Rev Tony Jones, the Anglican minister accused of power abuse at Christchurch Durham in the UK, has launched a new church in Pennsylvania 12 days after resigning from Immanuel Leidy’s where he was senior pastor for 15 months.
On Sunday April 23 Jones preached at what appeared to be the launch service for Trinity Central Church in Telford, PA, close to Souderton-based Immanuel. A video of the service was posted on the new church’s Facebook page. Immanuel’s former assistant pastor, Michael Nowling, who resigned on April 11 along with Jones, gave the notices at the service.
They resigned ahead of a congregational meeting set for April 23, which had been triggered by a petition signed by around 100 Immanuel members calling for their resignations.
Nowling announced during the notices that Trinity Central Church, whose leadership and accountability structures he did not explain, was seeking to purchase its own building. He said the church had succeeded in opening a bank account and, waving a pledge card, asked the congregation to consider how they ‘might be able to partner with us financially over the next year’.
The Facebook video showed the service taking place in what appeared to be either a hired venue or a large reception room in a private house with about 40 people present. The new church states its address as 508 Harleysville Pike, Telford, and lists an office email address. Jones spoke for 50 minutes.
A joint statement from Immanuel’s former President of Consistory, Jeff Schatz, four other elders and one elder-elect, posted on Twitter on April 17 by Kate Andreyev, a campaigner against bullying and abuse in the UK conservative evangelical constituency, indicated a level of support for Jones in the congregation. Their statement to Immanuel’s ‘Spiritual Council, Consistory and Church Office’ said: ‘We are now forced to face the tragic conclusion that we are operating as one very divided church, under two polarized leaderships. This impasse between those who treasure church culture versus those who prioritize authentic biblical authority has become so painful that we can no longer serve as Elders nor continue to worship at Leidy’s with our families.’
Ordained in the Church of England in 1999, Jones launched Christchurch Durham (CCD) in 2003 as an independent Anglican evangelical church out of an existing United Reformed Church congregation. He had backing from some large CofE conservative evangelical churches in his aim to attract university students to the new venture.
Reporting on his recent resignation in its May edition, Evangelicals Now, the UK-based monthly newspaper for Reformed and conservative evangelical readers, stated that Immanuel had 340 members at the time of the petition. The paper, which in a series of articles last year by Nicola Laver reported the allegations against Jones of ‘bullying and financial irregularities’ at CCD, said an internal review into his conduct at the church ‘has been completed but has not been published’. EN said it had been ‘told that the elders have decided not to publish because Jones has threatened legal action’.
Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in the UK.