Global South is an Ecclesial body, GAFCON is a movement

Apr 19, 2023 by

by Canon Phil Ashey, AAC:

Here at GAFCON, there are many who are asking the question: “What is the relationship between GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA)?” At today’s press briefing, the correspondent from The Living Church confessed that he was struggling to explain to his audience the relationship between the two bodies. Without missing a beat, Archbishop Glenn Davies replied, “Global South is an ecclesial body; GAFCON is a movement.”

Amen. This is a simple and elegant response to the question. It is exactly what the American Anglican Council has been saying about the ways that GAFCON and GSFA should see each other— GAFCON as a movement that authenticates and recognizes biblically faithful Anglicans who cannot remain in heterodox Anglican Churches, as well as a reforming movement that calls the Church to repentance, biblical faithfulness, and mission. Global South is like the Mother Church in Jerusalem in Acts 15. It has ecclesial authority and structures, has the authority to welcome biblically faithful Anglican refugees into its Communion of churches as full members, is equally confessional, and gathers for mission.

But there is another equally, if not more pressing, question inextricably linked to the first. It was the question raised in the GAFCON assembly for clergy and laity today: What is our hope for the Anglican Communion? Among the answers given were:

  • That we would be a growing global fellowship of mutually accountable followers of Jesus under the authority of Scripture who spread the Gospel of Jesus
  • That we would live together within good and godly synodical structures with provisions for discipline for Provinces and Dioceses that fail to uphold orthodoxy
  • That we would be known by what we are for rather than what we are against

If this, indeed, captures the future of a biblically faithful and missional Anglican Communion, what can GAFCON and the Global South do together to make this future a reality?

The possibilities are many, and only time will tell if ideas like these or others will find their way into the upcoming declaration. Regardless, all GAFCON and GSFA provinces, dioceses, and networks must withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and associated committees and networks associated with the Canterbury-led Communion in keeping with both the GAFCON Jerusalem Declaration Clause 13 and the GSFA Ash Wednesday 2023 Declaration. When matters arise that require a response, GSFA and GAFCON leaders should commit to issuing joint statements to exhibit a unified alternative to the Instruments of Communion they left behind.

GAFCON could adopt the Chairman and General Secretary’s vision of GAFCON as a mission network to proclaim the unchanging Gospel in a changing world and to adopt a Decade of Evangelism, Discipleship, and Mission, again providing a unified front towards global transformation in Christ.

It would also be beneficial if all provinces, dioceses, and networks present at this GAFCON IV are asked to study the GSFA Cairo Covenantal Structures and to seriously consider applying for membership under the terms of the Covenant. The more people who enter into a covenantal relationship with one another through the GSFA Cairo Covenant—including existing Anglican provinces as well as new branches, networks, dioceses, and provinces—the stronger we will be as the true and faithful Anglican Communion. GSFA and GAFCON can partner together to authenticate and recognize those dioceses, networks, and other ecclesial bodies of biblically faithful Anglicans who are refugees of corrupted and compromised churches in the Canterbury-led Communion, helping them to become full members of both GAFCON and GSFA.

Above all, both bodies must reaffirm that WE ARE already the true and faithful Anglican Communion!

ACNA Archbishop emeritus Robert Duncan reflected long ago on the issue of Anglican identity in the context TEC’s abandonment of biblical Christianity when could no longer remain in corrupted company. Reflecting on the actions of TEC and our loss of so many church buildings, he said, “Let them take the stuff; we will take the souls!” So, let Canterbury take the “stuff.” Let GAFCON and GSFA take the souls. That’s what we have been called to do together for Christ and his Kingdom!

The day began with a reading from Colossians 1. The Rev. Paul Donison, a trustee of the American Anglican Council, gave this moving reading of scripture that calls the Colossians to look towards Christ, away from the chaos around them. St. Paul reminds the Colossians that it is Christ living within them, through the Holy Spirit, that is a guarantee of the glory that will be revealed in them on the Last Day.

But what, exactly, is this glory?

The glory of Jesus is more than just how great Jesus is. It is an actual glory generated by the power of God, which is revealed in Christ, not just through the Transfiguration but ultimately in the Resurrection. Christ himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5). This glory of Jesus, seen in Jesus, was his hope when he was surrounded by pain, torment, sin, and the devil. He knew who he was, despite what the world around him said. It is also our hope that we might become as he is when he is revealed to the world on the Last Day. “The glory you have given me,” Jesus prayed to the Father, “I have given to them.” He prayed for those who would follow him, asking God the Father to give to them everything he gave to Christ. It isn’t glory for glory’s sake, it is a glory meant to be given away. It is a glory born out of humility.

