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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

News from Canterbury

From The Sunday Times June 29, 2008

Anglicans form 'new church' in gay clergy row

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

Articles of faith: keep up with the debate on Ruth Gledhill's blog

The Anglican Church faces what is in effect a schism this weekend after the declaration last night of conservative evangelicals to create a "church within a church". The new body, called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, will have its own bishops, clergy and theological colleges.

Details of the fellowship were announced in Jerusalem last night at a summit of conservative Anglicans, the Global Anglican Future Conference.

It follows a protracted battle within the church over gay clergy. Many evangelicals were outraged when it was revealed this month that the civil partnership of two gay priests had been blessed in a London church with a traditional wedding liturgy.

The 300 bishops and archbishops in Jerusalem insist they do not want to split from the 80m-strong Anglican communion. This is partly a recognition that a formal schism would involve protracted legal disputes about ownership of churches and other properties.

However, they last night declared their plans for a new "primates council" made up of the senior bishops and archbishops at the Jerusalem meeting. The new fellowship also represents a direct challenge to the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In a statement last night they challenged the role of the archbishop as primus inter pares of the bishops of the Anglican communion. "While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury," it said.

The new fellowship will return to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 39 articles of religion, train its own priests and insist on more orthodox practices in its churches. Although the instigators claim they are focused on reform from within it is said to represent the worst blow to church unity in the West since the Protestant reformation of the 16th century.

Central to the announcement was a "Jerusalem declaration", which will form the basis of the new fellowship. In the declaration the archbishops and bishops said: "We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed." It accused the leaders of the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada of proclaiming a "false gospel". The fellowship's first task will be to create a new Anglican body in North America.

Jerusalem was chosen as the location to announce the fellowship because of its precedence over Canterbury in the Christian hierarchy. A fellowship will be seen as a partial victory for Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, who was not at last night's meeting but who argued for reform from within. Unity, he said, was "a very precious thing".

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