An Anglican church in Newcastle has insisted its decision to consecrate a renegade bishop is not intended to split the Anglican Church, but is necessary "to preserve the Church of England's heritage and mission".
The Revd Jonathan Pryke was consecrated as a "bishop in the Church of God" by a breakaway faction of the church of South Africa without the permission of the Archbishop of Canterbury, on 2 May.
The move has been seen as a direct challenge to the authority of the CofE and renews the threat that ‘conservative evangelical’ Anglicans will splinter from the rest of the CofE.
In a question and answer sheet handed out to the congregation of the church in Jesmond, Newcastle on Sunday (14 May), the church’s leaders said that their aim was not to create a new denomination.
“This is one small but necessary step on behalf of faithful Church of England ministers and congregations nationwide in our mission to the nation,” parishioners were told.
“This is not a step of 'leaving the Church of England'. It is the theologically liberal bishops and clergy that have ‘left the Church of England’ doctrinally,” continued the document, published on the Thinking Anglican blog.
“This is a step to preserve the Church of England's heritage and mission which we have received,” it continued.
The document says that ministers, who are described as “biblically faithful”, are finding it increasingly difficult to be ordained under the current Church of England system, as people are being “filtered out” according to their views on homosexual practice and the ordination of women.
“Biblically faithful” – or conservative – bishops are therefore necessary to ordain new conservative clergy and plant new churches, continues the document.
It goes on to refer to “the confused Church of today” with bishops denying traditional teachings like the Virgin Birth and male headship and says: “We need new style English bishops here ‘on the ground’ to plan for and enable the urgent spread of the gospel nationwide – especially through church planting.”
Revd Pryke is one of three rebel bishops to be consecrated without permission from the Archbishop of Canterbury to oversee parishes concerned by what they see as the liberal drift in the Church of England over homosexuality.
The Anglican Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham wrote that 'this is no time to be distracted by further fragmentation' as he urged British Anglicans against a split in a blog post on the CofE's official Facebook page.
In a clear rebuke of the parish’s provocative move, the Rt Revd Paul Williams writes that this is not the first time in its history that the Church of England has faced a move such as this.
“But it is time now to draw a line in the sand and ask whether unilateral actions such as this will help the cause of the gospel in our nation,” writes Williams, in the post published on 16 May.
Following the initial announcement on 2 May, a CofE spokesman confirmed that no authorisation for the consecration ceremony had been given and said any minister claiming to be an Anglican bishop would need permission under law.
“It is the clearly established law of the land that no one can exercise ministry in the Church of England without either holding office or having the permission of the diocesan bishop.
“It is also the case that no overseas bishop may exercise episcopal functions within the Church of England without the express permission of the Archbishop of the province and a commission from the Bishop of the diocese in which they wish to minister.
In this case neither has been sought,” said the spokesman.
David Holloway, vicar of the church in Jesmond, has been a strong voice in the CofE’s ongoing schism over homosexuality.
“The homosexual agenda is positively wrong,” Revd Holloway said, protesting the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John, a homosexual, as the Dean of St Alban’s Cathedral in 1994.
"I have to say that the appointment of Jeffrey John is very serious and it is now not so much a question of when the split will be, it is the split. It is a complicated, countrywide issue," he told the Telegraph.
More extreme are the views of the breakaway South African church responsible for consecrating Revd Pryke who have described Justin Welby as a heretic and a "wolf in sheep's clothing".
In a lecture given in February in Jesmond, and posted on You Tube, Bishop Martin Morrison of the breakaway South African church said:
"It is quite obvious that the establishment of the Church of England is at the very least heretical. They are wolves, they are false teachers, they are hired hands. We get pretty much common agreement on that."
Describing the Church's debate around transgender people as a 'tidal wave which will engulf us', Morrison went on to advocate "different ways of opposing the establishment".
He added: "In my opinion the Archbishops of York and Canterbury can no longer be trusted."
He said the best way would be to consecrate "irregular bishops" to work in England without the permission of the official Church of England.
PICTURE: Conservative evangelical, Revd Jonathan Pryke, was consecrated as bishop without permission from the Archbishop of Canterbury.