Church of England rebukes breakaway conservative parish

The Church of England has rebuked a conservative parish that consecrated its senior minister a bishop in a breakaway move.

Rt Rev Paul Williams, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, told evangelicals 'this is no time to be distracted by further fragmentation' as he urged British Anglicans against a split in a blog post on the CofE's official Facebook page.

Church of EnglandPaul Williams, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, is from the evangelical wing of the Church of England.

That Williams – himself an evangelical – made the first major episcopal intervention after Rev Jonathan Pryke of Jesmond Parish Church was provocatively made a bishop is arguably part of the CofE's attempt to avoid further division. 

It is the latest in an ongoing row since Pryke's consecration that could herald a rupture with a separate Anglican structure effectively being set up in rivalry to the CofE.

In a question and answer sheet handed out to its congregation on Sunday, Jesmond's leaders warned conservative ministers are being 'filtered out' in the current CofE system. 

'The aim is not to create a new denomination,' parishioners were told according to the Thinking Anglicans blog.

'This is one small but necessary step on behalf of faithful Church of England ministers and congregations nationwide in our mission to the nation.

'This is not a step of "leaving the Church of England". It is the theologically liberal bishops and clergy that have "left the Church of England" doctrinally.

'This is a step to preserve the Church of England's heritage and mission which we have received.' 

But Williams said although 'we are living in challenging times for our world and nation which creates uncertainty, leading to fear and fragmentation', Anglicans are called to 'unity in the body of Christ'.

He wrote: 'We have experienced a period of significant social change in the UK, manifested in changing attitudes over issues such as human sexuality.

'While Christians may hold different viewpoints on how the Church should respond, we are unwavering in our resolve to value every human being as made in the image of God, calling all people to repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

'Whatever some would like to claim, the Church of England is and remains faithful to the teaching of Scripture as we have received it on these matters, including the understanding of marriage.'

In a direct challenge to a lecture given at Jesmond where the Archbishops of Canterbury and York were labelled heretics, Williams wrote: 'Let it be said, lest there be any doubt, that, whatever the challenges, we are greatly blessed to be led by two archbishops, Justin Welby and John Sentamu, with a passion for the gospel and faithfulness to the teaching of Christ.'

He said the Church of England was in a time of 'extraordinary opportunity' and warned the breakaway move would not 'help the cause of the gospel in our nation', directly appealing to evangelicals' desire to grow the church.

'As we navigate the challenges ahead let us take care to use well the very great opportunities given to us at this time in our nation to make Christ known, reflecting this in our resolve to remain united in the gospel we proclaim,' he wrote.