Anglican church leaders oust Archbishop of Canterbury as head

Anglican church leaders around the world oust Archbishop of Canterbury as their head in historic blow for Church following decision to permit blessing of same-sex couples

  • The Church of England voted in favour to offer blessings to same-sex couples 
  • Global Anglicans view the change as an act against ‘the historical biblical faith’

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.’

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’

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.

Earlier in February, Mr Welby said that in the Church of England, archbishops do not chair the General Synod or organise its debates, and 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.

LGBT issues have set deep divisions in the Church for four decades, but the Church has maintained his stance of prohibiting marriage for homosexual couples

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.


1980s: There was growing debate on homosexuality within the Church at this time, during which the Church conceded that there were questions ‘unresolved’ on the issue, after the General Synod passed the motion that ‘homosexual genital acts fall short of [God’s] ideal and are to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion’ in 1987. 

1991: The Church concluded that while the church cannot approve of gay Christians who choose to be in sexually active relationships, it should continue to offer friendship and understanding to them.

In a declaration made in 1998, Justin Welby affirmed that gay sex was a sin, but said he would not seek to discipline C of E churches that would conduct or bless same-sex marriages.

That same year, the once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference met in Kent, and voted through a resolution that opposed same-sex unions or any kind of blessing of them. 

2005: The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into effect in 2005, whereby bishops in the Church of England released a statement declaring the Church continued to believe that sex and marriage were permissible only between one man and one woman.

2013: The Pilling Report suggested that clergy should be allowed to offer public services to ‘mark’ same-sex relationships, and that the C of E’s current teaching was ‘deeply off-putting’ to non-believers. 

2016: In a huge watershed moment for the Church, The Bishop of Grantham, Nicholas Chamberlain, became the first English bishop to come out openly as gay. He said he was living with his partner in a celibate relationship, in line with the church’s teaching. 

2017: After Bishop Nicholas Chamberlain came out, the Church was prompted into releasing a new teaching document offering guidance on same-sex relationships, aiming to allow ‘maximum freedom’ without changing doctrine. 

2020: A long-awaited resource called ‘Living in Love and Faith’ was published which required churches to undertake a short source of study using its materials. 

2022: Last year, Justin Welby addressed the Lambeth Conference of global Anglican bishops, stating that the Communion was deeply divided over same sex issues, and that he accepting the validity of both sides within the Communion. This speech is thought to have been a landmark moment that led to the vote today. 

‘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.

Despite the controversy it has drawn, the approval is viewed as a landmark moment for LGBT issues within the Church, which have set deep divides amongst the Anglican congregation for four decades.

Same-sex couples may now attend Anglican churches after a legal marriage ceremony for services including prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and God’s blessing.

The motion had been brought by the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, and was the result of six years of work on questions of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage known as Living In Love And Faith.

LGBT issues have set deep divisions in the Church for four decades, but the Church has maintained his stance of prohibiting marriage for homosexual couples, despite the 2013 legislation for same-sex marriage.

The Church of England has been able to uphold their stance as it exempt under the Equality Act. 

At the historic debate, members had rejected 16 attempts to change the proposal to offer blessings for same-sex couples.

The Synod eventually voted in favour of a motion to offer blessings to same-sex couples in civil partnerships and marriages today.

An emotional Most Rev Justin Welby – who backed blessings for gay couples- criticised politicians who wanted to force through the church’s acceptance of gay marriage.

‘It is my prayer that what has been agreed today will represent a step forward for all of us within the Church, including LGBTQI+ people, as we remain committed to walking together.

‘We have always said we will listen carefully to Synod, so over the next few months so we will reflect on everything which has been said and prepare new pastoral guidance for the Church on matters of sexuality and marriage.

‘We will also refine the texts of prayers of love and faith.’

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