Today 1,300 Anglicans - laity, clergy and bishops - meeting in Rwanda gazed far into the Anglican Future.
They were doing so on behalf of a multitude from numerous tribes, languages, peoples and nations- a family of something like 70 million Anglican Christians, for it is their Anglican Future, and that of their children’s children.
After four days of writing, consultation and revision, the delegates to the fourth Global Anglican Futures Conference (Gafcon IV) approved by acclamation the final Conference Statement. It is called The Kigali Commitment.
The Commitment may turn out to be one of the most significant documents in the history of the one holy, catholic and apostolic church. That is certainly the understanding and expectation of the delegates who have taken the discharge of their responsibilities commensurately seriously, in two senses of the word- assiduously but also solemnly. The Conference has done what it had to do but much of the work has been tinged with great sadness that it has been necessary at all. It is family grieving fractured relationships.
Nothing has been done lightly, whether in word or spirit, or “for the joy of fighting”. And so, on Thursday, knowing that it was to publish a statement containing much public admonishment, the Conference was called to a time of self-reflection and repentance before finally taking that lamentable step. The gathering was reminded that the Word of God comes first to each delegate and that Jesus said, “… repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand”, and yet each has offended against His holy laws, done those things that ought not to have been done and not done those things that ought to have done and, save by His grace, there is no health in anyone.
Throughout the overwhelming consensus of the Conference has been twofold. First, that the Instruments of Communion, most of all the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, have for far too long, led the Anglican Communion into profound error. Second, that the Gafcon movement should, in future, work in close partnership with its counterpart, the Global South Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFSA).
Whenever there was mention in the auditorium, even in passing, of either subject, proceedings were interrupted by sustained, spontaneous applause. To be English in the hall was to be humbled again and again by how low the Church of England has sunk in the estimation of those representing the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide. Anglican Christendom was calling for change and doing so loudly. To ignore that voice would be a grave injustice.
Where the Communion has looked for humility what they have got was hubris- an English arrogance demonstrated in persistently treating too much of the Communion as infantile. The Church of England could have graciously accepted the role of Mother Church emeritus and trusted the youthful, growing and vibrant parts of the Communion to take on the succession. Instead, it has clung on, ever more out of touch, out of date and outstaying its welcome.
The Communion as represented in Kigali is not a toddler throwing its toys out of the pram or in a teenage strop. It has made a generation-long attempt to convince the Church of England not to follow the path of The Episcopal Church of the USA. The former has responded patronisingly, and any mention of rejecting the financial blandishments of the latter is the one other thing guaranteed to prompt an outbreak of applause. For the Communion to finally assert itself in the face of such revisionism is anything but premature.
The recalcitrance of the dying Church of England in the face of the wisdom of its lively offspring has left the wider Anglican family with no choice but to take on the responsibility for the future of the household. Until there is repentance, the Church of England is now among those who are no longer welcome at family meals and had the keys to the family home taken from them.
Accordingly, the Kigali Commitment sets out that:
“the Instruments of Communion have failed to maintain true communion based on the Word of God and shared faith in Christ”;
the “leadership role” in the Anglican Communion of the Archbishop of Canterbury has been rendered “indefensible” by the failure of “successive” Archbishops of Canterbury “to guard the faith” by exercising appropriate discipline “compounded by” Justin Welby “welcoming the provision of liturgical resources to bless practices contrary to Scripture””;
consequently, the Archbishop of Canterbury is no longer recognised as an Instrument of Communion, the ‘first among equals’ of the Primates”;
Gafcon and the GFSA will “collaborate” in the “urgent matter” of “resetting the Communion” by creating for “orthodox Anglicans worldwide” “a clear identity, a global ‘spiritual home’ of which they can be proud, and a strong leadership structure,” in which “Anglican identity is defined by” “doctrine” and “not by recognition from the See of Canterbury”.
The work, not least in raising the Endowment Fund announced yesterday to support that work starts now. The next stop is the meeting of the GSFA in Cairo in May 2024.
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