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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Merry Bleedin' Christmas, Your Excellency, Sir

Williams warned of Church anarchy

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
Last Updated: 4:04am GMT 14/12/2006

The Church of England was plunged into a fresh crisis yesterday after evangelical leaders representing 2,000 churches told Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to allow them to bypass liberal bishops or face widespread anarchy.

The group, whose supporters include the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, warned Dr Rowan Williams that the crisis over issues such as gay clerics was escalating fast and could descend into schism.

At a confidential meeting at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday, they urged Dr Williams to create a parallel structure to free them from the interference of liberal bishops or risk a revolt against his authority.

The group, an unprecedented coalition of evangelical organisations and networks, is powerful because it represents about a fifth of all the Church of England's churches.

As many of these are large and thriving, according to some estimates they account for almost a third of its active membership and up to 40 per cent of its money, a significant weapon given the parlous state of Church finances.

The evangelical intervention comes with the worldwide Anglican Church on the brink of schism and will further complicate Dr Williams's efforts to keep the Church of England from disintegrating as well. Additionally, traditionalist Anglo-Catholics who oppose female ordination are threatening similar action if they are not provided with sufficient protection when women are consecrated as
bishops.

Lambeth Palace confirmed last night that the Archbishop had held a "preliminary" discussion with the evangelical group and was taking the issues seriously. It is understood that he is urgently contacting all his fellow bishops to seek advice.

But liberals were dismayed, saying that evangelical attempts to split the Church over homosexuality would undermine its traditional tolerance, damaging not only the Church but also the nation.

The group of evangelicals who met the Archbishop is thought to have included the Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev Wallace Benn, who is the president of the Church of England's Evangelical Council, a broadly representative national network.

Others believed to be involved were the Rev Paul Perkin, a member of the General Synod and of Reform, the conservative evangelical organisation, and Canon Christopher Sugden, the executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream.

Group members presented Dr Williams with a covenant" making clear they would not accept the authority of liberal bishops regarded as having abandoned Biblical teaching by accepting gay priests or blocking evangelical growth.

The covenant makes clear that the whole group will support individual members who break their ties with their bishops, refuse to allow them into their churches, or who cut their quotas, the "taxes" they voluntarily pay into central Church funds.

As part of a growing resistance movement, retired or foreign bishops from abroad could be parachuted into evangelical parishes in defiance of the diocesan bishops.
The evangelicals believe Dr Williams has only a few months to create a "flying bishops" structure because the clash could worsen significantly after a summit in February in Africa of all the primates, the leaders of the 38 self-governing provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The meeting is expected to decide on the fate of the liberal Americans who precipitated the crisis by consecrating Anglicanism's first openly gay bishop in 2003.

Mr Perkin, the priest in charge of St Peter and St Paul in Battersea, south London, said: "The sleeping giant is waking. We have to be taken into account of now."

Bishop Nazir-Ali, who was a leading rival to Dr Williams for the post of Archbishop of Canterbury, threw his weight behind the evangelical initiative last night, saying it demonstrated "the depth of feeling" within the Church.

But the Rev Giles Fraser, the president of the liberal pressure group Inclusive Church, said: "These rebel churches want to destroy the traditional breadth of the Church of England and turn it into a puritan sect. They must not be allowed to succeed."

Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited.

2 comments:

Alma Beck said...

I am getting so tired of everyone scurrying around to create special arrangements so conservatives don't have to live with liberal bishops. When are we going to get the same efforts put into helping liberal folks living in conservative dioceses? It seems that they are much more oppressed since they are prevented from living their faith. The liberal bishops aren't forcing conservatives in their dioceses to bless unions or choose female priests. However, in conservative dioceses, liberal congregations are forbidden to follow their consciences in these matters. Who is providing them with alternative oversight?

If we are going with the choose-your-bishop model, I think it's time for liberal congregations in conservative dioceses to start asking for what they need.

TomTallis said...

Here's a link to the original article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/12/14/nchurch14.xml

This is, of course not a "warning," but a bald faced threat, taken from the playbook developed by the schismatics within the American church.