Farewell, Church of England
Since 1867, the Archbishop of Canterbury has been recognized as the “first among equals” among all the bishops of the worldwide Anglican communion. This fellowship of churches, rooted in the Church of England, is now composed of 42 national churches worldwide.
Or, at least it was. In a statement issued this week, 10 national churches and provinces affiliated with Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) have decided no longer to remain under the leadership of the Church of England and have rejected the authority of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. These churches include those in Alexandria (Egypt), Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Congo, the Indian Ocean region, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda.
The move comes after the Church of England chose to endorse “proposals to allow prayers of blessing for same-sex couples.” While its formal position opposing same-sex marriage remains unchanged, “priests will have the option to bless gay couples but can opt out.”
So, the GSFA is moving on. “The Church of England has chosen to break communion with those provinces who remain faithful to the historic biblical faith” and thereby has “disqualified herself from leading the (worldwide Anglican) Communion.”
As a result, “GSFA is no longer able to recognise the present Archbishop of Canterbury … Justin Welby, as the ‘first among equals’ Leader of the global Communion” since he is advancing false teachings, “knowing that they run contrary to the faith and order of the orthodox provinces in the Communion whose people constitute the majority in the global flock.”
“The Church of England now appears set on a course of action that rejects our historic and biblical understanding of sex and marriage, by departing from the apostolic faith we are called to uphold,” wrote the Church of England Evangelical Council in a statement. Kenya’s Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit noted that “powerful secular voices … have captured the Church of England” and said the “mother church” has abandoned “the true gospel.”
Similarly, Nigerian Archbishop Henry C. Ndukuba (whose church accounts for roughly one-third of all Anglicans across the globe) spoke of the “deviant, revisionist actions of some Western Anglican Churches, including the Church of England [that] are negatively affecting the image, moral credibility and evangelical activities of faithful Anglican Christians.” Archbishop Ndukuba said the Nigerian communion would now “take steps to redefine our relationship with those who persist in willful disobedience to God’s Word” and bring Christ “into disrepute.”
The Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, of which the Anglican Church in North America is a part (the ACNA is distinct from the very liberal Episcopal Church), share in this frustration. “These changes attack the very core of biblical authority. Have the Scriptures been clear on human sexuality through the centuries? Yes, they have. The majority of Anglicans around the world have concluded the same. And yet, now, the Church of England has authorized the blessing of sin and declared that sin is no longer sin.”
This is a critical point: Why attend a church whose convictions are as malleable as Playdough and whose willingness to cavil to its angriest and most insistent members demonstrates a profound lack of the moral courage to which Scripture calls followers of Jesus?
Additionally, the push for full recognition of same-sex marriage, transgenderism, and other departures from biblically-directed human sexuality will not abate. The Anglican Bishop of Oxford, Steve Croft, has already said, “I am very encouraged that there’ll be new pastoral guidance to bless same-sex couples in church, which I hope will also remove the barrier to clergy entering into same-sex, civil marriages themselves.”
When in 2014 the Boy Scouts of America jettisoned their prohibition on homosexuality among boys and young men participating in Scouting, a number of us involved in trying to preserve traditional Scouting predicted that soon all limits on LGBTQ restrictions would fall. So they have — and so has Scouting, with only about 760,000 youth in 2020. This is a drop of 43% since 2019 — a stunning collapse.
The church of Jesus Christ is to be winsome, full of grace. But it is also to speak the truth, to herald a message of salvation through repentance and faith. Redefining sin will not draw people into new life in Christ. It only makes the gospel innocuous, limp, pathetic.
In attempting to placate those who long ago turned from their allegiance to the Bible’s teachings, the Church of England only loses the respect of those looking for unchanging truth and earns the contempt of those on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate. Her refusal to stand against a fallen culture for the sake of gaining that culture’s approval has only made the Church of England, like liberal Protestantism everywhere, irrelevant.
Rob Schwarzwalder, Ph.D., is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.