With its African leadership, GAFCON represents the future of the Anglican Church. The Episcopal Church of the USA, under the leadership of presiding bishop Katherine Jeffers Schori, has suffered a disastrous decline. Using strong-arm tactics to bully disenchanted Episcopalians into line, Schori has overseen plummeting numbers and falling revenues. Meanwhile, the Church of England, following the Episcopalians’ enthusiasm for liberal causes, has shared the Episcopal Church’s drastic fall in worshippers. The Episcopal Church membership has dropped from 3.6 million in the 1960s to fewer than 1.4 million today; Church of England attendance has halved in the past 40 years.
Meanwhile, as John L. Allen Jr. reports in “The Future Church,” Christianity in Africa is burgeoning, and the Anglican Church accounts for a significant part of the growth. The Pew Forum reports that at the beginning of the 20th century, Anglicans from sub-Sahara Africa made up only 0.4 percent of Anglicans worldwide. Today they comprise more than 45 percent. When that is contrasted with the fact that the Episcopal Church makes up less than 4 percent, one can understand the disenchantment of African bishops at the hugely disproportionate presence that North American Anglicans have at the global Anglican table.
Unless there is some unexpected turnaround in the Church of England and the Anglican churches of the developed world, GAFCON is the Anglican Communion of the future. If so, what does this development mean for Anglican-Roman Catholic ecumenism?
First, it should be recognized that the old form of Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue is finished.