Evangelicals represent an opposing voice for the Anglicans to the recent gay clergy issue. After the ordination of the openly gay canon, Dr Jeffrey John as the Dean of St. Albans, all kinds of arguments are buzzing within the Church of England.
The Anglican Mainstream, a conservative evangelical network representing more than a quarter of the clergy and laity, is the first one to defy the Church of England by taking concrete actions. Over the weekend, they have called for an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss the controversial intensively.
The post of dean is in the sole gift of the Prime Minister who personally sanctioned the appointment, although senior churchmen such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams are consulted.
In its letter to Mr Blair, the evangelicals expressed their concern that Downing Street was deliberately attempting to steer the Church in a more liberal direction on homosexuality.
Evangelicals in the diocese of St Albans are considering barring the Bishop, the Rt Rev Herbert, from their parishes because of his support for the gay canon, Dr John.
Further action is coming. Evangelical Anglican churches are threatening the Church of England with financial ruin in protest at the “homosexual agenda” of the church. Several parish churches in the Diocese of St Albans are planning to cap their financial quota contributions after Dr John's elevation.
Evangelicals thought that Jeffery John is plainly not within the parameters of orthodoxy, as evidenced by his public call for the Church to approve life-long same-sex unions.
As the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev Charles Dobbie, the vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Lyonsdown, New Barnet, north London, was "shocked and grieved" by Dr John's appointment. He felt that he could not "in conscience" pay the full annual quota "if it's going to be used in the furtherance of this kind of agenda". They are threatening to cap the quota contributions by as much as 10 per cent.
Evangelical parishes used to contribute sacrificially. More than one third of Sunday churchgoers are evangelical and in 2002, non-evangelical churches had an average income of £40,000 while the average evangelical church income was £84,000.
Income from evangelical churches represents about 40 per cent of total parish church income. If every evangelical church in the country capped their quotas, it could cost the Church of England about £200 million.
This way of protest from the evangelicals is not new. Dr John was appointed Bishop of Reading last July, despite revealing that he was in a long-standing celibate homosexual relationship. Then, evangelical churches in the Oxford Diocese also threatened to cap the parish share, eventually forcing Dr John to stand down from the new post.
In Newcastle, the capping had already been introduced in the congregation after a series of same- sex blessing in neighbouring churches.
"The homosexual agenda is positively wrong," The Rev David Holloway, the vicar of Jesmond Parish Church in Newcastle said. "As parish priests we have a moral problem because you have a duty to make sure that your congregation's money goes precisely where the donors want it to go. It's like ethical investment.”
He also expressed his worry about the split of the church caused by the appointment of Jeffery John. He considered it as a complicated countrywide issue.
Some statistics show that the gap that caused by the capping of quota from evangelicals would leave the Church unable to pay all its clergy stipends or its pensions and, in effect, bankrupt it within a few years.
Therefore, the capping of quota to protest against gay clergy would be controversial as it may become a nuisance for the church’s general operation in long term. As a church with a mission to proclaim the word of God to all people, taking into account the interest of the general congregation is to be stressed.
Evangelicals React Against the Church of England over Gay Clergy
Published 26 April 2004