How Western and White is GAFCON leadership?

The Letter to the Churches from GAFCON Assembly 2018 says, among other things, that “Lambeth Resolution I.10 reflected the rising influence of the Global South in the Communion. The ground for the Resolution had been prepared by the 1997 Kuala Lumpur Statement of the Global South Anglican Network. Our collaboration with the Global South Network has been ongoing, and its leaders took an active part in this Conference.”

An ongoing theme of GAFCON is that it represents 70 percent of the world’s Anglicans and that it “reflects the rising influence of the Global South,” by which primarily is meant churches in formerly colonial holdings now led by people not white. The older Global North churches and their closest companions (the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, for example) are seen as failed, heretical and ungodly churches, and are mostly held beneath contempt.

So it is interesting to note that the new Chairman of GAFCON is a white westerner from ACNA (The Anglican Church in North America).

According to Virtueonline, " Archbishop Ben Kwashi ... the Archbishop of Jos in northern Nigeria. ...is to become GAFCON's Secretary General Coadjutor next month and will learn his duties from Archbishop Jensen, who is to retire on Dec. 31.

Once he is the Secretary General, Archbishop Kwashi is to be assisted by five episcopal deputies: Bishop Bill Atwood, Archbishop Glenn Davies, Archbishop Laurent Mbdada, Bishop Andy Lines and Bishop Henry Okeke."

The line up of the GAFCON bureau is this:

Archbishop Foley Beach, ACNA, Chair of GAFCON

Archbishop Ben Kwashi, Nigeria, Secretary General

Bishop Bill Atwood, ACNA, deputy for the Americas

Archbishop Glenn Davies, Sydney, deputy for the Antipodes and Asia.

Archbishop Laurent Mbdada, Rwanda, deputy for East and South Africa,

Bishop Henry Okeke, Nigeria, deputy for West Africa

Bishop Andy Lines, ACNA, Europe?

So taken together,  the package of Chair, Secretary General and deputies to the Secretary General for the whole mess of porridge, we have seven persons. Four (three from ACNA and one from Sydney) are white western men, and three are African (Two from Nigeria, one from Rwanda). 

Or looked at another way, three are from the US, one from Australia, one from England, and three from Africa.

Two facebook response to an earlier blog on the GAFCON 2018 Assembly are worth repeating here:

Phil Groves wrote, "Most Kenyans know that GAFCON is dominated by white people. Most provinces know it is an agent of division."

Jim Naughton wrote, "I think Gafcon is in a bad way. You cannot credibly represent yourself as the voice of the global south with a white North American as your leader. Notice too that rather than declaring a boycott of Lambeth 2020, the letter urges bishops not to attend. If they could have managed a boycott, they would have announced it. Foley Beach alienated a lot of primates at the meeting he attended. Their support is ebbing."

GAFCON, at least in its ongoing Chair and Secretariat functions, is indeed more white and western than not. And these agents are indeed divisive. 

GAFCON has been, from the outset, an instrument of value to westerners at war with Episcopal and Anglican churches in their own countries. Whatever its value to African and other Global South Anglican Provinces, it is increasingly the case that what is going on here is in many ways a continuation of a colonial policy in which western struggles are worked out over the bodies (and souls) of those in the Global South.

Whatever the future of care and concern among Anglican Churches in the world consists of, it is not likely to be GAFCON, not likely to be in a new supposedly worldwide Anglican Synod, not likely to be well led by ACNA bishops. 

The reason for paying any attention to this at all is clear: ACNA and GAFCON would have us believe what is increasingly understood to be a lie - that GAFCON represents 70% of the Anglican Communion and that ACNA is, in fact, an Anglican Province.  If GAFCON and ACNA repeat the lie often enough, and no one pays attention, the lie becomes accepted, and the landscape of Anglican affairs changes to include those propositions. 

There is every reason to hope that the next Lambeth Conference will draw many bishops who are from GAFCON related Provinces. But it will not draw the three bishops of ACNA. They are not bishops in the Anglican Communion.

We will need to keep watch, even if what we see is increasingly strange. 


  1. Thanks Mark for offer this interesting perspective. I wrote a short article related to the GAFCON letter. Look here:

  2. The "three bishops of ACNA", Mark? ACNA has 30 dioceses.

  3. Hi great reading your blog


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