Anglican Network in Europe will not launch flying bishops over England

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At the time of writing the General Synod of the CoE has just voted in all three houses to accept the bishops’ proposal for the Living in Love and Faith process. Details are available elsewhere and things are constantly changing, but what is clear is that many within the CoE are expressing dismay and dissatisfaction. ANiE itself has issued a statement in response to the news of the bishops’ proposals and then another following the General Synod decision. Many are now considering what their options might be. Amongst the many scenarios being depicted are some involving ANiE with its two convocations of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) and the Anglican Convocation in Europe (ACE). 

The aim of this short document is to clarify how ANiE can serve churches and clergy in the Church of England, and to be clear about what we are unable to offer in this context.

Starting Point

To those in the Church of England who share the biblical convictions that authentic Anglicans have always held (and as helpfully summarised in the Jerusalem Declaration), we, your brothers and sisters of the Anglican Network in Europe commit ourselves to praying for you along the lines of the Lord’s command to Joshua:

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go… Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:7,9 ESV)

We recognise that this is a very trying time for you in the light of the direction that the House of Bishops is setting and you face many difficult decisions in the days and months ahead. We do not envy you the dilemmas you face in remaining faithful to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor do we seek to take advantage of your discomfiture. There will be many different strategies that you will consider adopting as you seek to do this.  

Intervention?

A number have asked what ANiE might do if the current direction of travel continues:

How ANiE will seek to serve 

  • Pray for and encourage you as brothers and sisters in Christ in whatever way we can.
  • Be available to talk on a one to one basis with clergy or laity who want to process emotions, clarify thinking and pray, whether you are seeking to contend within the CoE, (or the Scottish Episcopal Church or Church in Wales) or not. In the first instance contact chai.yeo@anglicannetwork.org.
  • Invite you to events that we and our convocations run such as prayer meetings and other opportunities where you can get to know us better. We have the consecration of a new Assistant Bishop for ACE in Wales in Aberystwyth on Saturday 18 March at 11am with Archbishop Foley Beach as Chief Consecrator: do join us in person or online.
  • Offer specific occasions, if there is demand, when you might ask us any questions (chai.yeo@anglicannetwork.org).
  • Continue to build a healthy Anglican jurisdiction where the biblical Jesus is worshiped, where his people are cared for, where the gospel is preached faithfully to the nations. 
  • Be ready to receive those who decide that they need a home where they might receive the benefits of our relational, committed and orthodox oversight. This may be clergy with congregations, individuals, or groups of lay people who decide they cannot remain in the Church of England.
  • Both our convocations have experienced lay leaders and clergy who will help, advise and serve those who decide to leave the Church of England join the Anglican Network in Europe.

What ANiE cannot do

  • Offer informal episcopal oversight to those who choose to remain and contend within the Church of England (or the Scottish Episcopal Church or Church in Wales).
  • Carry out any episcopal ministry within the Church of England (or the Scottish Episcopal Church or Church in Wales). This includes ordaining and licensing clergy, confirming, baptising, presiding at Holy Communion, preaching and oversight and discipline of clergy and congregations. 

Rationale

There have been many attempts taking various forms in recent decades to provide alternative orthodox oversight within the Church of England. The Gafcon Global movement responded to the requests of Anglicans in the UK by authorising ACE and AMiE as authentically Anglican dioceses-in-formation and they have provided us with our own bishops. Gafcon Global’s partnership and support has been wise, loving and costly. No one else offered to help the beleaguered Scottish and Welsh Anglican congregations who could no longer remain in heterodox provinces. Even with this support and help the move from the established Canterbury-aligned provinces has been at considerable cost and sacrifice by clergy and congregations from around Great Britain and Europe but the Lord has honoured it. 

We will seek to honour the consciences, decisions and timing of faithful brothers and sisters whether they remain and contend within Canterbury-aligned provinces or seek alternative provision. 

We do not believe that ‘delegated’ or ‘extended’ episcopal oversight or ‘external episcopal visitors’ works in practice or in the long-term because every church and licensed clergy person in the Church of England is legally under the authority and oversight of the Diocesan Bishop. 

Practically this means that ordination, succession and church planting remain (by law) with the Diocesan Bishop. Pastorally it means that the care and discipline of clergy remains with the Diocesan Bishop, the Church of England’s codes of conduct and the diocese’s safeguarding policies and procedures.

Licences, contingent on oaths of canonical obedience, require singularity and exclusivity, as the Lord Jesus Christ himself made clear, “No servant can serve two masters” (Luke 16:13, ESV). This principle was recognised and applied by provinces offering canonical residence to parishes leaving The Episcopal Church prior to the founding of the Anglican Church in North America. The precedent is therefore clear, to receive the oversight of an ‘alternative’ bishop requires first resigning any existing or previous licences.

Cost

All this means that whichever pathway our brothers and sisters in the Church of England choose the cost will be very high and so we stress again our prayers for them/you along the lines of God’s commands to Joshua:

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go… Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:7,9 ESV)