Archbishop Justin Welby knows better than anyone what the decision by last week’s General Synod of the Church of England means. It’s why he was so concerned about his balancing act between the biblically faithful Global South Churches and his increasingly compromised own denomination.
In case he was in any doubt, Dr Laurent Mbanda, the Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, made it clear in his press release after the decision was made to bless same-sex marriages.
“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.”
The importance of this statement is because in April this year the fourth Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) will be held in Kigali Rwanda. GAFCON was founded in 2008 when after the Jerusalem conference, the majority of Anglican Primates decided that the “moral compromise, doctrinal error and collapse of biblical witness” within some parts of the Anglican communion had reached such a level that a separate organisation was needed to maintain a faithful, biblical Anglican witness.
GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), represent by far the majority of the world’s Anglicans, over 75 per cent of the 85 million adherents. Sydney Anglicans, by far the largest Anglican grouping in Australia, also issued a press release condemning the decision.
(In an ironic turn, one of the gay activists, who was most active in the Synod pushing for gay marriage, Jayne Ozanne is coming out to Sydney to speak as part of the WorldPride festivities in a Sydney Anglican church. This has been disowned by Archbishop of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel.)
But perhaps all these Anglicans are on the ‘wrong side of history’? Perhaps the Scottish, US and New Zealand Anglican Churches are the future?
Given that these are in seemingly terminal decline, this would seem unlikely – unless the ‘right side of history’ is extinction! If the Church of England wants to know its future, as it now inevitably follows the trajectory towards same-sex marriage (and more), then they need only look over the border to the Church of Scotland.
In fact Rev Scott Rennie, whose gay partnership started the whole issue in the Church of Scotland some 15 years ago, was in Crown Court Church of Scotland in London this week and ‘helpfully’ tweeted: ‘meeting a gay couple today to arrange their wedding in church….proud to belong to an inclusive denomination – love is love. Equal marriage.” This ‘inclusive’ denomination is in such a state of free fall that it will be practically extinct within a decade. Unless the Church of Scotland returns to the Gospel, it will die
Given that the bishops especially spoke of the importance of the unity of the Church, why did they go ahead and do something which has split it? Why is this issue so important to them?
Last week, several members of Synod warned of the “long term fracture between the Church and the society we seek to serve”. That society is the woke progressive cultural elites of middle class England. It is certainly not the wider Anglican Church throughout the world, nor is it the working class in England. This is church for the elites. There is a certainty and snobbery about those who are making the decisions – they are absolutely certain that they, and they alone, are right.
In the context of the wider world I think there is ultimately a sense of, if not racist, certainly imperialistic supremacy. Western progressives, especially religious ones, think that they are so on ‘the right side of history’, that eventually the more simple, backward nations will catch up with them.
Despite all their talk of ‘respecting’ others’ points of view, they tend to regard them with disdain. I have been in more than one church meeting where African brothers and sisters were treated with disdain as somewhat primitive and ignorant. The truth is that it is the Western progressives who have shown ignorance of Scripture and a disdain for the Church throughout the world, as they seek to bring the Church of Jesus into line with their own culture.
Archbishop Samy, the Primate of the Anglican Province of Alexandria, and other delegates to the Synod, warned that a decision to bless same-sex partnerships would result in hurt, pain and further division. But the progressive fundamentalists don’t really care about the bishops and archbishops of Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Chile, Brazil, Myanmar, South Sudan and the Seychelles. They are not the ‘right sort’ of ‘people of colour’. And so they can be dismissed and ignored.
It seems as though Archbishop Welby is aware of this. On Sunday, addressing Church leaders in Ghana, Archbishop Justin Welby, agreed with the Africans, Asians and Australians, and suggested that the Church of England was just following the fashionable cultural trends of the Western elites. This statement is astonishing:
“Modern European Global North morality is a morality for the wealthy, the powerful and the well-educated. It is a morality that does not believe in human sinfulness and failure. This is where the Church struggles.”
This is the truth that the members of Synod needed to hear from the Archbishop. They also need to listen to the prophetic words of H. Richard Niebuhr: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”
The churches of the Global South will continue to proclaim Christ crucified. The Church of England is at a crossroads. It’s not too late to repent and return to the cross of Christ. We can only pray that the Church of England will listen to its African, Asia and Australian brothers and sisters.