St. Paul’s call to the Colossians to behold Christ’s glory isn’t a call to simply look at Christ and stare, marveling at his greatness. It is to look upon Christ and find our hope in the face of suffering, knowing that this glory will be seen in us if we persevere. And this is the hope—that like Christ and in Christ and by Christ, we will share in the resurrected life when we are crowned with honor at the Last Day and enter into his glory. The catch, of course, is that we must first go through the cross before we receive the fullness of this glory. There is no resurrection without suffering, no entrance into life without death. That is why we need hope because of the multitude of sufferings we face in this world.

In a spiritual sense, GAFCON must continue to live in this reality as it seeks to help reform the Anglican Communion. GAFCON looks upon Christ and vehemently defends his Word. It calls the whole Anglican Communion towards repentance while moving away from heretical teachers and failing ecclesial structures and towards Christ and his clear, authoritative word. GAFCON provides oversight to all biblically faithful Anglican believers who are seeking to escape churches that have caved in to secular values and unbiblical teaching. But these leaders who glorify Christ must also press on in their mission to join Christ in that glory, not just to behold that glory but to move forward into glory themselves and bring a train of disciples with them. This will require leaders to share in the same sufferings of Christ (Phil 3:10) that he suffered on his way to glory. We behold his glory in order to join his glory and bring others to that glory. The final Resurrection is its fulfillment, but it can start here in the already/not yet of Kingdom glory. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians that we move “from glory to glory” until we attain that final glory of sharing in his very nature.

Is GAFCON a group meant to look at Christ, remind people to behold him, and point out how churches like England and the Episcopal Church USA are turning away from him? Surely, this is part of the whole. But is it also ready to join Christ in that glory through the sacrifices that must be made for the sake of its brothers and sisters in the Global South? Are leaders in both GAFCON and Global South ready to embrace that hope of glory through the reality of suffering and self-sacrifice?

The Colossians were reminded to see Christ in glory and know that the glory they saw was theirs to attain. This was their hope in the midst of intense suffering, persecution, and worldly temptations. GAFCON was created in the midst of this kind of suffering that continues today. It has beheld the glory of Christ where that glory has faded in churches around the world. Now GAFCON must continue to operate as servants of those Anglicans who are biblically faithful wherever they may be. They must, as Archbishop Raffel from Sydney said, embrace humble servitude and true repentance for the sake of unity. How that will look like going forward is still unknown. But if such sacrifice and humility are embraced, there will be unity and a true glory that will be revealed in the Church both in this age and, more fully, in the age to come.


The first full day kicked off with an exhortation from Scripture based on Colossians 1, read by the Rev. Paul Donison, a Trustee of the American Anglican Council. The Bible Study teaching was by Bishop Jay Behan. He spoke on how St. Paul highlighted the glory of Jesus because the Colossians thought Jesus was a good start but now they needed more. He brought home the need for us to behold the glory and sufficiency of Christ, even when the world says we need more.

Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit of Kenya spoke at the first plenary session and facilitated speakers on the history of Gafcon and how it has been and continues to be a gift from God. He introduced three different speakers who gave their perspective on this global movement: Archbishop Glenn Davies, who gave a history of the Anglian Realignment starting in the 1960s, from the sexual revolution up through Lambeth 1:10 and the formation of Gafcon; Dr. Stephen Noll, who spoke on the historical documents over the course of Anglican history, including the development of church governance through the Lambeth conferences and then through Gafcon, particularly focusing on the development of the Jerusalem Declaration; and Bishop Keith Sinclair, who spoke about the current state of affairs in the Church of England, which has precipitated the more direct statements recently given by Gafcon and the Global South.

In the afternoon, clergy and laity met in a second plenary that focused them on what their hopes were for the Anglican Communion and Gafcon. They gathered in small groups and filled in this statement: “I would like the Anglican Communion to look like this…” After 30 minutes of conversation, microphones were passed around the room for summary statements based on those conversations. These statements and feedback were then submitted to the writing team for the first draft of the Gafcon communique, which was released in a format where all delegates were allowed to put a checkmark next to statements as to whether something akin to that statement should or should not be included in the final draft.

The session to end the day was called God at Work in the World. Bishop Andy Lines, presiding bishop of the Anglican Network in Europe, spoke on the state of the Church in Europe. “Despite all the bad news,” he said, “God is still at work.” He highlighted the work happening through the Church, both in congregations within the Church of England and outside its jurisdiction. He facilitated testimonies from those out in the field across Europe in their various Gospel contexts. Each speaker shared the faithfulness of God through the Gospel and through his people, despite overwhelming odds and a culture that keeps pushing back on the Truth.

As Bishop Lines said, it isn’t all bad news. Despite the stubbornness of some, God is still at work. Gafcon Kigali is a testimony in and of itself to this reality. Out of dry ground, streams of living water flow through the hearts of biblically-faithful, sincere, courageous, and prayerful Anglicans. At this conference, we see that walking together means exactly what it sounds like; standing for the truth, turning together towards Jesus Christ, and knowing God is at work in the world in and through us.

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