Statement by the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion

20 February 2023

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, the Right Reverend Anthony Poggo, said today:

“I have read today’s statement by primates of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans with sadness, but am also grateful for its frankness and candour. The statement raises important questions for our collective consideration. 

“The Primates who signed the statement have been consistently clear in upholding the traditional Christian doctrine that the proper place for sexual intimacy is within marriage, and that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman. These doctrines are held by the vast majority of Anglicans around the world. 

“It is necessary to correct two parts of the GSFA statement. The leadership of the Church of England has assured us that they have not changed their doctrine of marriage, nor have they introduced liturgy to bless same-sex relationships. To do so would require a different synodical process than that followed so far. Rather, the Church of England’s General Synod, meeting earlier this month, has endorsed the proposal that prayers can be used to invoke God’s blessings on people. The Synod also passed an amendment to the bishop’s proposals, stipulating that such prayers, when they are published prior to the next Synod meeting in July ‘should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England.’ Of course, this does not resolve other questions that have been raised about the clarity and wisdom of the proposals, upon which I will not comment. 

“The other correction that I feel should be made is to the sixth resolution in the GSFA statement. The commitment of Anglicans to walking together was not, and is not, ‘prescribed by the Anglican Communion Office’. The Anglican Communion Office is the secretariat of the Instruments of Communion and has no power to prescribe anything. 

“The commitment to walk together was made by the Primates at their meeting in 2016. It was a commitment to walk together, albeit at a distance with some provinces whose doctrine of marriage had changed. The commitment was reiterated at subsequent Primates’ Meetings, at last year’s Lambeth Conference, and last week’s meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), gathered in Accra, Ghana, for their 18th plenary meeting (ACC-18). 

“Representatives from 39 of the 42 member churches of the Anglican Communion were gathered in Ghana last week. The 110 members of the ACC present discussed together the effect of the Church of England’s decision. At that meeting, the ACC affirmed “the importance of seeking to walk together to the highest degree possible, and learning from our ecumenical conversations how to accommodate differentiation patiently and respectfully”. 

““The latter affirmation was made as part of a proposal from the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – a body which includes some of the primates from the Global; South – to ‘explore theological questions regarding structure and decision-making to help address our differences in the Anglican Communion.’ IASCUFO plans to complete its project over the next year. 

“I know that IASCUFO will welcome any proposalsj from the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans – and others – on whether changes should be made to the Instruments of Communion, including the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

“I am also glad to read the pledge of the primates in their letter that they ‘will not walk away from the Communion that has so richly blessed us and for whose faithfulness to God and His word our forebears have paid a costly price.’ I pray that these true words can inspire the whole Communion to commit to the work of faithful reform and renewal of our shared Faith and Order in the coming years.” 

“I will be in touch with the Primates from the Global South, as part of my regular conversations with all primates, as we seek to strengthen the unity of the Anglican Communion and work through those things that divide us. 

“The Archbishop of Canterbury, as Chair of the Primates’ Meeting, has asked me to arrange a Primates’ Meeting in the near future and has indicated that he is willing for sessions of this meeting that are discussing the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Communion to be chaired by other primates selected by them to enable open discussion about the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Communion. 

I would like to conclude with the words of the Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa, Archbishop Cyril Ben-Smith, at the end of our ACC-18 meeting last week: there is one thing that divides us; but there are many more things that we agree on.”

  • Note: Lambeth Palace, the office of the Archbishop of Cantebrury, has also issued a statement today. Read it here.