church of Sudan


The Church of the Province of Uganda


The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean (in process)


The GSFA has also invited representatives of their 'Mission Partners' to this meeting. These are non-ecclesial bodies who consent to the Cairo Covenant but do not have any formal voting rights. The Church of England Evangelical Council is an example of such a body.

Then, there are the more 'distant relatives' - those who have not formally affirmed the Cairo Covenant. These may be representatives of provinces from the Global South, who have been part of previous South to South Encounters, or one of the 'invited observers'.

In the former category, you have provinces such as Rwanda and Nigeria, who are part of Gafcon and therefore share the theological concerns of the GSFA, but there are also more liberal provinces, such as the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, who don't. Similarly, the invited observers include both Bishop Paul Donison, the General Secretary of Gafcon, and Archbishop Anthony Poggo, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.

Mission Partners

Other Global South Provinces

American Anglican Council

The Anglican Church of Burundi

Anglican Frontier Missions

The Church of the Province of Central Africa

Anglican Global Mission Partners

The Anglican Church of Kenya

Anglican Missions Africa

The Anglican Church of Melanesia

Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC)

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)

CMS Australia

The Church of Pakistan (United)

Crosslinks

The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea

Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion (EFAC)

Eglise Anglicane du Rwanda (The Anglican Church of Rwanda)

New Wineskins Missionary Network

The Anglican Church of South America

Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders (SAMS USA)

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa

Sharing of Ministries Abroad (SOMA)

Diocese of Sydney

The Relay Trust

The Anglican Church of Tanzania

Trinity Anglican Seminary

The Church of the Province of West Africa

Uganda Christian University


So, what are all these people going to do when they get there?

Archbishop Justin Badi Arama, the Primate of South Sudan, and currently the Chairman of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans, spoke to Dominic Steele, at The Pastor's Heart, last month. He shared the three objectives for the gathering in Cairo, as they "reset the Communion."

  1. Prayer, "for our beloved Communion."

  2. Mobilising mission, "moving out with the authentic gospel message to the needy world."

  3. Electing future leaders, "who will take the fellowship of orthodox Anglicans forward."

The five day programme reflects those priorities - with Morning and Evening Prayer each day; teaching on Evangelism and Mission Partnerships, Biblical Anthropology and Human Sexuality, and Economic Empowerment; and evenings set aside for formal 'business'. The election of bishops, clergy and laity to the new GSFA Board will take place on Thursday.

It is likely, however, that the mix of people present, will make for some quite contentious conversations on the fringes of the formal programme and it will take a considerable amount of effort to stop these discussions derailing the project.

Three particular questions come to mind:

Should GSFA Primates return to Primates Meetings?

At the Press Conference after the Primates Meeting in Rome, Archbishop Chama, Primate of the Church of the Province of Central Africa, spoke of his intention to use the GSFA meeting as an opportunity to persuade those who had absented themselves from the meeting to re-engage with the Instruments of Communion.

"Some of us who are here, attending the Primates Meeting, are also attending the Global South, which is going to meet in Egypt, and we hope to encourage, our brothers, those who are absent for whatever reason, that next time they need to come, sit and we talk as a family, so we can start journeying together in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."

This would involve reneging on the GSFA's Ash Wednesday Statement, so it is unlikely that members will vote in favour of such an action, but it will be a costly stand.

There is also the danger that, possibly encouraged by Archbishop Poggo, some of those 'southern' provinces who have not affirmed the Cairo Covenant will seek to form their own grouping in order to ensure their voice is heard globally.

Should the GSFA engage with the plans of the Inter-Anglican Steering Committee on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) to 're-think' the Anglican Communion?

The central bodies of the Anglican Communion have not been able to ignore the actions of Gafcon and the GSFA - and are now suggesting it might be time to "rethink" the Communion. They have proposed some form of "structural differentiation" to enable the provinces of the Anglican Communion to disagree well over issues of human sexuality.

Rt Revd Graham Tomlin, the Chair of IASCUFO, briefed the Primates at their meeting in Rome about the changes that might be needed to the role of the Church of England, now that the "children" have "grown up" (yes - he actually used those words).

There are likely to be voices in Cairo, that suggest the GSFA need to be fully involved in this task, in order to shape theses centrally approved structures.

The GSFA Covenant states that their members are "out of communion with with those Churches that allow the blessing of same-sex relationships or purport to solemnise same-sex marriages in their doctrine and practice or admit to holy orders those in same-sex unions, and those churches that pursue other significant departures from Biblical teaching." [2.1.6] Any proposal from IASCUFO is likely to require that the language of being "out of communion" is modified, so as to suggest that communion is only 'impaired'.

A further issue that arises for GSFA, is that IASCUFO is not due to report back to the Anglican Consultative Council until 2026 and it is unlikely that any decisions will be taken before the following meeting, in 2029. And having waited that long it may well be considered appropriate to wait to consult with the next Lambeth Conference, which may not take place until 2032.

In truth, the IASCUFO project is just another version of the Living in Love and Faith 'travelator'. Based on the incorrect assumption that matters of sexuality are adiaphora, it is designed to move all those involved slowly, but relentlessly, towards an acceptance of that view.

Will the GSFA be willing to offer episcopal oversight in England?

The GSFA Covenant says, "We recognize and offer episcopal oversight to Anglican congregations ... in those Churches that have departed from the historic standards of doctrine and morals of the Anglican Church."

It is likely that some of the English-based Mission Partners will be looking to the GSFA for help and support for those who remain in the Church of England. While there will no doubt be a great deal of sympathy for the plight of those represented by CEEC, the question remains as to whether the GSFA will be prepared to sanction their bishops to act unlawfully by offering episcopal ministry in that context.

And finally...

In the run up to Gafcon in Kigali, this blog noted that "for too long the Communion has been expected to serve white, western, post-imperial interests". If the GSFA is to have any chance of successfully resetting the Anglican Communion, it will be necessary for all those coming to Cairo with a willingness not to be served but to serve.

"There is a grace-filled sense of urgency to this favoured moment: ‘Do not be afraid, … the Holy Spirit will come upon you’; ‘Seek his Kingdom. Do not be afraid, little flock’ (Luke 1.30, 35; 12.31-32). Orthodox Anglicans need urgently to give corporate expression to their unity, without which they cannot become a life-giving force to the Anglican Communion in deep spiritual need." [Cairo Covenant - Executive Summary]

With thanks to Markus Winkler from Unsplash for the image.

 

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