Consecration of Jonathan Pryke not part of GAFCON’s plan, Peter Jensen reports
A missionary bishop has been consecrated for evangelical Anglicans seeking a reformation for the reformed catholic faith in England. Participants in the 2 May 2017 consecration of the Rev. Jonathan Pryke at Jesmond Parish Church in the Diocese of Newcastle by bishops of the Church of England in South Africa (CESA) hope their ceremony will see a renewal and rebirth of the faith in England.
However, critics within the conservative movement warn this may be the start of the fracturing of the traditionalist coalition in the Church of England, with each faction opposed to the recent innovations of doctrine and discipline forging their own way forward.
Sources close to the participants in the ceremony state the decision to consecrate Bishop Pryke (pictured) was taken against the counsel of GAFCON-UK. At their meeting in Lagos last month, the GAFCON primates called for the consecration of a bishop to support members of the Scottish Episcopal Church who could not continue in that denomination should it enact legislation permitting same-sex marriage this summer, and for Anglicans alienated from their bishops in England over doctrine and discipline.
However the Jesmond consecration was not what GAFCON had in mind, its general secretary Archbishop Peter Jensen told Anglican Ink. “This is not exactly parallel to the GAFCON initiative, and indeed is entirely independent of it. But it does show, I think, that the situation in England is becoming very difficult for those who want to hold the traditional and biblical view,” he said.
Details of the Tuesday consecration have not been made public, and it is not known at this time the names of the bishops who participated in the ceremony and what Bishop Pryke’s brief will be. A request for comments directed to the Rev. David Holloway, vicar of Jesmond, the Church of England’s national press office, and the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt. Rev. Rod Thomas, have not yet been answered.
However, a paper released at the close of the 27-28 Feb 2017 Jesmond Conference explains the thinking behind the consecration, AI has learned.
The Jesmond Statement argued the identity of the Church of England was not in its buildings, synods, or clergy. The identity of the Church was:
“[G]iven in the judgment of an Employment Tribunal in 2011 when a disaffected clergyman was taking his Bishop and Diocese to Court. The judge, however, ruled: “The Church of England has no legal personality … the title ‘Church of England’ denotes an amalgam of what sometimes seemed an infinite number of bodies with no precise or clear picture … of how the various jigsaw parts interact … the ultimate authority to restructure lies with the Church’s parliament, the General Synod, subject to the Westminster Parliament” (so the Synod is an ultimate body for restructuring but not for revising doctrine or ethics). And this judgment, after a reversing appeal by the clergyman, was upheld after a diocesan final appeal by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
That judgment helps us define the ultimate identity of the Church of England, which is not in its structure, nor even in its ordained ministers. For as the doctrine of the Church determines the authority of the bishops and clergy, we have to go to The Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure 1974 for the defining doctrine of the Church of England. It is there in these words: “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.”
Those also are the words of Canon A5. And it is those words that give you the Christian faith according to the Catholic Western English Reformed tradition. And that is the established faith of this nation and defines the Church of England doctrinally. We consider that that faith needs to be recovered by a new Reformation.
The bishops of the Church of England had failed in their mandate to safeguard and promote the faith. The statement noted: “because the bishops have for so long accepted the defiance of the Church’s teaching and rendered the Church pluralistic, they no longer see their function as leading the Church towards its identifying and agreed agenda,” as set down in its canons.
The leadership of the Church of England’s bishops “has been reduced not to leading the Church to what the Church universal judges to be its common good, but to the desire for ‘good disagreement’. And that, theologically, is between good and evil goals and objectives, with the aim being for the proponents of those divergent goals and objectives ‘to walk together’. That, of course, may be possible in the world, but quite forbidden in the Church,” the statement said.
Update: 8 May 2015 17:00 GMT
A Church of England spokesperson told Anglican Ink: “The Bishop of Newcastle is aware of reports concerning this matter and is seeking clarification”