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Conservative Evangelical group speak of alternative ‘structures’ to rival C of E

28 July 2017


Signatory: Bishop Jonathan Pryke, preaching in Jesmond, in March

Signatory: Bishop Jonathan Pryke, preaching in Jesmond, in March

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 — of which several members 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, and declares 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” — understood to be a reference to votes by the Synod on conversion therapy and concerning liturgy to affirm gender transition (News, 14 July) — 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 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, the Ven. Dr Will Strange; and 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).

A website has been set up where others can add their names to the letter. At the time of going to press, more than 800 people had 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, 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, Dr Sentamu, “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”. He said the “Anglican Partnership Synod” wanted to establish its own Rochester Good Stewards Trust, to enable “our churches to allocate finance to mission in line with the Jerusalem Declaration”.

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.


Leader comment; Press

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