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London conservatives look for support from breakaway Anglicans

01 March 2023

Churches seek help from GAFCON after same-sex-blessing proposals

CHRISTINE MATTHEWS/GEOGRAPH/COMMONS  

St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, in the City of London

St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, in the City of London

THE chair of the Global Anglican Futures Conference (Gafcon), Dr Foley Beach, is to visit London this month to meet Evangelical clerics who are at odds with their bishops over proposals to bless same-sex civil marriages. He has told them that the Gafcon Primates’ Council “will support you in any way we can”.

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, has said that she would be happy to meet Dr Beach, Archbishop of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America, when he comes to London.

News of Dr Beach’s visit was revealed in a video message posted on the website of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, in the City of London, on Sunday.

St Helen’s, which has an electoral roll of more than 1200, paused payments to the diocesan Common Fund last month in protest at the Bishops’ proposals to offer services of prayer and thanksgiving for same-sex couples and to bless civil marriages in church (News, 10 February), which were carried by the General Synod this month (News, 9 February).

In the video, the Rector, the Revd William Taylor, says that, as well as agreeing to meet Evangelical clergy in the diocese, Dr Beach “has offered to make provision for the annual clergy review process at St Helen’s”.

Furthermore, Mr Taylor says, “curates in training” at St Helen’s have withdrawn from a Holy Week meeting with Bishop Mullally; an ordinand in the church has withdrawn from the ordination process; and “those clergy who have completed their training have written to me stating that they can no longer walk together with bishops who have walked away from them”.

Mr Taylor asserts that the House of Bishops has “walked away from the true Church of God”, and has created a “major crisis” which requires “concrete structural solutions”. He also accuses the Bishops of being prepared “to trample imperialistically in white Western boots over the biblical convictions of the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide”.

He says in the video: “We believe this failure of the House of Bishops to uphold God’s teaching on marriage and sexuality requires a clear and public distinction between ourselves and those who by their words and actions, deny the authority of God’s Word and walk away from the teaching of the Lord Jesus.”

He says later in the video: “Without bishops not limited geographically to any particular area, nor restricted in authority, diocesan in nature and jurisdiction, clearly not walking together with the House of Bishops of the Church of England, with the authority to ordain, licence, and install Church of England ministers to Church of England livings and to consecrate further bishops, there can be no long-term security for Church of England Evangelical churches or clergy.”

The aim of the leadership and PCC of St Helen’s, he says, is “to secure the future of Anglican Evangelical ministry in London”, which they “would love to do . . . within the Church of England” — but there are “Anglican bishops and Archbishops across the globe that . . . are ready to help us. We do not stand alone.”

On the St Helen’s website are video messages from Dr Beach; the Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Revd Kanishka Raffel; the Bishop of the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa New Zealand, Rt Revd Jay Behan; and the Presiding Bishop of REACH-SA, the Most Revd Glenn Lyons.

Dr Beach says in his video: “We’re praying for you and will support you in any way we can. These are incredible times the Lord has called us to live in, but he calls us to stand for his truth, to stand for the gospel, and to love people into the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and sometimes that means explaining to people their sin, and how it offends God. But yet there is redemption in Jesus Christ and what he’s done for us in the cross and his resurrection.”

In response to the video, the diocese of London said in a statement on Wednesday that, under the London Plan, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Dr Rob Munro, was “providing episcopal ministry to the clergy at St Helen’s Bishopsgate”, as the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas, had done.

Dr Munro, it said, “continues to provide the same episcopal oversight provided under Bishop Rod, including for ordinations, licensings, and installations. This has been the case since 2020 when St Helen’s stated its broken partnership with the House of Bishops” (News, 1 January 2021).

The statement went on to say that the House and College of Bishops had “spent several years engaging with the scriptures” during the Living in Love and Faith process, and had “read the feedback from those individuals and worshipping communities across the Church of England who have similarly engaged with the scriptures through the LLF process, and have offered a response which has the support of the General Synod and on which further work is now to be done.

“It is important to note that there has been no change to the legal position, including that relating to the doctrine of marriage. It has been made clear that those clergy who choose not to use the new Prayers of Love and Faith once they are agreed will be fully supported in that decision, as will those who do choose to use them.

“Should any parish wish to draw a clear public distinction between itself and the House of Bishops, and the decisions of the General Synod, it is of course free to do so, but the legal obligations of the parish, incumbent and diocese towards one another in relation to finances, safeguarding, property, and all other matters remain unchanged.”

Asked how many parishes had said that they would withhold Common Fund contributions, the diocese said on Wednesday: “There are ongoing conversations with a number of parishes regarding the pausing, or possible pausing, of Common Fund payments. At this stage, it would be wrong to pre-empt these and the wider discussions around LLF that are ongoing within the diocese and nationally.”

The Church Times understands that the London bishops held a two-hour meeting on Thursday evening of last week in St James Garlickhythe, which was attended by between 150 and 200 members of the clergy, many of whom were concerned about the Bishops’ proposals on same-sex blessings.

It is understood that those who attended included about 20 clergy from churches in the network of Holy Trinity, Brompton, as well as clergy from the ReNew network of churches, New Wine, Fulcrum, and the Junia Network. There was also a small number of traditionalist Anglo-Catholics, it is understood.

At the meeting, Bishop Mullally said: “Finding ways to walk together with our diversity and differences is not comfortable. Yet I know that to separate, to walk apart would greatly impoverish and harm the Church of England, which has always been an intentionally and uniquely broad Church.”

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