A group of Anglican parishes in the UK who are anxious to uphold the teachings of Jesus Christ, are quietly making plans for how to formally split from the Church of England over issues such as homosexuality.
The Telegraph is reporting on the creation of a “shadow synod” which will uphold traditional Christian teaching on marriage. Representatives of almost a dozen congregations are planning to gather later this week for the first session of what could become an alternative Anglican church in England.
Although they claim to have no immediate plans to break away, they are seeking to set up the structures that would be needed to do so if the established church continues to move further away from biblical teaching.
“The new alliance will be viewed as a ‘church within a church’ but founders have not ruled out full separation if, for example, the Church of England offers blessing-style services for same-sex unions – a move expected to be considered by bishops in the nextd few months,” the Telegraph reports.
Recent polls have shown a marked increase in people’s approval of the unions, which comes with increased pressure for the hierarchy to bend the rules and allow the “marriages” in spite of clear biblical teaching against same-sex relations. Leaders of the church are said to be leaning toward accepting the unions, which will only exacerbate the major rift that has occurred in the 80-million worldwide Anglican Communion over the issue. There have already been formal splits in the U.S. and Canada over the ordination of openly gay bishops.
Thus far, three UK dioceses – Rochester, Canterbury and Chichester – are set to become founder members of the new grouping but they expect others to join. They are also considering joining forces with an existing network of congregations outside the Church of England which are linked to powerful Anglican bishops overseas, most notably in Africa.
The situation became even more urgent recently when the Archbishop of Canter bury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, spoke of being “constantly consumed with horror” at the Church of England’s treatment of gay and lesbian people.
While answering questions at a festival this weekend, a gay man asked the Archbishop whether or not the church would be in a position to bless his civil partnership.
The Archbishop said, “I don’t have a good answer to it,” and admitted that the issue kept him awake at night.
These kinds of responses have led to ever more serious discussions of how to live with the coming rift in the Church.
“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 in to a new Anglican jurisdiction in England,” said the Rev Dr Peter Sanlon, Vicar of St Mark’s Church in Tunbridge Wells, who is hosting this week’s meeting.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury has signalled that he is aware of the possibility that a significant proportion of the church will not accept a change in the church’s teaching. “This could be the beginning of that playing out.”
He’s not leaving the Church of England, Sanlon, said, “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. My only problem now is coping with the number of clergy contacting me wanting to know how they can join in.”
The Rev Canon Dr Gavin Ashenden, a royal chaplain, told the Telegraph that “The energy behind this new jurisdiction comes from a growing perception that the [Church of England] is so desperate to remain chaplain to a country that is turning its back on Christian ethics, that there comes a point when it fails to be faithful to Christ and in particular his teaching on marriage.
“At that point, and it may already have arrived, there will be a rupture and the orthodox will make arrangements to safeguard the integrity of the Church for the future.”
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