The Archbishop of Canterbury is no longer recognised as the leader of the Anglican communion by some overseas clergy in the wake of the Church of England’s vote on same-sex blessings.
Many predicted the break-up of the church in the wake of the controversial vote.
On Monday morning, the conservative Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), which represents churches on every continent and claims to speak for the majority of Anglicans worldwide, confirmed “with great sorrow” that a number of its churches have rejected him as their spiritual leader.
It marks the first time that an Archbishop of Canterbury’s leadership has been formally denied by a large collective of churches.
A group of 12 Anglican archbishops – ten of whom lead provinces within the worldwide Anglican Communion – issued a statement saying that they are “no longer able to recognise the present Archbishop of Canterbury” as the “leader of the global Communion”.
They said: “We pray that our withdrawal of support for him to lead the whole Communion is received by him as an admonishment in love”, adding that they no longer see the Church of England as the “mother church”.
In response to the archbishops rejecting him as their leader, the Archbishop Justin’s spokesman issued “a prayer and call to Anglicans around the Communion” to “remember that more unites us than divides us”.
He also said that no changes can be made to the formal structure of the Anglican Communion without the agreement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, all primates and the Lambeth Conference.
Angered both sides
The GSFA statement comes following the historic vote at General Synod, the Church of England’s legislative body, earlier this month, to allow blessings for gay or lesbian couples who have already been married or had a civil partnership.
The result angered both progressives who claim that it does not go far enough to offer full equality because the church still prohibits same-sex marriages, and conservatives who claim that Holy Matrimony should only be between a man and a woman.
However, the GSFA archbishops said that Synod passing the measure had led to “the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury forfeiting their leadership role of the global Communion” and that the English church had “disqualified herself from leading the Communion as the historic ‘mother’ church”.
They added that most Anglicans across the world do not support same-sex relationships and that while they would not quit the Anglican Communion, they can now no longer be “in communion” with the Church of England because it has “departed from the historic faith and taken the path of false teaching”.
The Anglican Communion was formed in 1867 as a worldwide fellowship of 42 Anglican churches, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as its leader.
The GSFA statement’s signatories include the Most Rev Justin Badi, the Archbishop of South Sudan, who met with Archbishop Justin earlier this month on his visit to the country with the Pope. It was also endorsed by the archbishops of Uganda, Alexandra, Congo, Myanmar, Chile, the Indian Ocean and Bangladesh.
‘Time to end the post-colonial pretence’
It is understood that more Primates from around the world will endorse the statement and that clergy from Gafcon (The Global Anglican Future Conference) will be meeting with GSFA primates “in the near future to determine next steps to take together”.
In response, Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP who has been calling on the Church of England to back same-sex marriage, said: “It looks like the Archbishop of Canterbury has got the schism he badly wanted to avoid by recommending minimalist moves towards treating LGBT Anglicans equally.
“Time to end the post-colonial pretence, let the homophobic provinces go, and focus on the Church of England’s job here.”
Jayne Ozanne, a Synod member and LGBT advocate, added: “At last some honesty – the Communion has been split for years! These power games do nothing to serve the marginalised and oppressed.”
A Lambeth Palace spokesman said there had been “widespread support” at last week’s meeting in Ghana for “working together patiently and constructively… so that our differences and disagreements can be held together in unity and fellowship.”
The spokesman added that the GSFA statement had been noted “and we fully appreciate their position” but said that “no changes to the formal structures of the Anglican Communion can be made unless they are agreed upon” by all the body’s leaders and councils.
He added, however, that: “The Archbishop of Canterbury commented last week at the Anglican Consultative Council in Ghana that these structures are always able to change with the times.”