Thursday, February 21, 2019


News broke yesterday that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has called a meeting of the heads of the forty provinces of the Anglican Communion. It is to be 13-17 January 2020, in Amman, Jordan. Find the Anglican Communion News Service report here .

The purpose of the meeting obviously is to hold together as much unity as possible in the run-up to the Lambeth Conference of 2020 on which the archbishop seems to be staking his entire legacy. This is a risky gamble in view of the fact that GAFCON has already signaled a massive boycott of the conference. Last year GAFCON made an impossible demand on the archbishop:  that he not invite the bishops of the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Scottish Episcopal Church, and that he invite the bishops of the Anglican Church in North America. ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion. The head of GAFCON said if Welby did not go along with this demand, the bishops of GAFCON should seriously consider not attending (aka boycott) the Lambeth Conference. Three equatorial African primates then announced they would boycott, Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda. Two convocations of bishops, Nigeria and Uganda announced they would not go to Lambeth. In terms of membership, these are two of the largest provinces of the Anglican Communion. The archbishop seems desperate to have a good turnout for a meeting that he has worked to hard to bring about.

The archbishop did not accept the GAFCON demand. He invited all of the current bishops of the forty provinces (even the ones he knew were openly homosexual). He did not invite non-Anglican Communion bishops, as those of ACNA. As we know, at first he invited all of the spouses to attend and then reneged and dis-invited the spouses of the bishops in same-sex marriages. How this came about, we do not know yet. This, of course, has been all over the news in the past few days only adding more problems for the archbishop in his quest for a "successful" conference.

The stated purpose of next January's meeting, at least according to the ACNS, is for the primates to "decide the agenda [of the Conference] together" and to discuss the work of the Archbishop's Task Group. This was established in the January 2016 primates' meeting in which the Episcopal Church was given a slap on the wrist (three year semi-suspension) for adopting same-sex marriage. The Episcopal Church more or less ignored the slap much to the chagrin of the equatorial Africans who remain adamantly opposed to equality for and inclusion of homosexuals in any part of the Anglican Communion. They are particularly steamed at TEC, hence the GAFCON demands on the archbishop of last year and this year.

Interesting to note the timing of the archbishop's call. The public announcement was made yesterday, 20 February, just seven days before the GAFCON leaders are set to convene in Dubai. 

What is going on here? Here is what I think. This whole business is a tug-of-war between the hard right of GAFCON (the equatorial African provinces) and the archbishop. They are fighting over the rest of the GAFCON/Global South orbit, most of which is not so strongly devoted to a fundamentalist, anti-gay-rights agenda. If three GAFCON primates have announced they are boycotting Lambeth, that leaves many others who must decide whether they will go along with the hard right or with the archbishop. They are the ones under pressure now. To boycott, or to attend? This is certain to be the overriding issue in the Dubai meeting. Only time will tell us who wins this tug-of-war. Will it be Okoh and allies, or Welby?

In the bigger picture, there is much more at stake here than who will attend the next Lambeth Conference. What is at issue is the future of the Anglican Communion. Welby wants to preserve the traditional Anglican Communion. It is forty independent churches under the nominal head (in communion with) of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The leaders of GAFCON want to divide the old Communion into two adversarial parts along the lines of the issue of homosexuality. They have been working on this for two decades. If the old AC splits, the majority will be in the anti-homosexual-rights wing led by GAFCON. The Archbishop of Canterbury would be irrelevant. Only the minority, the pro-homosexual-rights wing would continue the old AC and recognition of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is not over-statement to say that the life and death of the Anglican Communion is the real issue at hand.


Follow up on last several blog entries:

A group called OneBodyOneFaith in England is stepping in to right the wrong that the Archbishop did by dis-inviting the same-sex spouses. They are inviting these spouses and are working to provide accommodations and support for them in hopes all of them will be present at the Lambeth Conference. See the article on this here . Thank you, OneBobyOneFaith for this much needed show of moral courage.