England’s established church is edging nearer to a formal split over the issue of homosexuality as a group of parishes prepare to set up a “shadow synod” to uphold traditional Christian teaching.
Around a dozen parishes in South East England are to meet in Tunbridge Wells, Kent this week to discuss setting up “embryonic” structures that could become an alternative Anglican church in England – although they say they have no immediate plans to break away.
The organisers, who are drawn mainly from the Church of England’s evangelical wing, are concerned that church leaders are “watering down” Christian teaching on issues such as sexuality and the authority of the bible.
They have already scheduled debates on a motion upholding orthodox Christian teaching known as the “Jerusalem statement”, with five having already passed the motion.
The Rev Dr Peter Sanlon, one of the main organisers behind the gathering, told the Telegraph: “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.
“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.”
Breitbart London reported last week how a group of gay clergy are planning to defy the Church of England’s position on same-sex marriage with an open letter to the House of Bishops, urging them to permit the blessing of such unions.
The letter is being organised by Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain, who is in a same-sex civil marriage. He has gathered twelve other clergy in same-sex marriages to sign the letter.
The Church of England is currently forbidden by law from conducting same-sex marriages, and people in such unions are not eligible for ordination.
The signatories, however, want church leaders to create a ceremony for the blessing of civil marriages, although Rev Foreshew-Cain admitted: “Long term, the goal is full equality in the Church [ie, same sex weddings taking place within churches].”
Speaking on the new group of evangelical conservatives, the Rev Canon Dr Gavin Ashenden, a royal chaplain, said: “The energy behind this new jurisdiction comes from a growing perception that the CofE 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.”