The former Church of England minister accused of creating a ‘culture of fear’ at an independent Anglican church in the UK is now leading a church in Pennsylvania which plans to launch a ‘classical Christian school’.

In its March and April issues, Evangelicals Now has reported on the controversy surrounding Rev Tony Jones at Christ Church Durham.

The paper reported that in May 2021 ‘whistle-blowers’ wrote to the church’s trustees expressing ‘long-held concerns’ at Jones’ ‘use of power and specifically domineering leadership, coercion and control’ against a backdrop of a ‘sizeable’ power imbalance.

The report by Nicola Laver continued: 

‘Christ Church Durham was set up outside both the Church of England and the GAFCON-affiliated Anglican Mission in England (AMiE). But Martin Morrison, a bishop in REACH-SA, the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church in South Africa, was asked to provide a form of oversight.

‘In light of concerns raised, Bishop Morrison recommended that an independent external review be undertaken. This was repeatedly rejected or ignored by Jones and some of his fellow trustees, prompting the resignation of two trustees and all but one member of the Council of Reference (CoR).’

Last October Immanuel Leidy’s Church in Souderton, Pennsylvania, voted to appoint Jones as its pastor. The church describes itself as ‘a non-denominational congregation’ which seeks ‘accountability and strength by being interdependently related to other biblically-grounded congregations in our area’.

Jones has preached on every Sunday at the church since February 6th. During the service on Sunday March 13th, Jones introduced the ‘president of the consistory’ who announced that the church now plans to convert a property it is currently renting out into ‘a classical Christian school’.

‘It has come to our attention that interest in classical Christian education has increased locally (by) 33 per cent in the past year and that there is a real need for such a facility in our area and we believe that our property would be adequate to fill the need.

‘Classical Christian education uses science, art and Christian theology to cultivate men and women, boys and girls. It fundamentally teaches students to think well from a Christian perspective,’ he said.

From 1999 to 2003 Jones was curate at St Ebbe’s, Oxford, a CofE conservative evangelical church attended by university students, before he launched Christ Church Durham, which soon drew students from the city’s university.

The Evangelicals Now report said that since it was ‘established nearly 20 years ago, the church has seen significant numerical growth with hundreds turning to Christ under Jones’ ministry and spawning a new church plant at nearby Newton Hall’. 

‘This has now joined AMiE and is not linked to the allegations in any way. It is reported that many converted under Jones’ ministry have since gone into full-time ministry.’

 Simon Pilcher, a former CoR member for Christ Church Durham, was reported as warning in his letter of resignation last September: 

‘We should never confuse apparent fruitfulness with faithfulness.’

He highlighted the ‘culture of fear in relation to Tony Jones personally, and the fact that previous complainants had been brushed aside by a trustee body that was required to show unwavering personal loyalty to him’.

Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in the UK.