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Gafcon Responds to Primates Meeting in Rome

The Most Rev. Dr. Laurent Mbanda, Chairman of the Gafcon Primates Council and Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, posted the following statement on behalf of Gafcon in response to a gathering of some Primates in Rome. 

To my dear Anglican brothers and sisters contending for the faith once delivered to the saints,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Last week, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, 32 Primates of the Anglican Communion gathered in Rome to meet with one another and to hold a private audience with Pope Francis. In their Communiqué, published on May 2, they highlighted the pope’s admonition to them to “embrace our disagreements without fear” and issued their own call “to mutual respect and accompaniment with one another.” They also expressed their own renewed commitment to “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

As the Communiqué itself acknowledges, however, multiple Anglican Primates did not attend the gathering. To be specific, 12 primates did not attend this meeting in Rome, which means that those who did attend represented 30 of the 42 recognized provinces of the Anglican Communion. Such numbers are misleading, however, since the Primates of the three largest Anglican provinces (Nigeria, Uganda, and South Sudan) were among those absent. Those Primates who did attend represent a minority, perhaps 30%, of active Anglicans worldwide. The Communiqué makes no mention of how unrepresentative a gathering this meeting was, nor does it explain the reason that multiple Primates declined the invitation to participate.

The truth is that most of those who refused to attend are leaders of Gafcon and the Global South, and our absence was not accidental, but intentional. Though we do pray for the unity and health of the Anglican Communion, we chose not to attend because, as last year’s Kigali Statement made clear, the current divisions within the Anglican Communion are neither minimal nor new. These divisions have arisen from more than 25 years of “repeated departures from the authority of God’s Word” that, despite the persistent warnings given by the majority of Anglican Primates, have continued unabated.

We know how dear the unity of the church is to the heart of our Lord. For it is he who prays to his Father that we might be one, even as he and the Father are one (John 17:21). At the same time, we also recognize that such unity is not simply a matter of institutional belonging or cultivating attitudes of “mutual respect.” The unity of the Father and the Son consists in a harmony of will and mind, of mission and message (John 8:16-18, 10:37-38, 12:49-50, 17:25-26). Jesus came speaking the word of his Father and he wanted us to be sanctified in the truth of that word (John 17:17). It is only as we agree on the truth and authority of Scripture, therefore, that we can be one as Jesus prayed.

It is unfortunate when the orthodox remnant within the Anglican Communion are portrayed as the source of disunity. To the contrary, as Bishop J.C. Ryle once said,

If people separate themselves from teaching which is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved. In such cases separation is a virtue rather than a sin…He is the schismatic who causes the schism…Unity which is obtained by the sacrifice of truth is worth nothing. It is not unity that pleases God.

The proposals made by the Anglican Primates at the Rome meeting, which consist of minor revisions to the description of the Anglican Communion and modifications to its existing structures, will do nothing to mend the torn fabric of our Communion. Nothing apart from a return to the Lord through deep repentance and renunciation of false teaching by erring provinces will suffice. To quote the Kigali Statement once more, “without repentance this tear cannot be mended.”

In Christ, I am your servant,

The Most Rev. Dr. Laurent Mbanda
Chairman of the Gafcon Primates Council
Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Rwanda
Bishop of Gasabo


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