REVOLT: 85% of Anglican Leaders Reject Head Bishop of the 3rd-Largest Christian Denomination
How should Christians respond when LGBT activists demand they compromise the truth of Scripture by endorsing same-sex marriage and transgender identity?
A global gathering of Anglicans just provided an excellent example.
In February, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the head of the Church of England and the “first among equals” in the global Anglican Communion, the third-largest Christian denomination, defended blessings for same-sex couples while insisting that the move did not violate the church’s doctrine that marriage is between one man and one woman for life.
“For the first time, the Church of England will publicly, unreservedly and joyfully welcome same-sex couples in church,” Welby said in a joint statement with Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell at the time.
Leaders at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) wouldn’t stand for this. On Friday, they signed the Kigali Commitment, condemning Welby’s move as “blasphemy” and declaring that he and the Church of England had abdicated their leadership of the Anglican Communion.
“It grieves the Holy Spirit and us that the leadership of the Church of England is determined to bless sin,” GAFCON leaders wrote in the Kigali Commitment. “Since the Lord does not bless same-sex unions, it is pastorally deceptive and blasphemous to craft prayers that invoke blessing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
GAFCON, which met last week in Kigali, Rwanda, declared Welby’s leadership “entirely indefensible.” The Kigali Commitment declares that the Church of England has “failed to maintain true communion based on the Word of God and shared faith in Christ,” therefore noting that GAFCON’s “communion with them remains broken.” That represents a kind of revolution and excommunication from below, in which the top leaders of Anglican churches—referred to as primates—brush away the historic head of the denomination.
“We consider that those who refuse to repent have abdicated their right to leadership within the Anglican Communion, and we commit ourselves to working with orthodox primates and other leaders to reset the Communion on its biblical foundations,” the commitment reads. The statement notes that GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (which has also effectively excommunicated the Church of England) represent 85% of the primates in the Global Anglican Communion, the third-largest Christian denomination after the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
It remains unclear what will happen next for GAFCON and its ally, the Global South Fellowship. “The GAFCON primates are still finalizing the practicalities of the statement,” a spokeswoman for the conference told The Daily Signal on Tuesday.
Welby responded to the commitment in a statement Friday, noting that the structures of the Anglican Communion “are always able to change with the times,” but arguing that “no changes to the formal structures of the Anglican Communion can be made unless they are agreed upon by the Instruments of Communion.”
Yet the Kigali Commitment declares that GAFCON has “no confidence” that the archbishop of Canterbury, nor the other Instruments of Communion he leads (the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates’ Meetings), “are able to provide a godly way forward that will be acceptable to those who are committed to the truthfulness, clarity, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture.”
Welby’s statement did not address the Kigali Commitment’s central concern about blessings for same-sex couples, but merely urges GAFCON “to walk together as Anglicans” with the Church of England.
GAFCON leaders are no so easily cowed. Their statement cites Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6, and 1 Corinthians 6:9 in reaffirming the biblical teaching that “the only appropriate context for sexual activity is the exclusive lifelong union of a man and a woman in marriage.”
“Public statements by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other leaders of the Church of England in support of same-sex blessings are a betrayal of their ordination and consecration vows to banish error and to uphold and defend the truth taught in Scripture,” the statement explains.
GAFCON also argues that Welby and others repudiated Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, which declared that “homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture” and advised against the “legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions.”
Welby and the Church of England have tried to weasel out of their repudiation of Resolution I.10 with promises not to change the definition of marriage, but GAFCON isn’t having it.
The Kigali Commitment also cites other Church of England departures from Christian orthodoxy, such as “the uniqueness and divinity of Christ, his bodily Resurrection, his promised return, the summons to faith and repentance, and the final judgment.”
Many Christian leaders have shied away from these central Christian doctrines to declare a more nebulous gospel of love and acceptance unmoored from the clear teaching of the Bible that if Jesus was not bodily raised from the dead, “our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Christianity can only offer hope of ultimate joy, reconciliation with God, and salvation from sin in the context of doctrines such as the need for repentance, the historical truth of the Gospels, and the promised resurrection of the church.
The rush to embrace modern sexual morality often coincides with a wishy-washy Christianity that does not take the Gospel’s central truth claims seriously. This “Christianity-lite” cannot offer salvation because it does not first condemn sin. It cannot offer assurance of salvation because it downplays the importance of faith. It cannot offer the ultimate hope of resurrection because it rejects the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
A Christianity that does not preach the Resurrection is not Christianity, and a Christianity that rejects the clear witness of Scripture about sexual morality is also not Christianity.
Christians must love and sympathize with those who struggle with same-sex attraction and gender confusion, and a keen awareness of our own sin must restrain us from thinking ourselves superior to them. However, sympathy and Christlike charity do not excuse those who bless sin in the name of God.
The Kigali Commitment upholds biblical sexual morality while affirming that “every person is loved by God” and opposing “the vilification or demeaning of any person, including those who do not follow God’s ways.” As the commitment states, it is “unloving” to “mislead people by pretending that God blesses sexually active relationships between two people of the same sex.”
Thank God for church leaders who are not afraid to speak these truths. I am honored to count my own church’s head pastor, Sam Ferguson, among those who attended the conference. May GAFCON’s leadership here shame the Church of England into repentance.