Anglican bishops meeting in Jerusalem are planning to form a “church within a church” to counter Western liberalism and to reform the Church from within.
Senior sources told The Times that the most likely outcome of the divisions over homosexuality and biblical authority was an international “Anglican Fellowship” that would provide a home for orthodox Anglicans.
It is one of the solutions to the crisis facing the Anglican Church that will be discussed by leaders of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) meeting in Jerusalem this week. Several English bishops are among the 280 bishops and 800 clergy and laity attending.
Most of the bishops, including those from England, are boycotting next month's Lambeth Conference in protest at innovations such as gay blessings and the ordination of an openly gay bishop in the US.
The new fellowship could have a leadership of six or seven senior conservative bishops and archbishops, such as the Bishop of Pittsburgh, the Right Rev Bob Duncan — who chairs the US Common Cause partnership that acts as an umbrella for American conservatives — Archbishop Henry Orombi, Primate of Uganda, and the Church of England's Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali.
The aim is not to split the worldwide Anglican Communion, which has 80 million members in 38 provinces, but to reform it from within. Formal ties would be maintained with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, but fellowship members will consider themselves out of communion with the US and Canada.
Fellowship members could attempt to opt out of the pastoral care of their diocesan bishop and seek oversight from a more conservative archbishop from their own country or abroad.
The success of the fellowship in averting schism will depend on the response of local leadership. In England in 1994, many opponents of women priests were persuaded to stay in the Church after traditionalist “flying bishops” were brought in to care for them. But now they are considering leaving because of the threat to remove these safeguards with the introduction of women bishops.
In the US an entire diocese, San Joaquin, has already left the Episcopal Church and opted into the province of the Southern Cone, headed by the English-born primate, Bishop Gregory Venables, a friend of Dr Williams.
The US Church responded by filing a lawsuit to regain its property, deposing the first Bishop of San Joaquin, John Schofield, and installing Jerry Lamb as the new bishop, meaning that there are now two men calling themselves the Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin. Dr Williams has invited both to the Lambeth Conference.
The dioceses most affected by parishes looking for more conservative leadership are understood to include Chelmsford, St Albans and Southwark.
London could also be affected, depending on how the Bishop, the Right Rev Richard Chartres, responds to the recent gay “wedding” presided over by the Rector of St Bartholomew the Great in the City. Some parishes in Durham are also interested, despite the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, being the Church's leading evangelical scholar.
Many of the clergy likely to opt into such a fellowship will attend a meeting at All Souls, Langham Place, in London on July 1, where Archbishop Orombi and Bishop Venables are among the speakers.Read the rest here.