A VICAR in the diocese of Truro is stepping down after 17 years to plant a new church community under the auspices of GAFCON, it was announced on Sunday.
The Vicar of Fowey, the Revd Philip de Grey-Warter, who is also Priest-in-Charge of Golant, said on Tuesday that he had “wrestled” with the decision since December, when the House of Bishops issued guidance on using the liturgy for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith to mark a person’s gender transition (News, 14 December 2018).
“We have been very clear that we are making this move in conscience and not telling anyone else what they ought to do,” he said. “We hope some people will come and plant with us, and there will be others who continue in the parish church. We want to ensure good relationships are maintained.”
In a letter for the parish newsletter, published last week, he wrote: “The General Synod and the House of Bishops of the Church of England currently seem less concerned to stick with the Bible than they are to appear ‘relevant’ by changing the message to suit our increasingly secular culture. . .
“Baptism is a sign or visual aid which Jesus commanded his followers to use to personally identify with his death and resurrection. It is part of the core of Christian faith and a mark of a true church. Allowing it to be used otherwise is to deny the very heart of his message.”
Mr de Grey-Warter’s last service will be on 29 September, with the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, present. The new plant will have its first service — in a venue that has now been identified — on the following Sunday.
“Philip goes with our good wishes, as he follows his calling as a minister,” Bishop Mounstephen said on Sunday. “I am grateful to him for his years of faithful service within the Church of England and for the people of Fowey, and will pray for him that his ministry will continue positively. We look forward to working with Philip in a different way, but nevertheless in our shared discipleship and commitment to serving the people of God, and bringing the word of our Lord to the people in Fowey and the surrounding area.”
The Archdeacon of Bodmin, the Ven. Dr Audrey Elkington, said that she would be “sorry to see Philip move on, but he feels strongly about God’s call to take this sacrificial step”.
Mr de Grey-Warter will be licensed by the Rt Revd Andy Lines, the GAFCON Missionary Bishop for Europe, under the auspices of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE). He attended the GAFCON gathering in Jerusalem last year. The Fowey parish-church congregation includes Daniel Leafe, a GAFCON UK leader, and Susie Leafe, a former director of Reform.
When asked about the future of conservative Evangelicals in the C of E, he said: “I can’t speak for others.”