September 18, 2015

Justin Welby on the Hot Seat

After I wrote my essay on Archbishop Justin Welby’s proposed meeting of primates, I learned that GAFCON had given the archbishop the finger. In an anonymous press release, GAFCON declared
… the GAFCON Primates will prayerfully consider their response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s letter. They recognize that the crisis in the Communion is not primarily a problem of relationships and cultural context, but of false teaching which continues without repentance or discipline.

Consistent with this position, they have previously advised the Archbishop of Canterbury that they would not attend any meeting at which The Episcopal Church of the United States or the Anglican Church of Canada were represented, nor would they attend any meeting from which the Anglican Church in North America was excluded.
There are two things to notice here. First, GAFCON declares that the real problem with the Anglican Communion is false teaching. Put more neutrally, the GAFCON crowd adheres to a version of Christianity radically different from that of other members of the Communion. This correctly identifies the problem, and the gap is, I think, unbridgeable.

Although separation seems to be the ultimate goal of GAFCON, taking over the Communion from the heretics would be fine, too. If that isn’t possible, being thrown out of the Communion will also work, and it has the added advantage of making martyrs of the dissidents.

Thus, GAFCON engages in extortion: ACNA must be represented at the meeting and The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada must not be.

One wonders just what has been said in conversations between the Archbishop of Canterbury and GAFCON leaders. The Lambeth press release shows numerous signs of the archbishop’s attempt to appease the militants—the invitation of Foley Beach, the emphasis on scripture, the invitation to participants to set the agenda. Clearly, his efforts have not been enough.

This puts Welby on the hot seat. The GAFCON threat is not an idle one, as GAFCON has shown that its bishops are willing to forego attendance at meetings in protest. Reconciliation, which is likely impossible anyway, is logically impossible if both sides are not at the table.  If Welby gives in in this game of chicken, the Communion is done for. In that case, the Americans and Canadians should insist on attending anyway or withdraw from the Communion completely. Either case creates another crisis. If Welby resists GAFCON extortion and the GAFCON primates do not attend, the meeting will either be pointless or an opportunity to create a new Communion with churches willing to live peaceably with one another. Of course, GAFCON might not carry through on its threat, but that seems unlikely.

Welby should hold his ground. Stay tuned.


  1. The Global Anglican Future is living in the past.

  2. Mr. Deimel, I am a first time reader of your blog. Thank you for writing about this. I will be reading you regularly from now on.

    As an Episcopalian in Lowcountry South Carolina ,where our former bishop and his breakaway flock have aligned themselves with GAFCON, it bothers me that Archbishop Welby seems to miss an important aspect of the situation. This is not merely a disagreement of children on the playground. GAFCON South Carolinians treat LGBT people as outcasts. It is a deeply personal attack on one’s being. And it is hatred in it's purest, ugliest form. Moreover, they exclude women in much the some way (and yes, women are still the problem, too).

    Even more troubling, some of the GAFCON primates are actual human rights violators, agitating to criminalize LGBT people, which is the law of the land in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and much of Africa. Some of our sisters and brothers are languishing in jail for who they are and hate crimes are prevalent.

    American Episcopalians have been asked time and again (by Archbishops Williams and Welby) to throw our LGBT brothers and sisters under the bus in order to appease human rights violators.

    Sitting at the table with them is what Jesus would have us do. But to demand that we emulate them instead of Jesus Christ is too much and hypocritical. This is bigotry, and Archbishop Welby ought to call them on it.

    1. Wayne,

      Thanks for your note. I always like to learn who is reading what I write. I hope you will become a regular reader, though I must warn you that the posts here can be very eclectic.

      Being in a diocese that was one of the early ones to experience to a conservative schism, I am acutely sensitive to the situation in South Carolina. Of course, your situation is worse than ours was. We benefited from the lawsuit against Bishop Duncan by Calvary Church and from a more sympathetic court system than that in South Carolina. We got our money back, though not all our real estate, fairly quickly. You don’t even have your name yet. I am sympathetic and pray for a good outcome for your diocese.

      For what it’s worth, you may be interested in my early efforts to head off problems in your diocese. Take a look at “No Consents: A Crucial Test for The Episcopal Church” and “The Annotated Mark Lawrence.” Alas, these pieces won’t provide much comfort.

      Hang in there. These things get resolved eventually.

  3. Mark Lawrence, bigot, liar, thief and grandstanding goofball (dangerous to the health of unity and to the everyday lives of LGBTI Anglicans in Urganda, Nigeria, Kenya and beyond)...I am not calling him ¨names¨ I am writing fact. BTW, I think the ¨Prayerfully¨ considering opportunists (prancing on the lives of fellow Anglican/other human beings) will attend the meeting...then, of course, they will pull a bunch of disgusting stuff JUST to show US how extra holy they are...emotionally twisted, ignorant lot.

  4. Anglican Christians, however well-meaning, need to learn the efficacy of "shake the dust off your sandals." Those who have created schism and taken people and property away from the Anglican communion (whatever they call themselves) have proved themselves to have no openness whatsoever to real dialogue. It was this attitude that caused them to leave. They show no sense of recognizing those whom they judge as fellow Christians in fact, if not in agreement. They show no evidence of Christian caritas toward anyone who disagrees with them. It is fruitless to engage with them until these attitudes of theirs change. God speed the day!


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