With refreshing clarity and humble authority, the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches set down a very different vision for the Anglican Communion than that which has been put forward from the platform at the Lambeth Conference.
In an unprecedented move, they issued an independent eleven-page Communique, agreed at a meeting of GSFA bishops on Thursday night.
In it they made clear that they were not leaving the Anglican Communion but neither were they “walking together” with those who have “embraced teaching which does not accord with the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20) and which is contrary to our calling to live as ‘exiles on earth’ in all holiness an obedience”.
When asked about this, Archbishop Justin Badi, the Chair of the GSFA and Primate of South Sudan, said, “A communion is where you have one belief, one doctrine and here there is an issue where there are two different doctrines.
“How can you walk together? That is the challenge for us. Yes, we do recognise, all of us are repentant sinners and why we are continually saying this is because we love our brothers and sisters and we need to tell them, ‘Please, come on the right way.’
“We need to sound that clarion call to them and if they don’t hear, they go their own way and we go our way. But we meet the same way we meet with Muslims, with others, we are friends, but in matters of faith we are not.”
Archbishop Tito Zavala, the Deputy Chairman of GSFA and Primate of the Province of Chile, called for a re-set of the Anglican Communion.
As one of the few bishops to have attended three Lambeth Conferences, he described how even in 1998, the Episcopal Church (USA) bishops were determined to go their own way.
He pointed to the failure of the Instruments of Communion to heal the torn Communion, noting that on Tuesday, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is one of those Instruments, had said, “I neither have, nor do I seek, the authority to discipline or exclude a church of the Anglican Communion. I will not do so.”
The GSFA Communique suggests that the GSFA will be putting forward proposals as to how that ecclesial deficit can be met in the future.
They also stressed that membership of the GSFA was no longer geographical but that it would embrace all those who share their trust in the authority of the Scriptures.
The Communique ends, “The present stress and strain in the Communion could well give way to a grace-filled time of reform, renewal and revival ‘because of the tender mercy of God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high’ (Lk. 1:78- 79).
“We are aware that our response to God matters in the unfolding of His purposes.
“We are resolved, as orthodox Bishops, to be faithful disciples of Christ, who live and minister in faith, hope and love, and who bless the larger Communion and the world by the power of the Holy Spirit and for the glory of God our Father!”
The question is whether the Archbishop of Canterbury will listen to the prophetic voice of the GSFA or continue to embrace a plurality of views to create institutional unity. We will wait and see.