A conservative cleric in Newcastle has been consecrated a renegade bishop without the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, his church has confirmed.
Rev Jonathan Pryke, of Jesmond Parish Church, is one of three rebel bishops to be appointed by conservatives concerned about a liberal drift in the Church of England over homosexuality.
In a secret ceremony last Tuesday, the presiding bishop of deeply conservative Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH-SA) consecrated Pryke, a statement confirmed.
The service did not take place at Jesmond Parish Church, nor in any other CofE building, Jesmond insisted. He took an oath of 'all due reverence and obedience' not to the REACH SA bishop but to 'bishops and other chief ministers' in the UK.
The move took his local bishop, Christine Hardman, and Church officials by surprise and will be seen as a direct challenge to the CofE's authority.
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.
It comes after the conservative Anglican faction GAFCON announced plans to plant a 'missionary bishop' to oversee evangelical parishes in the UK who refuse to come under the authority of their local CofE bishop.
But Jesmond's move was separate to GAFCON and the church has confirmed Pryke will be one of three roaming conservative bishops who will be consecrated to oversee parishes.
The second will be appointed by GAFCON and is thought to be the GAFCON UK chair Andy Lines. The third is unconfirmed.
A statement from GAFCON UK said it was aware that 'Jesmond Parish Church have for some years been in a form of impaired communion with the Bishop of Newcastle, and have developed a special relationship with REACH-SA' and that several clergy have been ordained by REACH to serve in Jesmond.
'The leadership of Jesmond church have for some time been speaking publicly about the need for new missionary Bishops in Western nations who can oversee new Anglican ministries in the Celtic model,' the statement read.
But 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 – one official one overseen by the Archbishop of Canterbury and another unofficial, 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 evangelise and to see growth'.
It added: 'This consecration took place after considerable discussion and encouragement from leaders in the Church of England, and with the Presiding Bishop of REACH SA convinced it right to proceed after discussion with the Secretary of GAFCON.'