Church of England Evangelicals Appeal to Archbishop for Alternative Episcopal Oversight

Evangelicals in the Church of England approached the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier in the week with detailed plans for alternative Episcopal oversight to evangelical parishes in conflict with their liberal bishops.

The leaders asked Dr Rowan Williams to consider proposals for a panel of retired bishops to give oversight to more than 50 parishes currently involved in ongoing disputes with their liberal bishops.

A covenant outlining the wishes of the evangelical leaders was released following the meeting and has the support of major Anglican networks including Anglican Mainstream, the Church of England Evangelical Council, the New Wine Network and Reform, reports The Church of England Newspaper.

The evangelicals expressed in the covenant their frustration with the turbulent relationship many evangelical parishes are facing with their liberal bishops. "We can, therefore, no longer accept churches being denied such [biblically orthodox] oversight," read the covenant.

They also warned that the Church of England was in danger of departing from a common faith and said that signatories of the covenant would look increasingly abroad to solve the problem of declining numbers in the Church of England.

"This means there cannot be any no-go areas for gospel growth and church planting. Best practice will always involve appropriate consultation," the covenant read.

It continued: "We will support mission-shaped expressions of church through prayer, finance and personnel, even when official permission is unreasonably withheld."

In the covenant, the evangelical group expressed support for measures that would allow local congregations to raise up and release new leaders without the need for official approval.

"Many parishes have lost confidence in the institutional centre to discern and train suitable ministers, and fund and deploy them in sufficient numbers and appropriate contexts," read the covenant.

The group warned that if bishops unreasonably withheld authorisation for new ministers they would pay, train and commission them without permission and "seek official Anglican recognition for them," The Church of England Newspaper reported.

The newspaper added that the talks with the Archbishop were positive and 'ongoing' after the meeting, despite the alarm expressed by a number of liberal bishops and the liberal Inclusive Church group.