Wednesday, 15 October 2008

3,000 Church of England worshippers may defect to overseas provinces, Reform warns

Up to 3,000 worshippers may defect from the Church of England to become part of more traditional Anglican provinces overseas, a leading conservative has warned.

The Rev Rod Thomas, chairman of the Reform network of evangelicals, said some clergy and congregations may make the "radical" move of secession from the established church because of the liberal direction in which it is moving on women bishops and homosexuality.

He claimed the differences are now so great that there effectively two religions within the church, one liberal and one conservative, and that at least 25 parishes are already seeking "alternative oversight" because their bishop does not share their beliefs in tradition and the Bible.

He said he hoped this could be provided by creating new "religious communities", by getting conservative bishops from other dioceses to provide oversight, or by employing retired English bishops to take over the care of those who did not want to be led by a liberal prelate.

But Mr Thomas added that if this were not possible, clergy could be consecrated by orthodox Anglican bishops in foreign countries before returning to their parishes - which may then lose their Church of England name.

This has already happened in the USA as clergy have abandoned the ultra-liberal Episcopal Church, which is run by a woman and where an openly gay bishop has been elected and same-sex unions blessed, in favour of churches in Africa and South America.

But it would break the moratorium on "border-crossing" demanded by the Archbishop of Canterbury as part of a rescue plan to save the 80 million-strong Anglican Communion from a complete split.

Speaking during the annual conference of Reform in central London, where the plans are being debated, Mr Thomas said: "We are actively going to take forward the agenda of alternative episcopal oversight. We are no longer able to sit back and wait to see what happens.

"The most radical scenario which I don't discount, but neither am I saying we are pressing for, is where you have a shortlist of names and ask overseas persons to consecrate them so they cater for individuals in this country." Read more

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