Defining GSFA’s role: Chairman’s letter to Primates of the Global South
The Most Revd Dr Justin Badi Arama
Chairman of GSFA
6th August 2021
To: The Primates of the Global South
CLARIFICATION LETTER TO GS PRIMATES regarding GSFA COVENANTAL STRUCTURE
My Dear Brother Archbishops,
1. Grace, peace and strength in our Saviour’s name.
2. This is a note to all GS Primates to keep you updated on a key subject raised at the last GS Primates Meeting on 14th June 2021.
3. At this meeting, there were a number of good questions and clarification points raised in relation to the new GSFA Covenantal Structure.
4. We noted that this new Structure has already been adopted by the 7th GS Conference in Cairo in October 2019. The GS Primates Steering Committee, supported by the Executive Secretariat, was mandated by the 7th GS Conference to oversee the implementation of the Covenantal Structure [see 7th GS Conference Communique, para 29]. The GSFA Covenantal Structure paper has since been circulated to GS Provinces for their consideration, acceptance and membership application according to their Provincial processes.
5. So far, 6 Provinces have already sent in their Membership Application forms to the new GSFA (Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches) with 5 Provinces indicating that their applications are under-way. Other Provinces are at different stages of deliberating their response.
6. We are therefore in a time of TRANSITION from the old structure to the new. Your prayers and support are highly valued. Your feedback has been most helpful.
7. We seek now to clarify the nature and purpose of the new GSFA structure by way of answering some critical questions:
1. Is GSFA separatist from the Communion?
The answer is NO. We see GSFA as a vital part of the Anglican Communion.
(a) Our 4-fold objectives are:
Guard the faith once delivered.
Unite in mission & ministry.
Work for the well-being of the Anglican Communion.
Promote good leadership and accountability across member Provinces.
(b) Our historical formation: GS has always been an ecclesial body within the Anglican Communion. Its beginnings can be traced to an ACC supported Missions Conference (MISAG) in Brisbane in 1986 which led to the first Global South (South- South Encounter) Conference in 1994 in Limuru.
(c) The reason for the new GSFA Structure is to address the ‘ecclesial deficit’ identified by the Windsor Continuation Group at Lambeth Conference in 2008. Orthodox GS Provinces sought to enhance ecclesial responsibility among themselves (GS Study Group in 2016) for faithful witness and mission in such an hour.
(d) GSFA does not take a position on whether member Provinces should attend Lambeth 2022 or not but leaves such decisions to the processes of the individual Province.
2. Is GSFA a parallel structure to the Anglican Communion?
NO, we are not. We are an ecclesial grouping of orthodox Provinces within the Anglican Communion. The conciliar STRUCTURES we have developed are to enhance our ecclesial responsibility as one global grouping within the Anglican Communion to hold each other accountable across Provinces to remain faithful to holy Scripture in our faith and practice. The TRACKS in our structure are to facilitate inter-Provincial engagement and support in the mission & ministry of the Gospel.
3. Is GSFA another form of GAFCON?
The answer is NO.
(a) GSFA is an ecclesial body within the Anglican Communion, to enable a coherent, collective, and global witness of orthodox Anglican Provinces and Dioceses. GSFA and GAFCON have different histories and different approaches. We believe that we also have distinct purposes and identities under God, at this time. Several orthodox Provinces are members of both bodies but some are part of one but not the other.
(b) GSFA maintains a distinctive but collaborative attitude towards all other orthodox groupings within the Anglican Communion, such as GAFCON, EFAC, ARDF, Communion Partners, CEEC, SOMA & others.
4. Is GSFA a regional grouping or a confessional grouping?
(a) GSFA started out as a regional grouping in 1994 among Provinces in the geographical South of the globe. Most of the member Provinces were orthodox in faith and practice. With the theological diversity in the Anglican Communion growing beyond the bounds of a plain reading of holy Scripture and the unchecked spread of revisionism in the Anglican Communion, it has become necessary for the Global South body to have a clear doctrinal foundation. Hence the new GSFA structure is built upon the Fundamental Declarations of Doctrine, derived from the 39 Articles, the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and the Ordinal.
