Primates and Possibilities

Posted by Fr. Tere on 10/15/2015

Global South 15 (GS15) was filled with possibilities. The timing was God-ordained, given the events in the Communion. It is was a perfect time to address issues. 

And, there are issues aplenty. As a priest recently wrote to me, "The Episcopal Church (TEC) has abandoned the last fig leaf of propriety, trampling Biblical revelation on marriage," and has even moved to abandon “man” and “woman” in the Prayer Book Marriage Service, replacing the opening with: 

 Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this carbon based and life form, and this other carbon based life form in Holy Matrimony. The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. We, however, have no shortage of confidence to redesign His order, overlooking any and all unintended consequences that may arise from our actions. While marriage has always signified to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, we rejoice at our confidence to revolutionize and improve upon God’s revelation, and we hereby declare our competence to bless and sanction whatever-the-heck we want to do, and declare a new order of what-we-want.  

People were supposed to arrive for GS15 on Sunday, October 11 and Monday, October 12 for a week of meetings in Tunisia (at historic Carthage). On the Thursday before the meeting, there was an attack against a government official in Hammamet, the very place where GS15 was to meet. Tunisian government officials asked for the conference to be postponed, which, sadly, was probably just a euphemism for cancelled. Many people had unchangeable and unrefundable tickets. Given the extreme sacrifice that they made to get the original tickets, they likely will not be able to do so again if a replacement conference occurs later. 

When the Tunisian conference was cancelled, quick collaboration took place to gather the Primates of the Global South in Cairo. I was asked to come along in a staff role. 

Today, we gathered for Communion in a gentle and sweet-spirited service. One of the fun things was singing “How Great Thou Art” including the verse: 

When by the Nile, through groves of palms I wander,

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees. 

When I look down from Sinai’s mountain grandeur

And see the view, and feel the gentle breeze


Then sings my soul, my Savior Go, to Thee

How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior Go, to Thee

How great Thou art! How great Thou art! 

With GAFCON and Global South Primates gathering, many people wonder what will, or what can, happen. A great deal of energy has been devoted by some nay-sayers trying to sell a story that the GAFCON Primates and the Primates of the Global South are at odds. However, that contention has lots of holes in it. First, all of the GAFCON Primates are Global South Primates as well, except for ABp Foley Beach, who not only is included with GAFCON on the Primates Council but also is very specifically included in the Global South meeting.

Originally, the Global South gatherings were established to give those Anglican Provinces in developing nations a mechanism for their voice to be heard. From Limuru, Kenya (the first gathering) to Kuala, Lumpur just before Lambeth 1998, there has been a clarion call for Anglicans to carry the Gospel into the world, and to do so under the authority of Scripture. Of course, there were Provinces like Brazil and Mexico that tried to promote the liberal agenda, but they have not prevailed at all. 

Second, GAFCON Primates hold four of the seven seats on the Global South Steering Committee. They are welcome participants on the Steering Committee and make many contributions.  

Hence, it is clear that there are not two groups at odds: Global South and GAFCON. Rather, there are two groups that are increasingly like-minded about true Gospel Mission and Biblical authority and are truly seeking the unity of the Holy Spirit. 

Here among the gathered leaders, there is great affection for the ACNA, first for ABp Bob Duncan and now for ABp Foley Beach. Perhaps the origins of the Global South empowering the dispossessed resonate with the costly stand that the leaders and people of the ACNA have taken for Biblical faith. In any case, ABp Foley Beach was welcomed by GAFCON and the Global South Primates as “an Archbishop and fellow Primate of the Anglican Communion” when he was installed last year in Atlanta. Here, he is seated and treated as a peer. At the opening lunch and Eucharist, it was obvious, seeing the warmth and welcome that ABp Foley received, that he is not a stranger or a visitor. He is a Primate. That is the new reality. 

This meeting has gathered only a small percentage of the number who were registered to attend in Tunis, but it has brought together the Primates of many Provinces. The leaders present represent in Cairo the very heart of Anglicanism today. There is a “history book” sense among the Archbishops present: that they know they must address issues that are defining ones. The atmosphere is full of prayer—and there is plenty of time set aside for prayer and worship. They are asking for wisdom from the Father, and they know that they have a tremendous responsibility to hear His voice as they lead His church. 

Fasten your seat belts and hold your breath. It may take until January to understand fully what they decide, but the decisions taken this week will determine the course of the Anglican Communion. 

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