Canterbury versus GAFCON Primate

GAFCON Chairman Clashes with Archbishop Welby over Boundary Crossing

GAFCON Chairman Clashes with Archbishop Welby over Boundary Crossing
Athanasius consecrated orthodox bishops…because he knew that the apostolic faith itself was at stake
The creation of a missionary bishop for Europe is an historic moment, says Archbishop Nicholas Okoh

By David W. Virtue, DD
June 15, 2017

GAFCON chairman and Nigerian Primate, Nicholas Okoh, clashed with Archbishop Justin Welby over the recent passage of a resolution by the Scottish Episcopal Church to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, resulting in the announcement that GAFCON would ordain a bishop to provide episcopal oversight for bishops and clergy who believed that such actions betray the faith once received.

Welby wrote to the GAFCON Archbishops saying he did not consider the appointment of a “Missionary Bishop” in the person of Andy Lines to be necessary and berated the Primates for “cross-border intervention”, arguing that it was not a Church of England appointment and therefore carried no weight in the Church of England.

“Historically, there has been resistance to cross-border interventions and ordinations from the earliest years of the universal Church’s existence. Such weighty authority as canons 15 and 16 of the first Council of Nicaea in AD 325 are uncompromising in this regard and make reference to the ‘great disturbance and discords that occur’ when bishops and their clergy seek to minister in this way,” wrote Welby.

The Nigerian Primate fired back, saying that what happened in Scotland was similar to the clash between the heretic Arius and Athanasius in the fourth century, which nearly overwhelmed the church by the Arians, but was rescued by Athanasius.

“If the Church had continued to follow Arius, the Christian faith would have been lost. I am reminded of Athanasius because we are facing a similar struggle for the integrity of the gospel in our time. On Thursday, 8th June, the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) changed its teaching to allow men to be married to men and women to women. It followed the path already taken by the Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada.

“This attempt to redefine marriage is not a secondary issue about which we can agree to disagree and continue to walk together. It means that Jesus was mistaken when he taught that marriage was between a man and a woman and that sex outside of such a marriage is a sin. It is a radical rejection of the authority of Scripture. The Church claims that it can consecrate behavior that God’s Word clearly teaches to be sinful. According to the Bible, this behavior, without repentance, separates those who practice it from his kingdom.

“Athanasius consecrated orthodox bishops in dioceses led by Arians because he knew that the apostolic faith itself was at stake. This was the principle guiding the interventions which led to the formation of the Anglican Church in North America in 2009 and it was affirmed by over three hundred bishops in assembly at GAFCON 2013 in Nairobi. It was therefore very appropriate that on the same day that the Scottish Episcopal Church formally turned aside from the historic Christian faith, GAFCON announced that Canon Andy Lines, already an internationally recognized missionary statesman, will be consecrated later this month as a GAFCON missionary bishop for Europe.”

Archbishop Okoh said it was not a step taken lightly, and from the beginning GAFCON has been committed to standing with the marginalized. “Requests for help from Scottish orthodox leaders to the Archbishop of Canterbury were turned down. Indeed, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church told his General Synod last year that the Archbishop of Canterbury had assured him that he would welcome the Scottish Church to the 2020 Lambeth Conference even if it chose to change its marriage canon to include same sex unions.”

Archbishop Okoh said GAFCON stands ready to recognize and support orthodox Anglicans in Scotland and elsewhere in Europe as the drift away from apostolic faith and order continues.

“For reasons of mission and conscience, we can expect to find a growing number of orthodox Anglican congregations needing oversight outside traditional structures, as is already the case with the Anglican Mission in England.

“The creation of a missionary bishop for Europe is an historic moment. It is a recognition that the era of European Christendom has passed and that in this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, a new start is being made by building global partnerships for mission.”

Okoh called on orthodox Anglicans to stand with the marginalized and to work tirelessly for the continuing reformation of our “beloved Communion.”


This last paragraph of Mr. David Virtue’s opinion piece on the clash between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the rebellious GAFCON consortium of the Global South Primates, quite clearly  demonstrates the delusion suffered by Virtue and his friends at GAFCON that they, only, represent what they are pleased to call ‘orthodox’ Anglicanism at this point in history.

Completely forgetting the fact that, without Canterbury, there would have been no Anglican Church in the Global South; and the ‘Primate of All Nigeria’, Nicholas Okoh, might never have reached the exalted status of a Church Leader – never mind the leader of a rebellious faction with the worldwide Communion of Anglican Christians that he now presumes to launch into intentional schism- purely on the basis of the outdated GAFCON understanding of human gender and sexuality.

The purists, whose agenda is promoted by ‘virtue-on-line’ and a gaggle of associated offshoots of the Gafcon Primates, who have raised up their own schismatic churches from their Anglican roots around the world, will soon discover that schism begets further schism until all semblance of the ‘mother Church’ they presume to have replaced will disappear from their midst.

What the rebels seem not to clearly understand is that there is no ‘perfect’ Church. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners – not the so-called ‘righteous’, who may just be left to their own ‘devices and desires of their own hearts’.

Perhaps they need to read again (and again) Jesus’ story about the Pharisee and the Publican in the Temple. One, only, went away justified; and it was NOT the Pharisee! It was the sinner who acknowledged his innate sinful nature and was, thereby, redeemed!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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