Following the Church of England decision to endorse prayers of blessing for same sex couples, a number of Anglican leaders from around the world, grouped under the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) ), have distanced themselves from the head of the Church of England, Justin Welby, as their head.
In a joint Statement released by GSFA of 10 Anglican communion’s of the 42 provinces said that they no longer regard Welby as the “head of the global communion.”
The Church of England was “disqualified” as their traditional “Mother Church,” the statement reads.
This is the first time that such a sizable number of churches have disapproved of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s leadership.
The current Archbishop of Canterbury has served as the Anglican Communion’s spiritual head since the organization’s founding in 1867. The Anglican Communion is a worldwide association of 42 Anglican churches.
Although he lacks formal authority, he is regarded as the “first among equals” and has moral standing.
According to the GSFA, which officially represents 25 member provinces, primarily in Asia, South America, and Africa, it advocates for 75% of Anglicans worldwide.
An initiative to permit same-sex unions in civil partnerships was supported by the General Synod, the Church of England’s governing body, earlier this month.
The House of Laity received 103 yes votes, 92 no votes, and 5 abstentions, while the House of Clergy received 111 yes votes, 85 no votes, and 3 abstentions.
The decision of Synod comes after years of deliberations through the Living in Love and Faith process, which aimed to comprehend the intensity of feeling over same-sex marriage within the Church of England, from the parish level upwards.
The 10 archbishops, together with two from conservative provinces that have split off in the US and Brazil, are against blessing or marrying gay couples. The GSFA, which claims to represent 75% of Anglicans worldwide, primarily in Asia and Africa, includes them among its members.
The signatories include the archbishops of Chile, the Indian Ocean, Congo, Burma, Bangladesh, Uganda, Sudan, Alexandria, and Melanesia in addition to the chair of the GSFA, Archbishop Justin Badi of South Sudan.
They stated that they “no longer recognise the current Archbishop of Canterbury as the first among equals leader of the universal communion” in a statement on February 20.
“The Church of England has chosen to break communion with those provinces who remain faithful to the historic biblical faith,” the statement also reads.
“He has sadly led his House of Bishops to make the recommendations that undergirded the General Synod Motion on ‘Living in Love & Faith,’ knowing that they run contrary to the faith & order of the orthodox provinces in the Communion whose people constitute the majority in the global flock,”
“We pray that our withdrawal of support for him to lead the whole Communion is received by him as an admonishment in love,” the conservative primates said.
For the first time, the Church of England, under the leadership of Welby, allowed prayers of blessing for gay couples. Yet, it has not modified its stance on homosexual marriage, and same-sex unions will continue to be prohibited in churches.
This month, Rwanda joined a number of other Anglicans around the world in criticising the decision, which has split the Anglican church. According to the Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in Rwanda, Dr. Laurent Mbanda, is the last straw in the already fractured church’s legacy.
“The Anglican Church of Rwanda is deeply saddened by the decision of the Church of England to bless same-sex unions. Our stand had already brought an impaired relationship with the Church of England, whose current move drives the last nail into the coffin,”
“Let me take this opportunity to welcome over 1,100 participants to GAFCON IV. As the Chair of GAFCON says, “in Kigali, Rwanda this April and in collaboration with the GSFA, we will have more to say,” Archbishop Mbanda said.