Schism in the Church of England ?

Disgust with C of E’s ‘slide’ on Tunbridge Wells agenda

Madeleine Daviesby Madeleine Davies – Posted: 31 Aug 2016 @ 07:07 – ‘CHURCH TIMES’
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Gathering: St Mark’s, Tunbridge Wells, where the meeting is due to take place

THE diocese of Rochester appeared unperturbed this week by reports of a “shadow synod” planned in Tun­bridge Wells, Kent.

Representatives of 11 congrega­tions in three dioceses (Rochester, Canterbury, and Chichester) were due to meet on Thursday at St Mark’s, Tunbridge Wells.

In an interview with TheDaily Telegraph, published on Monday, the Vicar, the Revd Dr Peter Sanlon, said: “If senior leaders of the Church of England water down the teaching of the Church of England on key issues like homosexuality, then this synod could easily evolve into a new Anglican jurisdiction in England.

”I am not leaving the Church of England, but in order to stay, I need new partnerships and structures to discharge the mission of the Church of England, which is to bring the message of Christ to every postcode in England. We have set these structures up in a very small emb­ryonic form across three dioceses.”

A Rochester diocesan spokes­person said on Tuesday: “Open and honest debate and discussion is part of the life and tradition of the Church of England, and there are many formal and informal networks and groups within which this takes place.

“These discussions often reflect the wide range of theological and spiritual perspectives within the Church of England. In relation to discussion around human sexuality, there is a continuing national process involv­ing the General Synod as well as the College and House of Bishops.”

The news was welcomed by the GAFCON UK Task Force, which replaced the Fellowship of Con­fessing Anglicans (FCA) UK & Ireland Executive earlier in the sum­mer.

A spokesman said that the Task Force was “in the process of getting set up” and that a website would shortly be launched. FCA was launched as a “regional ex­pres­sion of GAFCON” in 2009 (News, 10 July, 2009). Two years later, the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) was launched as a registered mission society, with a panel of bishops available to offer alternative episcopal oversight (1 July, 2011).

A statement issued by the chair of the GAFCON UK Task Force, Canon Andy Lines, who is also the general secretary of AMiE, de­­scribed the “shadow synod” as “a grass-roots initiative by local con­gregations which is representative of the views of many across the country, and is in line with the concerns of Anglicans from the GAFCON movement worldwide”.

He spoke of Church of England churches that “oppose the relentless slide towards revisionism in the Church of England structures”, which were “prepared to take action to protect their congregations”.

The Telegraph understands that, so far, 11 PCCs have scheduled debates on a motion upholding the “Jerusalem Statement” — a doc­trinal confession produced at the founding of GAFCON — and have taken part in a new “Anglican synod of churches” committed to uphold­ing it. Of those, five have passed the motion, and six others are due to.

An earlier meeting of this grouping was addressed by the Vicar of St Martin de Gouray, Jersey, Canon Gavin Ashenden, who said that the Church of England was facing “a structural flaw of fatal proportions” and decried efforts to “keep together two kinds of Anglicanism that cannot and should not be kept together”.

The Revd James Paice, trustee of the Good Stewards Trust (News, 17 July, 2015), said on Tuesday that he was “heartened” by events in Tunbridge Wells. Clergy were “taking principled ac­­tions in favour of the historic faith and against false teaching that will destroy the Church”.

Reports of the meeting appeared the day after the Archbishop of Canterbury addressed Greenbelt, where he said that he was “con­stantly consumed with horror” at the way in which gay people had been treated by the Church, but that there must remain a place for those who believed that same-sex relation­ships were “deeply, deeply wrong”. The Church, once regarded as “vicious”, was now perceived as “odd”, he said.

In a letter issued on Tuesday, the chairman of GAFCON, the Nigerian Primate, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, said that the “greatest cause for concern” for the organisation continued to be the British Isles. “The challenge we face now is that the Church of England’s problems are being exported to the rest of the Communion,” he wrote.

”If successive Archbishops of Canterbury had used their powers to teach and to gather in order to rebuke and inhibit those who audaciously contradict the Communion’s apostolic inheritance, the contagion of false teaching could have been contained. Instead, as the April meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council demonstrated, endless dialogue, promoted as ‘walk­­ing together’, has made matters worse. To maintain institutional unity, issues of doctrinal integrity are not faced. Instead, respectability has been given to a false gospel while reducing orthodox belief to an option and casting doubt on the trustworthiness of the Bible.”

He called on GAFCON in the UK and AMiE to “demonstrate that they have the necessary courage and faith in a context which to a large extent they alone can grapple with”.

In response, Canon Lines said that AMiE was “about to launch an ambitious plan for pioneering church-planting . . . where the aim is to encourage regions throughout England that pioneer, establish and secure healthy local Anglican churches.” He referenced the ReNew Conference to be held this month. The 2014 ReNew, organised by the Church Society, Reform, and AMiE, called on supporters to investigate “the opportunities to revitalise an existing Church of England church and/or plant with or without diocesan approval” (News, 3 October, 2014). A plant opened in Salisbury in 2014 (News, 20 February, 2015).


The self-titled ‘ANGLICAN MISSION IN ENGLAND’ (AMiE) – which has links to the separatist Anglican Network GAFCON – has now publicly announced its association with the ‘Shadow Synod Movement’ in England, members of which met recently at St.Mark’s Anglican Church, Tunbridge Wells, under the leadership of its Evangelical Vicar, the Revd Dr Peter Sanlon.

This article, in this week’s Church Times, by Madeleine Davies, expands upon this new development of the threat of schism in the Church of England, after the recent Letter to the C. of E. House of Bishops, by 73 members of the 500-strong General Synod,  protesting against any forward development from the recent Conversation on Human Sexuality that might lead towards the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions in that Church. This paragraph culled from the article, reveals something of the situation:
“A statement issued by the chair of the GAFCON UK Task Force, Canon Andy Lines, who is also the general secretary of AMiE, de­­scribed the “shadow synod” as “a grass-roots initiative by local con­gregations which is representative of the views of many across the country, and is in line with the concerns of Anglicans from the GAFCON movement worldwide”.
To understand this stand-off, one only needs to keep pace with the fundamentalist outlook of those few clergy and congregations in England that remain hostile to the idea of monogamous same-sex couples, who are members of the Church, having their relationships Blessed in a Church ceremony. Despite the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury very recently at the Greenbelt Festival declared that the Church of England had treated the LGBTI community in the Church very badly; there are still a minority in the Church that have aligned themselves with conservative Evangelicals on the African Continent and elsewhere (in GAFCON and AMiE) who are determined to form their own version of the Church if the C. of E. goes ahead with its plan to Bless Same-Sex Unions
Most Anglicans in Britain and other Western countries are now very used to local government legalisation of Same-Sex (or ‘Equal’) Marriage, so that these who are protesting its blessing by the Church are greatly outnumbered by the majority,  who believe that social justice on this issue is well overdue. So what this new movement may actually add up to in the U.K. may be just one more schismatic movement – to add to those which, in the past, have resisted the social changes that the Church cannot avoid being involved with – if it is to still claim any relevance in the modern world.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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