A GROUP of disaffected conservative Evangelicals has expressed a wish for an alternative Anglican structure in Britain.
In a statement issued last week, the group — which contains several members who no longer belong to the C of E — expresses dismay at recent decisions by the General Synod about sexuality, and reveals that they have been meeting to discuss how to “ensure a faithful ecclesial future”.
In a letter in Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph the group goes further, declaring that there are two kinds of Anglicanism in Britain: “One has capitulated to secular values, and one continues to hold the faith ‘once delivered to the saints’.”
A similar division in the United States and Canada led to the creation of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the letter-writers note. They conclude: “We look for and pray for a similar renewal of orthodox Anglicanism and of Anglican structures in these islands.”
In the initial statement, the signatories say that the Synod is pursuing principles “contrary to the Bible and church tradition”.
These “tragic developments” — presumably a reference to votes by the Synod to ban gay conversion therapy and request a liturgy to affirm gender transition — were not, however, “unexpected”, the statement goes on, because of the continuing failure by most of the House of Bishops to hold the Church of England to traditional teaching.
For some time, the group says, it has been meeting to plan for the future. “We now wish that we have done so to be more widely known.”
The signatories include the new GAFCON UK missionary bishop to Europe, the Rt Revd Andy Lines (News, 7 July); the director of the pressure group Reform, Susie Leafe (a General Synod member); and the Rt Revd Jonathan Pryke, a curate in Newcastle who was ordained Bishop in the Church of God earlier this year by the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church in South Africa (News, 12 May).
Other signatories include the retired Bishop John Ellison; the Archdeacon of Cardigan in the Church in Wales, the Ven. Dr Will Strange; Lorna Ashworth, a member of the Archbishops’ Council as well as Reform. They are joined by a number of figures from the Anglican Mission in England and the Free Church of England.
They state: “Our number is drawn from bishops, clergy and laity, from across Great Britain and from a breadth of traditions. Much more importantly, however, we meet joyfully united by a shared endorsement of the terms of the Jerusalem Declaration,” referring to the founding document of the GAFCON movement (News, 3 July 2008).
“Accordingly, and in preparation for such eventualities we, as some of those committed to the renewal of biblical and orthodox Anglicanism have already started to meet, on behalf of our fellow Anglicans, to discuss how to ensure a faithful ecclesial future.”
The group intends to meet again in October, when a greater range of contributions will be sought.
The Telegraph letter was signed by many of the same names. They are joined by a former Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, and the chief executive of Christian Concern, Andrea Minichiello Williams (another General Synod member).
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, however, has dismissed the suggestion that the decisions of the Synod had scorned Biblical teaching. In a letter to The Daily Telegraph he wrote: “The threefold sources of authority in the Church of England are scripture, tradition, and reason, with scripture as the foundation. Nothing agreed at the recent Synod undermines that.”
Bishop James also told The Times that the votes on banning gay conversion therapy and requesting a liturgy to welcome transgender people were pastoral in nature, and did not touch upon the C of E’s doctrine.
In fact, there was just as much risk of liberal Anglicans quitting the Church over the slow pace of reform than of conservatives walking out, he said. “I don’t think it’s a case of being counter-cultural for its own sake or being captive to secular society. It should be neither of those things.”
A website has been set up where others can add their names to the letter. So far, at least 340 people have done so, including C of E clergy and others from across the Anglican Communion.
Another of the signatories, a former honorary chaplain to the Queen, the Revd Dr Gavin Ashenden, told the Telegraph that the Archbishop of Canterbury should steel himself for a “revolt in the form of an independence movement” if he does not shepherd the Church away from “progressive secularism”.
Dr Ashenden himself declared that he had left the C of E earlier this year.
In a separate statement, the Bishop Primus of the Free Church of England, the Rt Revd John Fenwick, another of the signatories, noted that his own Church had offered an “alternative Anglican jurisdiction” and an “orthodox Anglican witness” since the 1840s.
The Free Church of England’s bishops were also in regular contact with Bishop Lines, whose consecrating Church, ACNA, was in “full communion” with the Free Church of England.
The object of the meetings, Bishop Fenwick said, was to ensure the continuance of orthodox Anglican teaching. It had not yet been decided whether that was to be within the C of E or elsewhere.
Other conservative Evangelicals have also been organising. The PCC of St John’s, Newland, in Hull, has withheld its free will offering and demanded that the Archbishop of York “repent” of comments he made at the Synod.
In a resolution passed unanimously, the PCC accused Dr Sentamu of responding with “theological ineptitude” and in an “intemperate and ungodly” manner to an amendment during the “state of the nation” debate at Synod (Synod, 14 July). The amendment had been moved by Ms Minichiello Williams and was voted down.
The resolution goes on to decry how the Synod “ridiculed, mocked, and scorned” the teachings of Jesus.
The Revd Dr Peter Sanlon, Vicar of St Mark’s, Tunbridge Wells and signatory to both the statement and letter, has revealed more detail about what his “shadow synod” of conservative Evangelical churches in Kent and Sussex — which was set up last year (News, 2 September) — has been working on.
In an article for Evangelicals Now, Dr Sanlon noted that “until churches talk about money, they are merely talking” and explained that the “Anglican Partnership Synod” wanted to establish its own Rochester diocesan Good Stewards Trust, so that conservative Evangelical parishes could ensure that their parish share was directed towards like-minded mission only.
The synod is also looking at planting new churches, some inside the C of E, and some, with the support of the Anglican Mission in England and the Free Church of England, outside.
The full statement and all signatories, as they describe themselves:
Many will share our dismay at the recent decisions of the General Synod of the Church of England and the pursuing principles, values and practices contrary to Holy Scripture and church Tradition.
Given the persistent failure of the majority of the House of Bishops to fulfil the God-given duties which they have sworn to discharge these tragic developments were, sadly, not wholly unexpected.
Accordingly, and in preparation for such eventualities we, as some of those committed to the renewal of biblical and orthodox Anglicanism have already started to meet, on behalf of our fellow Anglicans, to discuss how to ensure a faithful ecclesial future.
We now wish that we have done so to be more widely known.
Our number is drawn from bishops, clergy and laity, from across Great Britain and from a breadth of traditions. Much more importantly, however, we meet joyfully united by a shared endorsement of the terms of the Jerusalem Declaration.
We will meet again, as planned and with external facilitation, mediation and episcopal advice, in October.
It is our intention to welcome on that occasion an even greater diversity of contributors.
We would value your prayers and any expressions of interest from those who feel they might be able to make a valuable contribution to our deliberations.
Anyone desiring to contact us can do so through any of the organisations or churches listed.
Revd Dr Gavin Ashenden, Former Chaplain to the Queen
Mrs Lorna Ashworth, General Synod of the Church of England, Archbishops’ Council
Revd Nigel Atkinson, Vicar St John’s, Knutsford and Toft
Revd Mark Burkill, Chairman of Reform
Rt Revd John Ellison, Anglican Mission in England Executive
Rt Revd John Fenwick, Bishop Primus, Free Church of England
Rt Revd Josep Miquel Rossello Ferrer, Free Church of England
Ven Dr Amatu Christian-Iwuagwu, Vicar St Mary’s Harmondsworth & PiC Anglican Igbo Church of the Holy Trinity, London
Rt Revd Paul Hunt, General Secretary, Free Church of England
Canon Nigel Juckes, Incumbent, Llandogo, Monmouth
Mr Daniel Leafe, Gafcon UK
Mrs Susie Leafe, Director of Reform
Rt Revd Andy Lines, ACNA Bishop with Special Mission
Revd David McCarthy, Coordinator of the Scottish Anglican Network
Revd Lee McMunn, Mission Director, Anglican Mission in England
Revd James Paice, Trustee, The Southwark Good Stewards Trust
Rt Revd Jonathan Pryke, Senior Minister Jesmond Parish Church, Anglican Mission in England Executive
Revd Dr Peter Sanlon, Convenor of Anglican Partnership Synod
Ven Dr Will Strange on behalf of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Church in Wales
Revd Andrew Symes, Executive Secretary, Anglican Mainstream
The letter to The Daily Telegraph in full:
SIR – Recent actions in the General Synod in pursuit of a culture that denies biblical ethics, as they have been practised and understood “at all places and in all times”, have caused many Anglicans great concern.
There are times, particularly in the face of social disintegration, when it is the duty of the Church to be counter-cultural. The failure of the House of Bishops to uphold the teaching of the Bible and of the Universal Church in this area is very disappointing, if not surprising.
Booing of traditionalists and the levels of personal abuse aimed at them during the Synod have only deepened mistrust between the different sides.
There are now effectively two opposed expressions of Anglicanism in this country. One has capitulated to secular values, and one continues to hold the faith “once delivered to the saints”.
We and others stand with the majority of faithful Anglican across the globe, in prioritising Scripture and the unanimous teaching of the universal Church over secular fashion. We note the results of this same conflict in North America, even as we look for and pray for a similar renewal of orthodox Anglicanism and of Anglican structures in these islands.
Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali
Bishop of Rochester, 1994-2009
Rt Rev John Fenwick
Bishop Primus, Free Church of England
Rev Gavin Ashenden
Former Chaplain to the Queen
Rev Mark Burkill
Chairman of Reform
Andrea Minichiello Williams
CEO of Christian Concern
Rev William Taylor
Chairman of Renew
Rev Nigel Atkinson
Vicar of St John’s, Knutsford
Rt Rev John Ellison
Executive of Anglican Mission in England (AMiE)
Rev Lee McMunn
Mission Director of AMiE
Rev Tim Chapman
Minister of Christ Church, South Cambridgeshire
Rev Paul Darlington
Vicar of Oswestry, Holy Trinity
Chairman of Church Society
Member of General Synod
Rev Dick Farr
Chairman of Church Society Trust
Fr Martin Hislop
St Luke’s, Kingston upon Thames
Rev Canon Nigel Juckes
Incumbent, Parish of Llandogo
Rt Rev Josep Miquel Ferrer
Free Church of England
Rev Steven Hanna
St Elisabeth’s Church, Dagenham
Rt Rev Paul Hunt
General Secretary of Free Church of England
Rev James Paice
Vicar of St Luke’s, Wimbledon Park
Trustee of Southwark Good Stewards Trust
Rev Dr Peter Sanlon
Vicar of St Mark’s, Tunbridge Wells
Convener of Anglican Partnership Synod
Rev Dr Andrew Symes
Executive Secretary of Anglican Mainstream
Rev Melvin Tinker
Vicar of St John’s, Newland
Rev Robin Weekes
Minister of Emmanuel Church Wimbledon
Chairman of Reform Southwark