Support the Café

Search our Site

Divisions within GAFCON?

Divisions within GAFCON?

A group of GAFCON Primates and bishops met recently in Nairobi to formulate a response to a meeting held at General Seminary in October between a group of African Primates, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and a group of Episcopal Church bishops that was described as a continuation of the Indaba process first begun at the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

From the statement released following the October meeting:

Our conversations grew out of the Fifth Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue, May 22-25, 2014, at Coventry, England (info here) (( (link is external)).  We shared news from our churches, rejoiced in our renewed fellowship, and marveled at the gifts and diversity of creation God has provided.  We prayed together, and we worshiped.

Our intention was to build missional partnerships among our churches, taking Jesus’ statement of his mission as our own—“to bring good news to the poor, . . . to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Lk. 4:18-19)  We confessed that one thing we have in common is that we all have needs, not the least of which is our profound need for each other.

We also celebrated that each of our churches has gifts to offer the others.  Framing our conversation in the context of human dignity and flourishing, the sustainability of our common ministry, and the care of the Earth, we found several subjects for fruitful collaboration that will allow us to share our gifts with each other.

Apparently, that meeting was not looked upon favorably by other Global South bishops who are part of GAFCON and so the meeting in Nairobi was convened and a letter sent to Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi (who had been part of the meeting in October) calling him to task for meeting with the “unbiblical” Episcopal Church.  But since no response had been received from him, they have decided to release their letter to the public to “avoid misunderstanding” and to ensure that everyone knows that those at the meeting at General did not “speak for the Anglican Provinces of Africa.”

This incident is a reminder that Africa is a very large and diverse continent and a perhaps a sign that the bonds of friendship and mission might prove a unifying force within the Anglican Communion after all.

The letter to Archbishop Ntahoturi is reprinted below and you can find the link to it here

Dear Archbishop Bernard,

Please receive our greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus,

We write with a profound sense of distress about your actions in regard to the “Transformation Through Friendship” gathering. We take strong exception with numerous points.

First, the document itself is a manipulation. It is in fact, not principally about “Friendship” but is in fact an attempt to further advance the unbiblical and false teaching of the Episcopal Church.

Second, we reject the characterization that the communiqué represents “African Primates and Bishops.” Given that there is absolutely no acknowledgment that there are other African Primates and Bishops who do not agree, the document, of which you were a collaborator and signatory, presents itself falsely. It does not represent the faith of the overwhelming majority of African Christians. This is particularly offensive given your position as Chairman of CAPA. If you are able to continue in your position with integrity, we would need both an explanation and an apology. If you are not able to do so, we would ask you to step down as Chairman.

We are particularly grieved because “it is not an enemy that reproaches… but it was you.” (Psalm 55:12-13) Given the fact that you are the Chairman of CAPA, and are supposed to represent the agreed positions of African Primates, your actions have created a tremendous obstacle to our participation in any CAPA gatherings until this can be properly sorted out.

Third, the theologically superficial approach of the “Friendship Communiqué” attempts to effect reconciliation without repentance. Not only did your presence validate unbiblical teaching and practice of the Episcopal Church (USA), but seeks to give momentum to a process which does not solve issues of salvific import. This is an example of teaching that is socially grounded rather than Biblically substantiated. By your presence, you validate unrepentant, unbiblical teaching and practice.

Fourth, we reject the process of “Indaba” as it is being implemented. Rather than seeking true resolution, it has been consistently manipulated only to recruit people to unbiblical positions. “Indaba” as currently practiced, is a fiction advancing human desires that are not informed by Gospel truth.

Fifth, the meeting uncritically proposes “Mission,” without recognizing that there must be theological agreement about what purpose the mission pursues, as opposed to Biblical Mission which furthers the redemptive love of Christ through repentance and conversion.

Sixth, while we are certainly aware of the problem of poverty in Africa, we reject alliances that seek to capitalize on economic vulnerability to advance an agenda.

Dear Brother, we know that this agenda does not represent the faith of your Province, Diocese, or even your own heart.  We call you to repentance and restoration to join with us in fellowship that is founded on Christ’s truth and is faithful to His Word.  In keeping with our East Africa Revival heritage of repentance and confession, we long to have this resolved.  Please know this letter comes not from malice but from a desire for godly fellowship to be restored.


posted by Jon White





Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jerald Liko

It presents an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, the conservative southern bishops are preaching a Gospel of exclusion and patriarchy, rather than inclusion and equality. On the other hand, what could be more patriarchal than a modern colonialist attitude, under which these backwards Africans and South Americans are in desperate need of enlightenment to our European and American values? We have to find a way to testify to the good news about equality without repeating our old sin of imposing our culture on others. Resolving our differences will be a complex process requiring humility, repentance, openness, and self-awareness on the part of both parties.

I am inspired and proud of the efforts of the Presiding Bishop, Archbishop Ntahoturi, and all the rest who remain determined for us to find a way to remain in communion despite our profound cultural differences.

Mary Ailes

“…these backwards Africans and South Americans are in desperate need of enlightenment to our European and American values…” Do we even hear how snobbish and elitist this sounds? How can we exercise the list of virtues in your post when the premise is the epitome of arrogance and self righteousness? All of us might be wrong – all of us. In fact we are, that’s why I am convinced we must begin with repentance. All of us.

Jerald Liko

Thanks David, that is what I meant. GAFCON routinely defends its views on gender and sexuality as a theological expression of African culture. Here, for example, you can read one of their arguments:

As a Christian, I have no problem arguing that their theology is wrong, but as a white American, I am very reluctant to assert that their culture is wrong. Many of us in TEC are so (rightly) passionate about gender and sexual equality that we lose track of the need to approach to cultural differences with humbleness and respect. I apologize for any offense given.

Mary Ailes

If that is indeed Jerald’s point, in that he is restating the troubling attitudes of two extremes then I too agree with him now as well. Thank you, Philip. 🙂

David Streever

I think that was Jerald’s point; he was critiquing that attitude by putting it into words. I don’t think he actually holds that view, but I may have misread him.

Philip B. Spivey

Well said, Jerald. And lest we not forget that the “potted plants” we left in colonial Africa have not withered, but have found new strength in the Global South. We cannot conveniently dissociate ourselves from the fact that we planted these seeds in the soil of the African continent generations ago.

Except now, African leaders have largely become the face of patriarchy; they are doing the dirty work now. How ironic.

What we see is the neo-colonialism Franz Fanon spoke of.

June Butler

Not at all surprising that narrow-minded GAFCONites chided Archbishop Ntahoturi for his participation in the meeting.

Cynthia Katsarelis

Disappointing, but not surprising. Several of the bishops support “jail the gays bills,” and some aren’t even receptive to women in ministry. There is something deeply unhealthy about that patriarchal situation and they won’t be happy until we are all as unhealthy as they are. It’s quite sad. I’m grateful to all who are engaged in dialogue.

John Bennett

This is breathtakingly disappointing.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café