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What makes a Province of the Anglican Communion?

What makes a Province of the Anglican Communion?

As GAFCON celebrated the launch of a new church in Brazil last week, the Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion cautioned that it was “inaccurate” to characterize the new organization as a province of the Anglican Communion, while the Primate of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil lamented “another wound in the body of Christ.”

The Church Times reports:

The Anglican Church in Brazil was launched on Saturday at the Paróquia Anglicana do Espírito Santo (Anglican Church of the Holy Spirit), in Recife. The Most Revd Miguel Uchoa Cavalcanti was installed as its Primate.

A press release from GAFCON described it as “a new biblically orthodox Province which has been recognized by the GAFCON Primates Council not only as part of GAFCON, but also as a Province of the Anglican Communion”.

Dr Idowu-Fearon said on Monday: “It is inaccurate to refer to the Anglican Church in Brazil as being part of the Episcopal Anglican Communion. To be part of the Anglican Communion requires being in communion with the see of Canterbury, which this Church is not.”

The Primate of Brazil, the Most Revd Francisco de Assis da Silva, whose Church is in communion with Canterbury, expressed “sadness for that inconsequent attitude that is committed against our Province, acting against the recommendation expressed by the Primates, in their last meeting, that no one will be allowed to practise cross-border.

“This group has been, for over a decade and a half, the source of divisions, misappropriation of Church property, and selfishness for considering themselves authentic guardians of the scripture and orthodoxy. This is another wound in the body of Christ.”

GAFCON has railed against Provinces including the Episcopal Church in the US during the past several years over progressive stances, especially with regard to gender, sexuality, and marriage equality. But Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s appearance alongside Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at events before and after last Saturday’s royal wedding underscores the strength of continuing Communion relationships.

UPDATE – dueling secretaries general: Peter Jensen, General Secretary of GAFCON responds,

Communion with the see of Canterbury used to be a welcome, useful and easily understood way of describing the Anglican Communion. But with leadership comes responsibility. So far, the recent Archbishops of Canterbury have not used the power of their office either to discipline those who have created disorder and threatened the basis of our faith, or to reach out the right hand of fellowship to those who have stood firm. 

It was this failure that our 2008 Jerusalem Statement and Declaration faced when it was affirmed that ‘While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury.’ The only justification for the continued pre-eminence of the see of Canterbury would be if it serves the apostolic gospel. At present it is not doing so effectively. Again, the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration brings the problem into focus when it claimed ‘We can only come to the devastating conclusion that we are a global Communion with a colonial structure’. 

Of course the new Anglican Church in Brazil is an authentic part of the Anglican Communion.  It is not a matter of recognition by Canterbury. But, like the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the Brazilians invite Canterbury to recognise spiritual reality, and to use its influence to help align the old instrument of the Anglican Communion with the spiritual reality and new growth of the Communion.


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Kurt Hill

The ACNA, the American branch of GAFCON, seems about ready for another schism itself over women’s ordination…This time it risks losing much of its High Church Catholic wing. I think it’s the second schism ACNA has suffered since its formation a decade ago…

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