Conservative bishops of the Anglican Communion say they no longer recognise the Archbishop of Canterbury as “first among equals”
A group of 12 Anglican archbishops from around the world have announced that they no longer believe the Church of England to be their “mother church” after the General Synod voted to allow priests to conduct blessings of same-sex couples in civil union.
In a seven-point statement published on Monday, the conservative Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) said that with “great sorrow” it is no longer able to recognize the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as “first among equals” in the global communion. The GSFA claims to represent some 75% of Anglicans worldwide.
“We pray that our withdrawal of support for him to lead the whole communion is received by him as an admonishment in love,” the press statement read.
The GSFA also claimed that through its actions, the Church of England had “departed from the historic faith” and disqualified itself as the “mother church” of the Anglican communion. The archbishops who signed the statement insisted that the decision by churches in the UK, the US, and New Zealand to allow same-sex marriage or blessings had “taken the path of false teaching.”
“This breaks our hearts and we pray for the revisionist provinces to return to ‘the faith once delivered’ and to us,” the GSFA Primates wrote, adding that “we do not accept the view that we can still ‘walk together’ with the revisionist provinces.”
In Nigeria, Anglican leaders say a formal separation from the global church is more likely than ever. They cite Welby’s Lambeth comments and the appointment of the Very Rev. David Monteith – who has been in a same-sex civil partnership since 2008 – as the Canterbury cathedral’s new dean.
Members of the GFSA meeting in Cairo 2016
Bishop Williams Aladekugbe of Nigeria’s Ibadan North Anglican Diocese said “we cannot continue to fellowship” with provinces that recognize “ungodly and devilish” same-sex unions.
“If they don’t worship God the way we worship him if they don’t believe in what we believe in… let us divide (and) we go our own way,” Aladekugbe told The Associated Press.
The conservative bishops’ umbrella group is the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GFSA). Its steering committee is headed by South Sudan Archbishop Justin Badi and includes archbishops from Bangladesh, Chile, Congo, Egypt, the Indian Ocean region and Myanmar.
On February 9, the two leaders of the Church of England, Archbishop Welby and Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, announced the decision by the General Synod to “publicly, unreservedly, and joyfully welcome same-sex couples in church.” It was also stated that clergy would be allowed to conduct blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples who are already married or are in a civil union.
The decision, however, fueled the heated disputes within the church. Progressives were angered by the move, claiming that it did not go far enough to offer full equality and allow same-sex marriages. Conservatives, on the other hand, argued that holy matrimony should be reserved for a union between a man and a woman.