African and Asian church leaders threaten to ‘plant’ a bishop in Britain to defy Welby on gay Christians
- The move comes after concerns Church of England is becoming too liberal
- The ‘nuclear option’ by rebel archbishops was decided at a meeting in Africa
- It would represent a highly provocative intervention into the Church of England
- Archbishop Welby softened his stance on homosexuality in February
Conservative Anglican archbishops from Africa and Asia are plotting to create a new ‘missionary’ bishop to lead traditionalists in the UK – after warning that the Church of England is becoming too liberal on homosexuality.
The rebel archbishops are set to give the green light to the controversial plan at a crucial meeting in Africa this week in defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
Insiders said the move was the ‘nuclear option’ as it would represent a highly provocative intervention into the Church of England by foreign archbishops and a direct challenge to the authority of Archbishop Welby, who is nominal head of Anglicans worldwide.
The move represents a highly provocative challenge for Archbishop Welby, who softened his stance on homosexuality in February
Archbishop Welby alarmed conservatives in February by issuing a letter softening his stance on homosexuality. In the letter, written with his counterpart in York, John Sentamu, he called for a ‘radical new inclusion’ for gays and a ‘21st Century understanding’ of sexuality – apparently paving the way for the first formal services to celebrate gay couples.
The Archbishop of Nigeria, Nicholas Okoh, who chairs the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) group of conservative archbishops, said the ‘distressing’ letter had ‘downgraded the historic and biblical mind of the Church’.
Even more alarming for GAFCON leaders, however, is that the liberal Scottish Episcopal Church is expected to become the first Anglican body in the UK to approve full-scale gay marriage at its annual synod in June.
At least seven GAFCON archbishops, who represent a vast swathe of the world’s Anglicans, will be at the five-day meeting starting tomorrow in Lagos, together with UK clergy.
Archbishop of Nigeria, Nicholas Okoh, (pictured) said the ‘distressing’ move had ‘downgraded the historic and biblical mind of the Church’
Although several options will be discussed, the most dramatic would involve African archbishops consecrating a new bishop who could then be ‘parachuted’ into the UK to minister to traditional parishes.
Church of England leaders will see this as a highly unwelcome parallel Anglican Church set up without the permission of Archbishop Welby.
It is thought the most likely candidate to become the first such bishop is Canon Andrew Lines, who runs the mission organisation Crosslinks in South London and who is already the chair of GAFCON UK.
One source said: ‘I would say there is now a 75 per cent probability of the GAFCON archbishops voting to consecrate a new bishop for the UK. Andy Lines has a lot of credibility internationally.
‘If it did happen, though, there is a serious risk that Archbishop Welby would press the nuclear button. This would be very dangerous territory.’
This situation of this article by Jonathan Petrie in this weekend’s ‘Mail’ – if the story is true – could cause further trouble for the worldwide Anglican Communion:
“Conservative Anglican archbishops from Africa and Asia are plotting to create a new ‘missionary’ bishop to lead traditionalists in the UK – after warning that the Church of England is becoming too liberal on homosexuality. The rebel archbishops are set to give the green light to the controversial plan at a crucial meeting in Africa this week in defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.”
The GAFCON Primates (mainly on the African Continent, but with an ally in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney) have been known to reject the growing tendency of the Church of England’s Archbishop of Canterbury, ++Justin Welby, to accommodate an openness towards the inclusion of LGBTI people amongst its clergy membership.
However, if there is a move afoot by the GAFCON Primates to ordain a special Bishop in Charge for its presence in the U.K., it is likely to meet with a strong response from – not only the Church of England but also the majority of other Anglicans around the world.
Whatever transpires at the GAFCON Meeting in Lagos, any attempt at piratical activity that would undermine the jurisdiction of the Church of England Bishops on their own ground would by met with the disapproval – not only of the Archbishop of Canterbury but of all of the non-GAFCON Primates and Provinces of the Anglican Communion.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand