A group of 12 conservative Anglican archbishops have rejected Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby as the head of the Anglican Communion over a move to endorse the blessing of same-sex marriages.
The 12 archbishops, ten of whom are recognized by the Anglican Communion, are part of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GFSA) and announced they would no longer recognize Archbishop Welby as the head of the Anglican Communion and first among equals.
The move is the first time the authority of the most senior clergyman of the Church of England (CofE) has been rejected by a large number of Anglican churches since the formation of the Anglican Communion in 1867, the Times reports.
In a press release, the GFSA claimed that the CofE “has chosen to break communion with those provinces who remain faithful to the historic biblical faith expressed in the Anglican formularies,” and claimed the CofE under Archbishop Welby has “taken the path of false teaching.”
“With the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury forfeiting their leadership role of the global Communion, GSFA Primates will expeditiously meet, consult and work with other orthodox Primates in the Anglican Church across the nations to re-set the Communion on its biblical foundation,” the group said.
The announcement from the GFSA comes after another conservative group, The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) also spoke out against the CofE moving to allow blessings of same-sex unions.
“This decision by the Church of England raises questions regarding the relationship of Anglican provinces around the world with the Church of England and the continued role of the Archbishop of Canterbury,” GAFCON said.
The Church of England announced it would be blessing same-sex unions earlier this month with CofE bishops voting for the motion by 36 to four, winning a clear majority among the leader of the church.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, along with Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell reacted to the vote by saying, “It has been a long road to get us to this point,” and added, “For the first time, the Church of England will publicly, unreservedly and joyfully welcome same-sex couples in church.”
They also acknowledged the differences among other sections of the Anglican Communion saying, “As Archbishops, we are committed to respecting the conscience of those for whom this goes too far and to ensure that they have all the reassurances they need in order to maintain the unity of the Church as this conversation continues.”
Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, commented on the statement by the GFSA saying “no changes to the formal structures of the Anglican Communion can be made unless they are agreed upon,” by all of the Anglican Communion leaders and councils.
The move by the GFSA, labelled a “schism” by Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, comes after years of strife and disagreement within the Anglican Communion over a variety of issues from female clergy members to openly gay clergy members and issues on same-sex unions.
While the Church of England has yet to agree to approve the officiating of same-sex marriages within its churches, it has been launching other woke projects including a project on “gendered language” surrounding God that could see the church scrap terms like “Our Father” for gender neutral or feminine terms.