Anglican group rejects Archbishop of Canterbury as schism widens
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby © Ben Stansall / AFP

A global grouping of 25 Anglican churches has said it no longer recognizes Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby as its leader following the decision to allow the blessing of same-sex couples in England.

The Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), which represents many of the Anglican church's southern hemisphere provinces, said in a statement Monday that it "is no longer able to recognize the present Archbishop of Canterbury... Justin Welby, as the 'first among equals' Leader of the global Communion."

Conservative churches within the global communion -- the third largest in the world with around 85 million members -- are at loggerheads with the more liberal Church of England (CoE) leadership, threatening a split.

The GSFA, which says it speaks for 75 percent of Anglicans around the world, accused the CoE of "taking the path of false teaching" by allowing same-sex blessings.

"As the Church of England has departed from the historic faith ... she has disqualified herself from leading the Communion as the historic 'Mother' Church," it said.

"Our calling to be 'a holy remnant' does not allow us to be 'in communion' with those provinces that have departed from the historic faith. This breaks our hearts and we pray for the revisionist provinces to return to 'the faith once delivered'," it added.

The Archbishop's office issued a statement saying that "we note the statement issued today by some Anglican Primates and we fully appreciate their position.

"However, no changes to the formal structures of the Anglican Communion can be made unless they are agreed upon by the Instruments of Communion", of which Welby is one, it added.

The Church of England's governing body endorsed plans to let priests offer blessings to same-sex couples earlier this month, after hours of acrimonious debate.

The Church's General Synod -- comprising hundreds of elected members, which meets two or three times a year -- backed the proposals by a wide margin following an eight-hour debate across two days.

© 2023 AFP