(b) When the 7th GS Conference in 2019 adopted, the proposed new Covenantal Structure, a change in the basis of membership was agreed upon. Membership to GSFA will be based on confession of common doctrine (as stated in the Fundamental Declarations) and agreement to the conciliar structures that bind the ecclesial body together. At the same time, the new Covenantal Structure is intended to keep the historic leading role of the traditional and geographical Global South Churches. This is to be achieved while being ready to admit into GSFA fellowship orthodox Provinces and Dioceses from across the nations, including the global North.
(c) In order to be true to our history and to preserve the leading role of the traditional GS Provinces in the emerging body called GSFA, we have retained the words ‘Global South’ in the new name of the grouping and we have made provision in the election of the Chair of the new body that due consideration be given that the Chair is from one of the traditional GS Provinces. We will continue to look into ways in which GSFA can be a true fellowship among orthodox Provinces while at the same time ensuring, under the headship of Christ, that the top leadership of GSFA continues to comprise mainly of Primates and Bishops from the traditional Global South Provinces.
5. Will the new GSFA Structure supplant or by-pass Provincial and Diocesan ecclesiastical and legal structures and processes?
The answer is NO.
(a) GSFA recognizes the territorial jurisdiction and ecclesiastical laws that govern the life of the Provinces and Dioceses in the Anglican Communion, including those who become members of our grouping.
(b) The new GSFA Structure has to do with governance, decision-making and Covenantal accountability for the new global grouping of its members. Provinces join the grouping voluntarily after their own due process. They should ensure that there is nothing contrary in their own Constitution and Canons to the Covenantal Structure of GSFA before applying for Membership.
(c) The spirit of the GSFA Covenantal Structure is not to ‘control’ individual Provinces but to be effective in ensuring mutual accountability and inter-dependence across Provinces and to engender the joy of ‘one-another-ness’ in guarding and propagating the Gospel “which is the saving power of God to all who believe.” (Romans 1:16-17)
6. Will the new GSFA Structure encourage splintering within a Province?
(a) The GSFA is a fellowship of orthodox Anglican Provinces and Dioceses who agree to be mutually accountable and interdependent in faith, practice and mission.
(b) In the Structure paper, the process of accepting a diocese or a group of orthodox Anglican churches into GSFA is designed to be rigorous to avoid breakaway Dioceses who do not have legitimate reasons for acting on their own in seeking Membership. The Structure provides for the Board of the Assembly, in consultation with the Council of GSFA Primates and the aid of a screening panel, to accept or reject every application received.
(c) Dioceses that apply for membership on their own and not as part of their Province will have to explain why and also show proof that their Archbishop and Provincial Standing Committee have been duly informed. This is part of the screening process.
7. Can amendments be made to the Covenantal Structure?
YES, but not at this point.
(a) The present GSFA Covenantal Structure has been officially accepted by the last GS Conference (Oct 2019) and the resolution passed is to carry out its implementation. Only a future, duly constituted Assembly (as provided for in the Structure), can amend the content of the present document. We are planning to have the first Assembly in 2023/2024 given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
(b) At the coming 8th GS Conference (14-17 Oct 2021), there will be a Motion to make some minor editorial corrections and to add some specific numbers on composition of Committees to the Covenantal Structure.
(c) However, comments and suggestions from Provinces to amend or add to the Covenantal Structure paper can already be sent in to the GSFA Steering Committee for their consideration and review. We believe the adopted Covenantal Structure in 2019 is sound and good enough for a launch. Certainly, we will make refinements along the way as an Assembly to fulfil our God-given purpose.
We hope the above clarifications help. Please write to me if there are still some questions on your mind or some feedback you want to give on the Covenantal Structure. We in the GSFA Steering Committee need your prayers and value your support as go forward in our witness and mission for Christ Jesus our Lord.
Please do consider your Province’s full participation at the coming 8th Global South Conference by ZOOM from 14-17 October 2021. You will soon receive a letter from our GSFA Secretariat specifying the nominations and preparations you need to make for the Conference. God-willing, this Conference will be the pre-cursor to the first GSFA Assembly (under the new structure) in about two years’ time.
May the Lord be pleased with us and may He build us up to be His shining witnesses for such a time as this. To Him alone be all the glory!
We wish you all a HAPPY EASTER!
Yours in the service of the Risen Christ,