Group of global Anglican church leaders ousts Welby over gay blessing reform

A group of Anglican church leaders from around the world have ousted the Archbishop of Canterbury as their head following the decision to allow the blessing of same-sex couples in England.

The Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) has said in a statement that it no longer considers Justin Welby to be “leader of the global communion”, and it has “disqualified” the Church of England from being its “mother church”.

Earlier this month, the General Synod – the Church of England’s legislative assembly – passed a motion to allow the blessing of same-sex couples in civil partnerships.

The GSFA said it speaks for 75% of Anglicans around the world, officially representing 25 member provinces – mainly in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

In its statement released on Monday, the group accused the Church of England of “taking the path of false teaching” and going against “the historical biblical faith” by allowing same-sex blessings, adding: “This breaks our hearts.”

They said the archbishop had “sadly led his House of Bishops to make the recommendations (for blessing gay couples) knowing that they run contrary to the faith and order of the orthodox provinces in the communion”.

Referring to Mr Welby, they said: “We pray that our withdrawal of support for him to lead the whole Communion is received by him as an admonishment in love.”

The GSFA added that this has caused a “leadership crisis” and it is now working to “re-set the communion”.

The signatories include the GSFA’s chair, Archbishop Justin Badi, along with the archbishops of Chile, the Indian Ocean, Congo, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Uganda, Sudan, Alexandria and Melanesia.

At a Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting earlier in February, Mr Welby said that in the Church of England, archbishops do not chair the General Synod or organise its debates.

He added that “many” members had “dismissed” his concerns about recent reforms.

Since its formation in 1867, the incumbent Archbishop of Canterbury has taken the role of spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, a global fellowship of 42 Anglican churches.

Of the GSFA’s 25 member provinces, 22 are part of the wider Anglican Communion.

Lambeth Palace said it “fully appreciates” the GSFA’s stance, but added that “no changes to the formal structures of the Anglican Communion” could be made without Mr Welby’s consent.

A spokesperson for the palace said: “The Archbishop is in regular contact with his fellow Primates and looks forward to discussing this and other matters with them over the coming period.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury commented last week at the ACC in Ghana that these structures are always able to change with the times.

“We note the statement issued today by some Anglican Primates and we fully appreciate their position.

“As was reaffirmed in multiple discussions at the ACC in Ghana, however, no changes to the formal structures of the Anglican Communion can be made unless they are agreed upon by the Instruments of Communion.”

Mr Welby is one of the “Instruments of Communion”, along with the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting.

The spokesperson added: “In a world of conflict, suffering and uncertainty, we must remember that more unites us than divides us.

“Despite our differences, we must find ways to continue walking and working together as followers of Jesus Christ to serve those in need.”

Lambeth Palace said that the “deep disagreements” among the Anglican community over sexuality and marriage are long-standing, and that reforms in one province do not affect rules in the others.