Conservatives prepare to fight for ‘soul of nation’

by
09 July 2009

by Ed Beavan

The launch of the FCA at Westminster Central Hall PHOTOS STEPHEN SIZER

The launch of the FCA at Westminster Central Hall ...

A “NEW REFORMATION” was talked of at the official launch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) on Monday. Speakers none the less reiterated their desire to remain part of the Church of Eng­land and the Anglican Communion while upholding “orthodox, biblical Anglicanism”.

Organisers reported that 1600 supporters, representing 320 par­ishes, attended the conference in Westminster Central Hall, in Lon­don, for the launch, which was described as a “regional expression” of the Global Anglican Future Con­ference (GAFCON) held in Jeru­salem almost exactly a year ago. Most of those who attended appeared to be either conservative Evangelicals or Anglo-Catholics.

The day started with messages of good will from absent dignitaries, among them the Queen, who sent “good wishes to all concerned for a successful and memorable event”. She wrote that she understood “the commitment to the Anglican Church that prompted you and your breth­ren to write as you did”.

The former Archbishop of Canter­bury, Lord Carey, urged the group to “build the strongest bonds of com­munion with the rest of the Anglican family”, and spoke of the “grievous hurts” he had seen across the Com­munion “caused by the lamentable actions of the Episcopal Church [in the US] in 2003”, when it ordained an openly gay bishop, the Rt Revd Gene Robinson.

The former Archbishop of Canter­bury, Lord Carey, urged the group to “build the strongest bonds of com­munion with the rest of the Anglican family”, and spoke of the “grievous hurts” he had seen across the Com­munion “caused by the lamentable actions of the Episcopal Church [in the US] in 2003”, when it ordained an openly gay bishop, the Rt Revd Gene Robinson.

The Archbishop of Canterbury sent a statement offering his prayers for the occasion, and messages of support were also read out from the Bishops of Winchester and Chester, and the Bishop-elect of Southwell & Nottingham. The Archbishops of Uganda and Rwanda sent video messages of support.

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The first Bishop to address the conference was the Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Revd John Hind, who told delegates that there was “an urgent need for all those who wish to maintain the integrity of the An­glican inheritance to learn to speak with one voice”.

At the heart of the present crisis, he said, were “attempts to minimise the uniqueness of Jesus. If, as I sus­pect, a new Reformation is in the offing, or already under way, it is imperative to return to Jesus.”

The Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, the Most Revd Greg Venables, rebutted criticism that the FCA was a schismatic group. “We have not set up an alternative denomination or Communion. We’re the ‘Original McCoy’ Anglicans. We have not set up an alternative leadership.

“We’ve not divided the Church. That happened in 2003 when ECUSA ignored the voice of the Anglican Communion. We’ve simply and necessarily affirmed the central truths of the Christian faith as received. We’ve raised the standard, if you like.”

“We’ve not divided the Church. That happened in 2003 when ECUSA ignored the voice of the Anglican Communion. We’ve simply and necessarily affirmed the central truths of the Christian faith as received. We’ve raised the standard, if you like.”

Dr Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney and the FCA general sec­retary, also said the grouping was not divisive. Such suggestions by op­ponents were “at best misunder­standings and at worst political posturing. The FCA exists to keep Anglicanism united, and enable those whose spiritual existence as Anglicans is threatened to remain Anglicans with integrity.

“It exists to keep orthodox, bib­lical Anglicanism inside the fold at the highest level possible; to gather up the fragments, to unite them. It exists so that Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics and mere Anglicans can continue to be Anglicans without compromising biblical truth.”

He said that in the UK “the Chris­tian foundations have been shaken. In this and the next generation there will be fought what may amount to the last battle for the soul of the nation.”

Dr Jensen said that GAFCON had been a remarkable success, and “had rescued the 80,000 Anglican Christians in North America who have been forced to disaffiliate from their Church by the sanctification of sin”.

These included Dr Jim Packer, whose right to officiate in the Church of Canada had been re­moved when his church voted to realign with the Province of the Southern Cone. Dr Jensen said that when Jim Packer’s Anglicanism was questioned, something was “deeply wrong”.

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The Rt Revd Keith Ackerman, the former Bishop of Quincy in Illinois, asked for members of the press to identify themselves, before warning: “If you write this is all about homo­sexuality and the ordination of women, I’ll want to meet with you afterwards.” He was speaking after a newspaper report in which the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, was quoted as calling on gay people to “repent”.

The Rt Revd Keith Ackerman, the former Bishop of Quincy in Illinois, asked for members of the press to identify themselves, before warning: “If you write this is all about homo­sexuality and the ordination of women, I’ll want to meet with you afterwards.” He was speaking after a newspaper report in which the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, was quoted as calling on gay people to “repent”.

In a written response, Dr Nazir-Ali, who presided at the FCA eucharist on Monday, wrote that he had in fact said: “We all needed to repent for straying from God’s pur­pose for us”; the “lurid head­lines” in The Sunday Telegraph fell short of the “nuanced discussion” he had had with the reporter.

In his sermon, he spoke of “a gradual erosion of gospel faith and Christian values even in the churches” in the UK.

In his sermon, he spoke of “a gradual erosion of gospel faith and Christian values even in the churches” in the UK.

His words echoed those of Bishop Ackerman, who spoke of the “ero­sion” in the Episcopal Church over the past 30 years. Anglo-Catholics in the Episcopal Church had gone “from being a tolerated minority to being a persecuted minority”, and it was essential that they found ways to work together with Evangelicals “for the glory of God”.

The Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd John Broadhurst, chairman of Forward in Faith, said that when he was first ordained he believed in Jesus Christ but not the devil. “I now believe Satan is alive and well and resides in Church House.”

He said that over the past 25 years the Church had moved away from the gospel, to a situation where “people believe in the system, and not in the gospel.”

In the afternoon, delegates heard testimonies of some of the mission work and church-planting by FCA supporters across the UK. Several clergy told of the opposition they had faced when crossing parish boundaries to set up church plants. One church-planter in Oxford said: “The needs of the gospel are more important than parish boundaries that not many people know about.”

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