Anglicanism: The African Coup de Grace

February 27, 2023

Ten senior leaders of Anglicanism in Africa have just announced their intention to no longer recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury as the leader of worldwide Anglicanism. The impetus for this move is the recent decision of the Church of England authorizing the blessing of homosexual couples.

The compromise solution did not last long. Did Justin Welby think he had calmed the storm on February 9, 2023, when the Church of England – a confession which enjoys a primacy of honor in the Anglican nebula – voted in favor of a blessing for homosexual couples, while confirming its opposition to the celebration of religious marriages for them?

Because while the United Kingdom - like most Western countries - has largely secularized itself, this is not the case for many African countries.

Thus, in a press release, “the conservative Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), which claims to be a federation of 75% of Anglicans worldwide, said in a statement on Monday [February 20] that the Church of England (C of E) had ‘departed from the historic faith’ and disqualified itself as the ‘mother church’ of the Anglican communion.”

Ten prelates – from countries such as Uganda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – solemnly announced that the “GFSA is no longer able to recognize the present Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt. Hon & Most Revd Justin Welby, as the first among equals [primus inter pares] leader of the global communion.”

Justin Welby however spared no effort to try to maintain the African Anglicans in the obedience of the Church of England. After the sad conclusion of the synod, the Archbishop of Canterbury flew to Accra, the capital of Ghana, to meet the African church leaders and reiterate to them his personal opposition to “marriage for all.”

“I was summoned twice to parliament, and threatened with parliamentary action to force same-sex marriage on us,” explained Justin Welby, in order to defend the compromise solution which is aimed to “welcome publicly, without reserve and with joy, same-sex couples in the Church,” without accepting the religious celebration of such marriages.

Not enough to convince the African prelates: Henry Ndukuba, archbishop of the Church of Nigeria, which represents about a third of Anglicans worldwide, deplored what he sees as a “deviant” position, which sanctions the “terrible decline, loss and irrelevance” of the Church of England “in the secular and post-Christian western world.”

An opinion shared by Jackson Ole Sapit, archbishop of the Church of Kenya, who for his part criticized the “powerful secular voices that have captured the Church of England,” declaring that he was “saddened by the departure of our mother church from the true gospel.”

The deathblow was delivered by Stephen Kaziimba, archbishop of the Church of Uganda, who warns: “The Church of England has departed from the Anglican faith and are false teachers.”

The response from Lambeth Palace - residence of the archbishop of Canterbury – was a nuanced one seeking to calm the situation: “Deep disagreements that exist across the Anglican communion on sexuality and marriage are not new,” said the spokesperson of the Church of England who warns 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.”

The future will tell if the position of the African prelates is a simple cry of temporary indignation, or the prelude to an implosion of Anglicanism.