6th January 2016

Feast of the Epiphany

Dear Bishops, Clergy, and Lay Leaders of the Church of Uganda,

Happy New Year! We thank God so much for seeing us through 2015 and opening for us the door to enter into 2016. Surely, God is good…all the time!

 I am taking this extraordinary opportunity to write you about two important matters and to ask for your sustained and fervent prayers for them – elections in our country, and the state and future of the Anglican Communion.

 Elections. Campaigning is back in high gear after the Christmas holidays and I want to remind all our leaders and Christians about three things I shared in my Christmas message to the nation: 

 1.      Politics is not our salvation. Only Jesus is our salvation. The name ‘Jesus’ literally means Saviour. He is the only one who can save us.  Peter preached to the religious leaders of his day and said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12) This is the message of Christmas and it is also the message for Uganda in this election season. Politics and candidates will not save us. ONLY JESUS can save us. Please remember this!

 2.      Vote for candidates on the basis of their merit, not because they are giving away soap or sugar…or, for any other reason.

 3.      Resist violence and be agents of peace and stability. Focus on building the electoral structures and processes that foster the democracy of our constitution and together keep Uganda peaceful. 

 Finally, in keeping with the united position of IRCU (Inter-Religious Council of Uganda) and UJCC (Uganda Joint Christian Council), the Church should not endorse any particular political candidate or provide an opportunity for campaigning during a church service, burial, wedding, or other church function. The church is neutral about individual candidates. We care about issues and what is best for all Ugandans, but we encourage our Christians to vote their conscience.

 The Anglican Communion.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, has called for a gathering of Primates and a Primates Meeting in Canterbury, England, next week, from 11th – 15th January. Together with my fellow GAFCON Primates, I will travel to England. 

 The Provincial Assembly of the Church of Uganda has resolved to not participate in any official meetings of the Anglican Communion until godly order is restored.  What do we mean by “godly order?”  And, has it been restored? Let me give you some background. 

 Since 2003 the fabric of the Anglican Communion has been torn at its deepest level. The event that triggered this serious situation was the Episcopal Church USA’s consecration as bishop of a divorced father of two children, then living in a gay relationship. 

 Equally concerning was the sustained inability of the structures of the Anglican Communion – including the Archbishop of Canterbury himself – to discipline the Episcopal Church and restore godly order to the Anglican Communion.  

 After five years of endless meetings, conversations, commissions, and reports, several of the Primates from the Global South of the Anglican Communion came together to seek a way forward. We called our Provinces to come together in Jerusalem in 2008, along with faithful, Bible-believing, orthodox brethren from America, Canada, UK, and other Western countries.  This was the beginning of GAFCON – the Global Anglican Future!

 The first GAFCON conference in 2008 in Jerusalem involved more than 1,200 Anglicans from all over the world. It was the largest, global conference of Bishops, clergy, and lay people ever held in the Anglican Communion. 

 The participants – including 106 from the Church of Uganda – overwhelmingly affirmed the Jerusalem Declaration as an expression of the essential faith of Anglicanism, the heart of mission, and the foundations for authentic, Biblical fellowship. 

 The Primates Council of GAFCON urged the Biblically orthodox in North America to come together as one, united church. In 2009, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) was born.  The Church of Uganda, together with the GAFCON Provinces and other Provinces of the Anglican Communion, has recognized the ACNA as an authentic expression of Anglicanism and declared ourselves in communion with them. 

 The second global GAFCON conference was held five years later in 2013 in Nairobi, with more than 1,300 people present, including more than 170 from the Church of Uganda. The Nairobi GAFCON conference recognized the significance of the East African Revival as a model for the global renewal and mission of Anglicanism. The Nairobi GAFCON conference secured the commitment to maintaining the momentum of GAFCON as a force for renewal and mission within Anglicanism.

 While we rejoice in the birth and celebrate the growth of GAFCON as a global fellowship, the structures within the Anglican Communion have continued to disappoint us by their inability to restore Biblical faith and order to the Anglican Communion. 

 The Primates Meeting in 2007 in Dar es Salaam laid out a plan to bring discipline and restore order, and was unanimously supported by all 38 Primates of the Anglican Communion. Sadly, the Archbishop of Canterbury later unilaterally overruled it and did not implement it. This further breach of trust deepened the tear in the fabric of the Anglican Communion.  

 As GAFCON Primates, we have since met with the current Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, and explained our position – we are not in communion with the Episcopal Church USA or the Anglican Church of Canada (for similar reasons). We, therefore, cannot participate in meetings to which they are invited because that would mean there were no problems in the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion has, in fact, experienced a serious rupture and the wound is still deep. 

 Godly order has not yet been restored in the Anglican Communion and, therefore, as Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, I am constrained by the resolutions of our Provincial Assembly to not participate in a Primates Meeting.

 At the same time, the Archbishop of Canterbury contacted me personally, along with every Primate of the Anglican Communion, and invited us to come together for a “gathering” to consider if there was a way forward for the Anglican Communion. 

 Together with the other GAFCON Primates, we have agreed to be part of a “gathering” of Primates in Canterbury to discuss the future of the Anglican Communion, keeping in mind Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” 

 As GAFCON, we have a clear vision of the future of global Anglicanism and have been moving forward with that vision since Jerusalem in 2008.  The Archbishop of Canterbury understands that the first topic of conversation in the “gathering” of Primates is the restoration of godly order in the Anglican Communion.  This is the unfinished business from the non-implemented, but unanimously agreed, Communique from the 2007 Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam. 

 If such discipline is implemented and godly order restored during the “gathering” of Primates, then I will be free to join any subsequent Primates Meeting that may be convened immediately thereafter in Canterbury. If such discipline and godly order is not restored, then I will uphold the Provincial Assembly’s resolution and withdraw from the meeting.

 This is a serious moment for the Anglican Communion. I earnestly ask your prayers for the Primates to seek the mind of Christ and to take seriously their call to guard the unity and faith of the Church. Please pray for continued unity among the GAFCON Primates. Finally, I ask you to please pray for me, as I carry on my shoulders the convictions of the Church of Uganda and represent you in Canterbury.

 Yours, in Christ,

 

The Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali

ARCHBISHOP OF CHURCH OF UGANDA.