A rebel minister consecrated a bishop in a breakaway move could face consequences, as the Church of England insisted no permission had been given.
Rev Jonathan Pryke, senior minister at Jesmond Parish Church, was made a bishop last Tuesday in a surprise move that could signal the start of a major split.
He is one of three to be consecrated without the permission of official CofE leaders to oversee conservative parishes concerned by what they see as the liberal drift in the Church.
A CofE spokesman confirmed that no authorisation for the consecration ceremony had been given and said any minister claiming to be an Anglican bishop would need permission under law.
'The Bishop of Newcastle is aware that a minister holding her licence to a parish within the Diocese has taken part in a service of consecration as a bishop under the auspices of an overseas church,' the spokesman said.
'It is the clearly established law of the land that no one can exercise ministry in the Church of England without either holding office or having the permission of the diocesan bishop.
'It is also the case that no overseas bishop may exercise episcopal functions within the Church of England without the express permission of the Archbishop of the province and a commission from the Bishop of the diocese in which they wish to minister.
'In this case neither has been sought.'
The Archbishop of York – the senior Anglican figure in the area – is being kept informed but is yet to make a formal response.
It comes after Jesmond Parish Church, which has long been antagonistic towards their official Bishop of Newcastle, confirmed the secret ceremony had taken place last Tuesday.
The service did not take place at Jesmond Parish Church, nor in any other CofE building, a statement insisted. Pryke was consecrated by the presiding bishop of the deeply conservative Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH-SA) and took an oath of 'all due reverence and obedience' but to 'bishops and other chief ministers' in the UK.
Pryke will spend 80 per cent of his time working in the Jesmond parish and 20 per cent 'helping establish new churches', the church said in a statement.
Confirming the move, the statement said it was necessary so they could ordain their own clergy to oversee church plants.
'The main thing that is significantly different now as far as Jonathan is concerned is that Jonathan can ordain men for the ministry, whereas other presbyter/priests of us involved in evangelism cannot,' it read.
Despite insisting Jesmond does not want to see bishops 'parachuted in' to form a new 'orthodox church' or 'province', the move will be seen as forming a parallel Church of England – an official one overseen by the Archbishop of Canterbury and another unofficial one, overseen by conservative bishops.
The statement said Pryke sees his role as 'helping English people have the courage to take responsibility for reforming the Church of England to be in line with' traditional Anglican teaching as well as to evangelize and to see growth'.