A group of parishes is preparing what could be the first step towards a formal split in the Church of England over issues such as homosexuality, with the creation of a new “shadow synod” vowing to uphold traditional teaching.
Representatives of almost a dozen congregations in the Home Counties are due to gather in a church hall in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, later this week for the first session of what they say could eventually develop into an alternative Anglican church in England.
Organisers, drawn from the conservative evangelical wing of Anglicanism, say they have no immediate plans to break away – but are setting up the “embryonic” structures that could be used to do so if the established church moves further in what they see as a liberal direction.
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 next few months.
Differences over sexuality have already triggered a major rift in the 80 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion and formal splits in the US and Canada after the ordination of openly gay bishops, which goes against the teaching of the Bible.
Congregations from three dioceses – Rochester, Canterbury and Chichester – are to become founder members of the new grouping, which does not yet have a name, but they expect others to join.
They claim the Church of England’s leadership is progressively “watering down” centuries-old teaching, not just over the issue of sexuality but many core beliefs including the authority of the Bible.
Top of their agenda will be discussing founding new “Anglican” congregations in England – with or without the blessing of the Church’s hierarchy. Full Report