Evangelical critics of gay marriage and women bishops meet in London to plot schism
Evangelical leaders from the US and across Africa are meeting in London this week to consider a revolutionary plan to turn their backs on the Archbishop of Canterbury. The meeting will “chart the future of global Anglicanism” and could back the creation of a new evangelical church opposed to the liberal direction of the Church of England, which would cater for conservative Anglicans in Britain.
The move away from the “mother” church is being debated by the seven-man leadership of the Global Anglican Futures Conference (Gafcon), which was formed in 2008 to bring about a return to “authentic Anglicanism”.
Same-sex marriage became legal in Britain last year (Getty)
The socially conservative body – which is against female bishops and has been accused of homophobia – calls for an end to “secularism” in the mainstream Anglican Church, and is expected to make a commitment to defend the “essential truths of the biblical faith”. This could go as far as ordaining new church leaders.
Gafcon declined to comment, but in an Easter message, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, a member of the Kenyan clergy and chairman of the Gafcon council, made clear that the global Anglican faith needed to be restored to “biblical truth” in the face of attacks from Islamic radicalism and “an increasingly intolerant secular culture”.
His intervention came a month after Gafcon supporters courted controversy in Britain by condemning an initiative which let Muslim worshippers hold prayers in a central London church. Archbishop Wabukala said the event, which was praised by cross-faith leaders, was a sign of the “struggle” and “crisis” developing in the Church of England. Mainstream members of the Anglican Church have described the planned establishment of a rival church as an “act of piracy” that will “cause confusion among Britain’s Anglicans”
- The move to establish a parallel church comes six months after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, warned church leaders that the diversity of the worldwide Anglican community “may be too much to manage”. Speaking in November, after the vote to allow women bishops, he denounced tribalism within the Church, which he said was causing “deep divisions”.
- Last night, however, he declined to comment on speculation that the Church of England was facing schism. Some conservative Anglicans believe a formal split will not occur as long as the Church of England maintains its formal opposition to gay marriage. Andrea Williams, director of Christian Concern, which campaigned against gay marriage legislation and has promoted controversial gay aversion therapy, said: “The Bible is clear about what marriage is and the church has not gone soft on that issue. But, if it were to, that might be the red line in the sand.”
Linda Woodhead, professor of sociology of religion at Lancaster University, said: “Gafcon are paper tigers, who love to roar and get a reaction but there is no substance to them. The congregation of the Church of England – in its personal morality – is increasingly liberal. And there is nothing Gafcon can do about that.
“They already have their churches at home to impose their views on homosexuality, but they don’t have the money to set up here and pay clergy.”
The Independent‘s take on the current visitation of the GAFCON Primates to London – and the effect on the Church of England – is a common perception of exactly what the conservative Anglican Communion Provinces (mainly African, apart from their puppet ACNA ‘Province’ in the USA & Canada – and now their AMiE plant in England) are up to in this latest incursion into the home territory of the Church of England.
Having already set up their ‘Border-Crossing’ mission churches in North America and now England; the GAFCON Primates – under the leadership of the Anglican Archbishop of Kenya – Eliud Wabukala – are all set to ‘reform’ and ‘restore to authentic Anglicanism’ the Church of England and other Western Provinces of the world-wide Anglican Communion.
As has been noted, in both ‘The Independent’ and ‘Christian Today’, this movement on the part of a Sola-Scriptura, conservative organisation, to replace the legally-instituted Church of England is doomed to failure. At best, it could secure a minority following of disaffected Anglicans in the U.K., who are unhappy with the more liberal direction that has been taken in the Ordination of Women Bishops, and the prospect of Same-Sex Blessings that seems likely to follow upon the legalisation of Equal Marriage opportunities in the U.K.
What is somewhat surprising, is that neither the Archbishop of Canterbury, nor the Archbishop of York have yet made any statement of protest against the invasion of the GAFCON Primates, who are in London to affirm their support for their so-called ‘Anglican Mission in England’ (AMiE) – in contradiction of the embargo on Border-Crossing which had been agreed to by the Provinces of the ACC.
However, as GAFCON has already ignored invitations by the ‘Primus-inter-pares’ of the Anglican Communion (the Archbishop of Canterbury) to attend the last Lambeth Conference and the subsequent Primates’ Conference; no doubt these haughty prelates will not be taking much notice of any advice that might be offered to them by the ABC.
No doubt, also, there will be further news of the consequences of these goings-on in England. But whether they will much affect the everyday business of the propagation of the Gospel in other Provinces of the Communion is a moot point. If there is outright schism, prompted by this provocative action on the part of GAFCON, then each Province of the Anglican Communion may be set free to continue their own way of bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ – Incarnate, Crucified, Resurrected and Glorified to the context of their own missionary situation.
Christ is Risen, Alleluia! He is risen Indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand