FAQ about Church of Uganda, GAFCON, and the Anglican Communion

July 6, 2008

What is GAFCON?

GAFCON began as the Global Anglican Future Conference and Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It produced a conference Statement which expressed the minds and hearts of the 1,200 people present, including entire House of Bishops from the Provinces of Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya. In addition, there were representative Bishops from Tanzania, Congo, West Africa, Sudan, India, Southern Cone, Southeast Asia, Australia, USA, Canada, and UK. The clear mind of the conference was threefold:
1.    The fellowship that was shared needed to continue beyond just this one event, and it needed to expand to include others who are sympathetic to the vision and goals of GAFCON. Hence, it was declared that
2.    The Jerusalem Declaration, a statement of 14 theological points, is at the heart of this movement and fellowship of confessing Anglicans.
3.    We asked the Primates to form a Primates Council to serve as the Instrument of Unity, Leadership, and Authority for this Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, and we gave to the Primates Council the authority to recognize Anglicans, even if they were not already recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

What is the Anglican Communion?

The Anglican Communion is a family of independent and autonomous Provinces of Churches, most of whom trace their origin to the Church of England, who worship using the Book of Common Prayer, and whose Bishops have been ordained in apostolic succession through the English succession.  It is not like the Roman Catholic Church, which is governed by the Pope. There is no central headquarters for the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury is not like an “Anglican Pope.”

Recently, four “Instruments of Communion” were identified as structures for the Communion:
1.    The Archbishop of Canterbury
2.    The Primates Meeting
3.    The Lambeth Conference of Bishops
4.    The Anglican Consultative Council
The Primates Meeting only meets when it is called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and only the ones invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury go to the meeting. The Lambeth Conference only meets when called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and only the ones invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury go to the meeting.  The President of the Anglican Consultative Council is the Archbishop of Canterbury and he inaugurates meetings of the ACC. The one person that is common to all four Instruments of Communion is the Archbishop of Canterbury, and without him they cannot do very much. Practically speaking, then, it is the Archbishop of Canterbury who is at the centre of the Communion’s structures, and one man, through the power of invitation, determines who is “in” the Anglican Communion, and who is “out” of the Anglican Communion.  And, this one man is not elected by his fellow Primates.  He is, rather, appointed by a secular government.

GAFCON came to the sober realization that the existing structures of the Anglican Communion were no longer serving the Communion well. So, GAFCON launched a Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, whose structure of unity/communion is a Council of Primates, and “membership” in the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is determined by assent to the Jerusalem Declaration.

Does the COU’s role in GAFCON mean that we are breaking up the Anglican Communion?

No.  GAFCON, and the COU’s role in GAFCON, is a movement to restore good order, theological integrity, and Biblical faithfulness to the Anglican Communion, which was deeply wounded in 2003 when the Episcopal Church in America consecrated as bishop a gay man living in a same-sex relationship. If the Anglican Communion breaks up it will be because of the actions of the American Church, its ongoing unrepentant attitude toward them, and their determined imperialism to impose their views on the rest of the Anglican Communion.  Not only has the American Church not repented of its 2003 decision and action, but they have continued to advance non-Biblical teaching and practice. Their Bishops and many clergy have presided at the blessing of same-sex unions. Their Archbishop does not believe the Bible when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” Another American Bishop has said, “The Church wrote the Bible, so the church can re-write the Bible.”

What is our relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Our relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury is the same as it has always been, although the current crisis has strained our relationship. He is the Primate of All England. We have great respect for the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury because his church brought the Gospel to us, and we honour him for that. The Church of Uganda, however, is not governed by him. In 1961 the Church of Uganda became autonomous from the Church of England and is now governed by our Provincial Assembly and led by the Archbishop of Uganda.

How can we be part of the Anglican Communion if we don’t recognize the authority of Canterbury?

The Anglican Communion is a family of self-governing, autonomous churches, most of whom trace their origins to the Church of England.  When the Church of Uganda became independent of the Church of England in 1961, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave up his authority in Uganda, but remained with some degree of influence as a result of our history.

What is our relationship with the Anglican Communion now? Are we still in the Anglican Communion?

The Church of Uganda is a full member of the Anglican Communion. We love the Anglican Communion and are committed to seeing the Anglican Communion thrive today in its Christ-centred, Biblical, and mission-driven heritage.

What is our relationship with the Episcopal Church in America (TEC)?

The Church of Uganda broke fellowship with The Episcopal Church in the United States in 2003 when they elected and consecrated as Bishop a man living in an active homosexual relationship. The Episcopal Church has not repented of that decision. In fact, some of their bishops have presided at the blessing of same-sex unions and are advocating their use by clergy in their dioceses.  We are very sad that the leadership of the Episcopal Church has taken these decisions because they are like false shepherds leading their people astray. We love them and long for them to repent and return to the Truth of God’s Word. We pray for them.

There are many Americans who do not support the unbiblical decisions of the Episcopal Church. We are in fellowship with them. More than 44 congregations in America have appealed to be part of the Church of Uganda so they can continue to be Anglicans. We have welcomed them and consecrated an American as a Bishop to support them.

Why did our Bishops not go to Lambeth?

The Church of Uganda Bishops decided together not to go to the Lambeth Conference this year. Their decision was unanimously supported by the governing body of the Church of Uganda, the Provincial Assembly Standing Committee. The reason the Church of Uganda did not go to Lambeth is because the purpose of Lambeth is for fellowship among Bishops, and our fellowship has been broken with the American church. In direct violation of the Bible and historic Christian teaching, they consecrated as a Bishop a gay man living in a same-sex relationship.  After five years of pleading with them, listening to them, and giving them many opportunities, they have not repented of that decision.

The Archbishop of Canterbury did not follow the advice given to him by his own appointed Commission to not invite to Lambeth those responsible for the confusion and disobedience in the Anglican Communion. The Bible says, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” We have not been in fellowship with the Americans who have violated the Bible since 2003, so we were not going to pretend by going to Lambeth that we are in fellowship. We are not. What they have done is a very serious thing, and what the Archbishop of Canterbury has done in inviting them is grievous and we wanted them to know that.

How does COU’s role in GAFCON affect my local church and my identity as an Anglican?

The Church of Uganda’s role in GAFCON means that the values of the Church of Uganda have been affirmed – the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the authority of the Bible, the importance of mission and evangelism, and the need for a practical outworking of the Gospel in the day-to-day lives of our people and communities.  .

What is the COU’s position on the ordination of women as Bishops?

The canons of the Church of Uganda indicate that anyone who is ordained is eligible to be elected as a Bishop.

What is the COU’s position on homosexuality?

The Church of Uganda’s position on homosexual behaviour is taken from the Bible, where it is considered a sin, along with idolatry, drunkenness, greed, adultery, stealing, fornication, lying, etc. (1 Corinthians 6.9-11).  Jesus came to save men and women, boys and girls from the power of sin and to give them abundant life in the righteousness of Christ.  The Church of Uganda welcomes all sinners and proclaims the Bible’s promise, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But, if we confess our sin, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1.8-9).  Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi has said, “Violence against homosexuals is wrong.”