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Fellowship leaders take flak in run-up to London launch

by Pat Ashworth

THE Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) will be launched on Monday at Westminster Central Hall. The organisers of the event, “Be Faithful”, are the FCA’s chairman, the Revd Paul Perkin of Reform, and secretary, Canon Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream.

The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who resigns on 1 September, is to issue a call to “re­pent of capitulating to cultures around them and focus on the faith of the Church down through the ages and on authentic mission to our nation”, a press statement said this week.

The FCA said that organisers had seen registrations “flooding in since the launch was announced just two months ago” — a claim repeated on conservative websites in the US. It is at odds with reports that, until two weeks ago, only half the places had been taken up, and the event had subsequently been opened up to a wider constituency. The Bishop of Sherborne, Dr Graham Kings, has accused the FCA in a pre-published newspaper article due to appear this week, of “ratcheted rhetoric” over claims of widespread support.

Church of England Evangelical Council members were urged to plug the event at its meeting last week. A concerned supporter of the Church Pastoral Aid Society contacted the Church Times when he received an email from the society’s director, John Dunnett, encouraging him to attend. He was given assurance in the email that the FCA was “avowedly not separatist”.

The Bishops of Chichester, Ful­ham, and Lewes are speaking at the event, and the Bishop of Chester has sent greetings, which have also come from Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya. The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen; the Rt Revd Keith Ackerman, retired Bishop of Quincy; the Revd Vaughan Roberts; and Canon Vinay Samuel are among the 12 speakers, who include one woman, Baroness Cox, the campaigner for persecuted Christians.

The FCA has its roots in the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) last year in Jerusalem, from which the recently launched Anglican Church in North America emerged. GAFCON issued the Jeru­salem Declaration, and announced the establishment of “a fellowship of confessing Anglicans for the benefit of the Church and the furtherance of its mission”. It describes itself as a cross-party forum for those con­cerned to preserve orthodox faith and doctrine.

Critics cite the collapse of the “Covenant for the Church of Eng­land”, drawn up by Canon Sugden and Mr Perkin in December 2006, as evidence of a lack of broad support among Evangelicals. The Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, described the document as “a sabre-rattling call to arms” and found in some of its declarations “a statement of seces­sionist intent” (News, 22 December 2006).

Concern is also being voiced that the FCA is embracing separatists, such as the Revd Charles Raven, who now has an independent congrega­tion in Worcestershire, and the Revd Richard Coekin. The latter’s licence was revoked by the Bishop of South­wark, Dr Tom Butler, after irregular ordinations in Surbiton in Novem­ber 2005.

Dr Butler refused to ordain any more clergy for Mr Coekin’s Co-Mission church plants until he was prepared to work collaboratively in the diocese. Mr Coekin appealed against the revocation of his licence and won because the Bishop’s action was deemed “technically flawed”. He was told in the judgment of the case to be obedient to his Bishop (News, 9 June 2006).

In a letter sent to Dr Butler in which he set a deadline of this week for an answer, he has now demanded that, unless the Bishop declares him­self to be orthodox, he will seek alterna­­tive episcopal oversight. A spokesperson for the Bishop said on Monday: “Bishop Tom . . . and his staff have recently been in protracted correspondence with Richard Coekin in an attempt to regularise the position of the Co-Mission con­gregations within the structures of the Church of England. The Bishop has now received a lengthy letter from Mr Coekin to which he has responded.”

The Vicar of Christ Church, New Malden, the Revd Stephen Kuhrt, has commented in a letter to Mr Perkin that FCA “has the potential to allow those who have disagreements with the diocesan bishops on quite dif­ferent grounds from biblical ortho­doxy to defy them and seek authority elsewhere.

“The demand that Richard has made to Bishop Tom is in contrast to Co-Mission’s delay and prevarication over the offer that the diocese itself has made to them on resolving the issues at the plants, presumably be­cause Richard prefers the situation that the FCA may provide him with.”

Mr Kuhrt, who describes himself as “completely orthodox on the issue of homosexuality and also totally pas­sionate about evangelism and mission”, cites the antagonism of the plants towards established Evan­gelical churches in the Kingston area, notably a prolonged attack against Christ Church in a sermon delivered at the Fairfield Co-Mission plant. “My deep concern is the huge potential for FCA to sanction a disorder that will cause further polarisation and completely undermine the mission that it is claiming to promote,” he concludes.

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