THE appointment of a US Episcopalian bishop to an honorary role in the diocese of Liverpool has provoked further criticism from conservative Evangelicals.
The Suffragan Bishop of Virginia, the Rt Revd Susan Goff, was commissioned to serve as an honorary Assisting Bishop in Liverpool last month, with the approval of both the Archbishop of York and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Most Revd Michael Curry (News, 27 May).
But the chairman of GAFCON and Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, has condemned the decision, arguing that the “false teaching” of the Episcopal Church was now being “normalised” within the Church of England.
In a pastoral letter published online, Archbishop Okoh wrote: “A line has been crossed in the Church of England itself with the appointment of Bishop Susan Goff.
“At our recent Primates Council meeting in Nairobi we reaffirmed our solidarity with the leaders of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the UK and the Anglican Mission in England at this testing time.”
The diocese of Akure in the Church of Nigeria, which has a longstanding connection with both the dioceses of Liverpool and Virginia, has issued a statement stating that it will sever these links because Bishop Goff supports same-sex marriage and has allegedly backed litigation against breakaway conservative Anglicans in the US.
The statement, signed by the Bishop of Akure, the Rt Revd Simeon Borokini, ends: “We in Akure diocese cannot have any link with Liverpool diocese. We pray that Jesus Christ, the Owner of His Church will reveal Himself to us anew, in Jesus name.”
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, wrote in a blog that he had yet to receive formal notification from Bishop Borokini that he wishes to end the partnership. “If our partners choose to close this door, this is a matter of sorrow for us but of course we respect their decision as free partners in a free relationship.”
Despite the “consequences” laid out for the Episcopal Church by the Primates’ Meeting in January (News, 15 January), Bishop Bayes said that he had invited Bishop Goff to become an honorary assistant bishop as a practical example of “walking together”, the strategy unanimously commended by the primates.
“I remain delighted that our ministry here will be enriched by what Bishop Susan will bring to us as a teacher, pastor, and disciple,” he wrote.
The diocese of Liverpool is also now exploring creating a three-way relationship between itself, the diocese of Virginia, and the diocese of Kumasi in Ghana.
Bishop Goff’s role in Liverpool has also come under fire from the conservative Evangelical group Reform. Its director, Susie Leafe, said in a statement that the conflicts in the wider Anglican Communion had been brought into the heart of the diocese of Liverpool.
“The long standing link with Akure diocese, in Nigeria, has been severed for the sake of closer ties with the Episcopal Church. The decision to appoint Susan Goff as an honorary assistant bishop is a provocative and divisive step which is obviously unacceptable from someone who holds themselves out as a focus of unity.”