The chair of the GAFCON conservative Anglican grouping has urged evangelicals in the Church of England to act on a warning that they may distance themselves from the Church if it liberalises its doctrine of marriage and sexuality.
The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) issued the document Gospel, Church & Marriage: Preserving Apostolic Faith and Life at the end of January. It said the doctrine that sexual relations were only for heterosexual marriage was not an 'optional extra' on which Christians could disagree and that a departure from apostolic teaching 'regrettably requires in response some degree of visible differentiation'.
Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Primate of All Nigeria and chairma of the Gafcon Primates Council, said in his monthly letter to supporters: 'At a time when the Church of England's senior leadership seems unable to resist the pressure to compromise with a highly secular culture, it is a sign of hope that evangelical leaders are able to come together in this way.'
He quotes the statement about 'visible differentiation' and appears to encourage conservatives to distance themselves from the Church of England, saying: 'However, the question I humbly wish to ask my brothers and sisters in England is this: will you take courage and act on these words? As members of the Mother Church of our beloved Communion you have a great responsibility. We will pray for you and stand with you, but we cannot stand for you.
'If you do not act, sexual practices and gender identities which represent a radical rejection of God's will and purpose will become entrenched and lead to a tragic separation from the great majority of the Communion.'
Okoh says: 'There is much in our shared history that we can thank God for, but that alone will not hold us together in the present.'
GAFCON is a global movement of Anglicans resolutely opposed to what it perceives as a liberal drift within the Church of England and specifically to any compromise over same-sex relationships.