(Photo: American Anglican Council)
Anglican primates defending traditional Anglicanism issued a communiqué Thursday, noting that little progress has been made in resolving the current "crisis" in the Anglican Communion.
The GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) Primates' Council, which met in London this week, said the divisions in the global Communion are "deep and intractable" and that they are thus encouraged to continue the work of GAFCON.
"The GAFCON Primates' Council has responsibility of recognizing and authenticating orthodox Anglicans who have had to leave their original churches, and promoting the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) as a bulwark against this false teaching and a rallying point for orthodoxy," the primates state in the communiqué.
The council is chaired by the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola.
Conservative Anglican bishops representing a majority of the 77 million-member Communion began the GAFCON movement last summer with a conference in Jerusalem. Many of the participants were boycotting the Anglican Communion's Lambeth conference for including the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada – two national churches conservatives believe have departed from Christian orthodoxy.
The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism – had widened rifts in the Communion when it consecrated the first openly gay bishop in 2003. Before that, the Anglican Church of Canada's Diocese of New Westminster had sanctioned same-sex blessings.
GAFCON participants have begun forming the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in an effort to unite those disaffected by the more liberal churches and committed to "to the theological formularies of Anglicanism that provide a firm foundation of our faith" and to defending the biblical gospel.
Although forming a separate spiritual movement for like-minded traditionalists, GAFCON leaders assured in their communiqué that their aim is not to further divide the already splintering Communion but rather to "provide a way in which faithful Anglicans many of whom are suffering much loss, can remain as Anglicans within the Communion while distancing themselves from false teaching."
Also attending the council meeting was Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan and other bishops representing the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), a new province that is seen as a rival body to The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
The Primates Council discussed the formation of the new province, currently being formed by some 100,000 Anglicans, and recognized it "genuinely Anglican." The council also recommended that other Anglican provinces accept the ACNA and affirm full communion with it.
The GAFCON council is the first to formally recognize the emerging province in North America. The office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, who is considered the spiritual leader of the Communion, has said that it will take years for the new province to gain official recognition from the rest of the Communion.
In other matters, the conservative leaders said it was "too soon" for them to respond to the latest version of the Anglican Covenant, a document seeking to uphold the autonomy of the Communion's 38 provinces while asking for their voluntary commitment to solve disputes over contentious issues.
A third version of the covenant was released on April 8. GAFCON primates believe the covenant is "of little use" if "those who have left the standards of the Bible are able to enter the covenant with good conscience."