A NEW conservative Evangelical group, the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), already has three newly ordained clergy waiting to minister in the UK.
The Society, launched at the end of last week, offers alternative episcopal oversight when diocesan bishops “are failing in their canonical duty to uphold sound teaching”.
The three unnamed clerics were ordained in Kenya on 11 June by the Archbishop of Kenya, Dr Eliud Wabukala, who chairs the GAFCON Primates’ Council, formed after the Global Anglican conference in Jerusalem in 2008. All three come from the diocese of Southwark. The diocese said on Wednesday that it had received no request for permission to officiate there.
Dr Williams was in Kenya last week. A Lambeth spokeswoman was unable to say this week whether the two had discussed this development.
The Revd Charles Raven, the director of the Society for the Propagation of Reformed Evangelical Anglican Doctrine, wrote on the organisation’s website on Thursday of last week that the three men had gone to Kenya to be ordained “because the English diocesan bishop concerned had refused to give any assurances that he would uphold biblical teaching on homosexual practice”.
The chairman of the AMiE steering committee is the Revd Paul Perkin, Vicar of St Mark’s, Battersea Rise, and the group’s secretary is Canon Chris Sugden.
Dr Sugden said that the group was awaiting a response from Dr Williams to Dr Wabukala’s request that the three clergy be granted permission to officiate under the Overseas Clergy Measure. The chairman of Reform, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas, said that “episcopal oversight” of the three men “has been delegated to the AMiE bishops”.
The AMiE has appointed its own “panel” of five bishops “to provide effective oversight in collaboration with senior clergy”. The panel consists of one serving bishop, the Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Wallace Benn, and four retired bishops: Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Rt Revd John Ball, the Rt Revd Colin Bazley, and the Rt Revd John Ellison.
The Church Times twice contacted Bishop Benn’s office asking for comment, but did not receive a response.
The AMiE held its inaugural event on Thursday of last week at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly (EMA) meeting in St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, London. A statement released the same day by the AMiE said that it had been “established as a society within the Church of England dedicated to the conversion of England and biblical church-planting.
“The desire of those who identify with the society is to have an effective structure which enables them to remain in the Church of England and work as closely as possible with its institutions.”
The statement said that churches and individuals “may join or affiliate themselves with the AMiE. . . Some may be churches in impaired communion with their diocesan bishop who require oversight. Others may be in good relations with their bishop but wish to identify with and support others.”
Mr Thomas said in a message posted on the group’s website that the formation of AMiE was “the first major practical step the FCA [the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans] has taken in this country to help churches which are in impaired or non-existent communion with [Church of England] bishops”.
Fulcrum, a more liberal Evangelical group in the Church of England, expressed its “very serious concerns” about the Anglican Mission in England.
In a statement issued on Monday, it said that the “seemingly secret” ordinations in Kenya represented “the authorisation of ministry apart from the Church of England, and the irregular ordination of clergy to minister within the Church of England under the jurisdiction of another province of the Anglican Communion. It is thus a further escalation from the earlier and regrettable Southwark ordinations” (News, 11 November 2005).
The chairman of Fulcrum, the Revd Stephen Kuhrt, said: “What is sad is that most of these things are unveiled suddenly, almost always in secret. It usually turns out there has been a huge amount of planning, and something is unveiled to almost create facts on the ground.”
The AMiE, however, was formed out of frustration at the lack of progress in talks with the C of E hierarchy, Dr Sugden said. “We have been in discussion with Evangelical bishops and other senior Anglicans for four-and-a-half years, seeking a way forward. . . We had a year of meetings with representatives of the Archbishop [of Canterbury], and submitted to him a long paper indicating the issues and options and trying to find a way forward. [These meetings] have produced no result.
“The Archbishop was requested by many Evangelicals to appoint a conservative Evangelical as one of the Provincial Episcopal Visitors, and regrettably he did not see that as the way forward.”
Fulcrum said that the name of the society “clearly echoes that of the breakaway Anglican Mission in America . . . inviting the conclusion that this is the true purpose of the new society”. It said that the panel of bishops “represents the creation of a structure of alternative episcopal oversight apart from the Church of England”.
But Mr Thomas said: “There is still much work to be done on exactly how AMiE will operate in future — in particular, on how its bishops will in future be selected, and the role they will perform. One possibility is that they will look to local deans of mission to engage with individual congregations.”
Should AMiE clergy be given permission to officiate in C of E parishes?