GAFCON: Response to the Rome Primate Conference


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

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

Last week, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, 32 archbishops of the Anglican Church gathered in Rome to meet each other and have a private audience with Pope Francis. In a communiqué issued on May 2, they underlined the pope’s admonishment for them to “embrace our differences without fear” and issued their own call for “mutual respect and mutual companionship”. They also expressed their new commitment to “strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

However, as the Gazette itself acknowledged, several Anglican primates did not attend the gathering. Specifically, 12 primates did not attend the meeting in Rome, meaning the primates in attendance represented 30 of the 42 recognized provinces of the Church of England. However, such figures are misleading because primates from the three largest Anglican provinces (Nigeria, Uganda and South Sudan) are not included. Those participating primates represent a minority, perhaps 30%, of active Anglicans worldwide. The communique made no mention of how unrepresentative the meeting was, nor did it explain why several primates declined the invitation to attend.

In fact, most of those who refused to attend were Gafcon and Southland leaders, and our absence was not accidental but intentional. While we do pray for the unity and health of the Anglican Communion, we choose not to participate because, as last year’s Kigali Statement made clear, the current divisions within the Anglican Communion are neither minimal nor new. These divisions arise out of more than 25 years of “repeated departures from the authority of God’s Word,” which continues unabated despite continued warnings from the majority of Anglican primates.

We know how precious the unity of the Church is to our Lord. For He prays to the Father that we may be one as He is one with the Father (John 17:21). At the same time, we also realize that this solidarity is not just a matter of institutional belonging or cultivating an attitude of “mutual respect”. The unity of the Father and the Son consists in the harmony of will and thought, mission and message (John 8:16-18, 10:37-38, 12:49-50, 17:25-26). Jesus came to speak His Father’s Word, and He wants us to be sanctified by the truth of that Word (John 17:17). Therefore, only when we agree on the truth and authority of Scripture can we be united as Jesus prayed.

Unfortunately, the remnants of Orthodoxy within the Anglican Communion are portrayed as a source of disunity. On the contrary, as Bishop JC Ryle once said:

If people depart from manifestly erroneous and unbiblical teaching, they should be praised rather than blamed. In this case, separation is a virtue and not a sin… He is the divider who causes division… Unity gained through the sacrifice of truth is worthless. It is not unity that pleases God.

The recommendations made by the Anglican Archbishops at the Rome Council, which included minor modifications to what the Anglican Church described and modifications to its existing structure, would do nothing to repair the torn fabric of our Anglican Communion. Nothing will be enough but a return to the Lord through deep repentance and the abandonment of the false teachings of the erring province. To quote the Kigali Statement again: “Without repentance, this rift cannot be healed.”

In Christ, I am your servant,

Supreme Pastor Dr. Laurent Mbanda
Gafcon Primate Council Chairman
Archbishop of Rwanda
Bishop Gassab



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