Within a matter of weeks a missionary bishop and a breakaway bishop have been announced – both of which fall outside of the authority of the current Church of England structures.
The first announcement to send ripples across the Church was from GAFCON, a grouping of conservative Anglicans around the world. Following on from its Primates Council meeting in Nigeria, it was confirmed that plans were in place for the creation of a new bishop to be sent to the UK in response to the Church of England and Scottish Episcopal Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality.
Speaking to Premier Christianity magazine, GAFCON general secretary and former Archbishop of Sydney, Most Rev Peter Jensen said this wasn’t an attempt to break up the Church of England but instead a way to keep the Anglican Communion united.
“There are many issues that divide us, where we have diverse opinions, and that’s OK,” he said. “But some of them are so important that a stand has to be taken. A painful and costly stand.
“The Primates believe that this present matter is one of those things and the Bible is as clear as can be – that to embrace the view that ‘the practice of homosexuality is OK’ is wrong.”
This proposed bishop will provide episcopal leadership to churches in the UK who are Anglican but operate outside of the Church of England. Many of these churches are affiliated with Anglican Mission in England (AMiE).
While the Church of England declined to comment on the plans, they were criticised by the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Most Rev David Chillingworth. In a statement, he said: “The news that GAFCON intends to send a missionary bishop to Britain is regrettable. The Anglican Communion functions as a global communion on the basis of respect for the territorial integrity of each province.
“This move is a breach of that understanding.” Most Rev Peter Jensen declined to give more information on who the missionary bishop will be and where they will come from. He did however suggest the person would be open to working alongside the leadership of the Church of England. In a separate development just days after the GAFCON announcement, it was revealed that a priest at Jesmond Parish Church in Newcastle upon Tyne had been made a bishop by a breakaway Anglican group in South Africa. Rev Jonathan Pryke was consecrated as a “bishop in the Church of God” by the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa. Rev Jonathan Pryke will continue his role at Jesmond. He will also look to plant churches and provide leadership for those in “impaired communion” with the Church of England.
His appointment appears to have come as a surprise to AMiE, despite Rev Pryke being an executive member. In a statement it said, “We can confirm that the consecration of the Rev Jonathan Pryke was a gospel decision taken independently of AMiE. His consecration was never discussed at our Executive meetings.”
According to a statement, Rev Pryke’s consecration appears to have been taken in response to the GAFCON announcement, saying, he “does not want to see bishops ‘parachuted in’ to form a new ‘orthodox Church’ or ‘province’.”
A Church of England spokesman said: “It is the clearly established law of the land that no one can exercise ministry in the Church of England without either holding office or having the permission of the diocesan bishop.
“It is also the case that no overseas bishop may exercise episcopal functions within the Church of England without the express permission of the archbishop of the province and a commission from the Bishop of the diocese in which they wish to minister.”