Spiritual shockwaves must have gone across the world overnight upon the release of the Kigali Commitment from GAFCON IV. For I woke up early to find that the statement had just been issued. I was glad to read it. It is an excellent and heartening statement. I can and will nitpick two omissions anyway. But first and foremost the statement is strong and says what needs to be said in three areas:
First, that we can no longer agree to disagree on matters as weighty as marriage and sexual sin. “Good disagreement” is a sham. “Good disagreement” is dead. If you are apostate on the authority of Scripture and on key teachings of Scripture, we have been patient with you. But we shall now treat you like apostates. We shall pray for your repentance. But we will not be led by you nor have Christian fellowship with you.
Second, speaking of apostates, that includes you, Archbishop of Canterbury. You lead us no longer.
The statement puts the above much more nicely but every bit as clearly:
We have no confidence that the Archbishop of Canterbury nor the other Instruments of Communion led by him (the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meetings) are able to provide a godly way forward that will be acceptable to those who are committed to the truthfulness, clarity, sufficiency and authority of Scripture. The Instruments of Communion have failed to maintain true communion based on the Word of God and shared faith in Christ.
All four Instruments propose that the way ahead for the Anglican Communion is to learn to walk together in ‘good disagreement’. However we reject the claim that two contradictory positions can both be valid in matters affecting salvation. We cannot ‘walk together’ in good disagreement with those who have deliberately chosen to walk away from the ‘faith once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3). The people of God ’walk in his ways’, ‘walk in the truth’, and ‘walk in the light’, all of which require that we do not walk in Christian fellowship with those in darkness (Deuteronomy 8:6; 2 John 4; 1 John 1:7).
Third, we shall reset our communion into an Anglican communion not led by apostates such as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
…’Communion’ between churches and Christians must be based on doctrine (Jerusalem Declaration #13; GSFA Covenant 2.1.6). Anglican identity is defined by this and not by recognition from the See of Canterbury.
Both GSFA [Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches] and Gafcon Primates share the view that, due to the departures from orthodoxy articulated above, they can no longer recognise the Archbishop of Canterbury as an Instrument of Communion, the ‘first among equals’ of the Primates. The Church of England has chosen to impair her relationship with the orthodox provinces in the Communion.
We welcome the GSFA’s Ash Wednesday Statement of 20 February 2023, calling for a resetting and reordering of the Communion. We applaud the invitation of the GSFA Primates to collaborate with Gafcon and other orthodox Anglican groupings to work out the shape and nature of our common life together and how we are to maintain the priority of proclaiming the gospel and making disciples of all nations.
Resetting the Communion is an urgent matter.
These commitments needed to be stated, and the Kigali Commitment states them well. All Anglicans should read the whole statement closely. It is excellent. And I join those grateful to our Anne Kennedy for her role on the drafting committee.
However, about the only thing I cannot nitpick is Scripture itself. And I do wish the Kigali Commitment was even stronger in two small but important ways.
First, although I am glad to read this…
The current divisions in the Anglican Communion have been caused by radical departures from the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some within the Communion have been taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies of this world (Colossians 2:8).
…It is needful to name a hollow and deceptive philosophy or two. Yes, the overall statement makes very clear that gender ideologies that deface marriage and sexuality are among those “deceptive philosophies.” But we, especially in North America, are assailed and even undermined from within our churches by a number of other “woke” ideologies as well. Although Archbishop Foley Beach and REC Presiding Bishop Ray Sutton have spoken well against these, they remain a divisive problem in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). We in ACNA especially need to be encouraged and held accountable in this area by other orthodox Anglicans. Not to mention that the attack on marriage and sexual morals is not at all isolated from “wokeness” as a whole.
So I do wish a sentence like the following would have been added: “These philosophies include inherently divisive ideologies derived from Critical Theory.” I hope the Gafcon Primates make a strong statement on this in the near future. The need for it is all too urgent among Anglicans in the West.
Second, Gafcon through the years has not invited nor held the support of orthodox Anglo-Catholics very well. That some jurisdictions ordain women is one impediment to this. It might have been helpful if the statement reestablished a moratorium on women bishops. But perhaps that is better done by the Primates as it is important that the statement remained focused.
But the statement’s stance on the authority of Scripture, although excellent overall, seems to ignore Anglo-Catholic emphasis on the authority of the church fathers in interpreting Scripture. This emphasis was not something invented by the Oxford Movement but has long been inherent in Anglicanism. Lancelot Andrewes’ five sources of authority in the Church of England included the consensus of the Fathers during the first five centuries of the church.
And citing the church fathers as authorities would have strengthened the statement overall as they would have had nothing to so with changing marriage or standards of morality.
Accordingly, it would have been better if Scripture would have been described as “its own best interpreter” rather than “its own interpreter”. And perhaps “God’s good Word is the rule of our lives as disciples of Jesus and is the final authority in the church” could have been strengthened by adding “as confirmed by the Fathers of the united Church.”
I would hope such changes would not have been controversial. They certainly would have added additional strength and balance that Anglo-Catholics like me would appreciate. All Anglicans should join Anglo-Catholics in respecting the role of the Fathers in interpreting Scripture.
But these are the only improvements this nitpicker can suggest. Again, the Kigali Commitment is needful and strong indeed. If there was a temptation to more dialogue and dithering, to more concern and grieving instead of resolutely moving forward without the apostates, GAFCON IV rejected that temptation and with force.
Even as we may suggest improvements and course corrections here and there, we should be thankful for GAFCON IV leading us with such a strong statement. I am among those thankful and looking forward to God’s intentions for us.