After the Lambeth Conference in 2022 I wrote an article titled, “GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship wants to capture the flag. Let’s not play the game.”
It is a long and Anglican nerd sort of title, but the point was clear. GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship wanted then to take leadership of the Anglican Communion out of the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Anglican Primates (four very different elements of what was thought of as “unity” within the Anglican Communion) and instead have a different sort of leadership determined by the litmus test provided by GAFCON and Global South Primates.
The idea was straightforwardly to “capture” the Anglican Communion flag. I believed we need not play that game.
This past week the Church of England in its synod passed on a proposal to allow the blessing of same sex civil marriages. This has ignited a firestorm out in GAFCON and Global South Fellowship land. They wrote a scathing denunciation of the CofE’s actions and distanced themselves from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Now they make the claim - the capture the flag claim - to be the rightful owners of the Anglican Communion.
It is time to put the matter straight.
The leadership of the Global Anglican Futures Conference and the Global South Fellowship can indeed withdraw from connection or communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. They can indeed form a different sort of world wide church body. They can indeed call themselves Anglican.
But they have no business, no right, and certainly no legal standing to take over the “The Anglican Communion” name, holdings, or structures.
There will continue to be national and regional churches throughout the world who are in communion with the Church of England, and more particularly, in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and these churches will constitute the Anglican Communion. Churches can decide to be in communion with one another in a wide variety of configurations, and GAFCON and Global South Fellowship churches already have such arrangements. But the “Anglican” in “Anglican Communion” refers to communion with the CofE, and more particularly the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Primates meetings are called by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference is called by the ABC. The most interesting group, the Anglican Consultative Council, exists under British law, and its constitution clearly states, “ (7.1) The Archbishop of Canterbury shall always be the President of the Council ex officio, and shall not be subject to retirement under the provisions of Articles 8 and 15 of these Articles. When present he shall inaugurate each meeting of the Council. He shall be ex officio a member of all its committees.”
So the upshot is that all the instruments of unity derive from the Archbishop inviting, calling and charing. To be in the Anglican Communion is to be in communion with the See of Canterbury.
Not to be in communion with Canterbury is perfectly alright. But it is not the Anglican Communion.
There has been some report that the Archbishop of Canterbury might step back from some or all of his role as chair , thereby allowing leadership of the Communion to pass on to the supposed majority who do not favor any sort of blessing of same sex marriages, and prior to that, no ordination of women. We can only hope that the Archbishop is not about to do that. This is no time for him to surrender the flag. I’m not even sure he can do that.
Better the GAFCON and Global South Fellowship organize as they will and withdraw from the Anglican Communion. Better the Archbishop fo Canterbury continue to invite, organize and chair gatherings of church in communion with the CofE as a worldwide fellowship of churches.
We don’t have to play capture the flag for one more minute.