The Free Church of England takes in Brazil churches

(Photo: Robbie Ribeiro)

The Free Church of England, a Catholic Evangelical denomination within the Anglican Communion, has now expanded its mission as three Brazilian congregations join their ranks.

The Re.Novo - Renewal, and Bragança Paulista Anglican Churches in Sao Paulo, and the Diamantina church in the inland State of Bahia, were welcomed into the FCE on Easter Sunday.

They are the first wave of a group of churches from the group Igreja Anglicana Reformada (IARB) to officially join, having established their support and alignment with the constitution and canons of the FCE.

The Right Reverend Josep Rossello, the bishop overseeing the IARB said to Christian Today that his congregations were "overjoyed" when the initial proposal for a partnership was received.

Explaining why the IARB felt the need to go in this new direction, Rev Rossello said: "For us, it was important to be part of a large family, and this is happening being part of the Free Church of England. Being under authority, and received godly advice, it is key for further development of a young church like ours in Brazil.

"IARB will learn from the FCE and their many years of experience, and we will have the opportunity to receive godly council, and share the common mission, doctrine, worship and discipline with our English brothers and sisters."

Bishop Rossello also said that he believed that the IARB churches would be able to offer their own services and views to the FCE: "I think the IARB could bring vitality, passion and new life into the FCE. We are a quite young church, and we see things in a very dynamic and missionary perspectives.

"We have tried to do things different to reach as many people as possible for Christ. I believe this is some of the aspect that we could benefit the FCE."

The IARB churches are a highly mission focused church, being the only Anglican Church currently conducting services in French Guyana.

Bishop Rossello expects that this latest development is a rekindling of a missional spirit for the FCE and the IARB: "I believe already the FCE is rediscovering his mission passion, as they have started new churches and have seen important growth in the last two years in England.

"I believe the FCE will continue growing in England and Europe, as they plant new churches and receive also new congregations into the FCE."

The FCE has a long tradition of international connections. Following their founding in 1844 and their establishment of a single constitution in 1863, the church group made connections with congregations in Australia and the West Indies.

By contrast, the IARB is much smaller and younger, having only held its first Synod in 2009.

The Right Reverend John Fenwick, the Bishop Primus of the Free Church of England, described to Christian Today how the connection between the FCE and the IARB was first made: "[Bishop Rossello] and his congregations were looking to connect with Anglicans who took seriously both the Evangelical and Catholic aspects of the Anglican identity and who followed Scripture by ordaining only men to the historic Orders of bishop, presbyter and deacon.

"For both parties it is an expression and reminder of the worldwide nature of the Church."

In Bishop Fenwick's view, this could well be the beginning of a wider scale effort for the FCE: "At this time of turmoil in the Anglican world, we are receiving an increasing number of requests for recognition and assistance from Anglicans who feel they can no longer in conscience continue within their existing Church.

"We are not at the moment actively planning to expand into other countries, but stand ready to do so by responding to approaches when and where it seems right.

"The Lord is gathering His faithful people and we are humbled and excited to be part of what He is doing."

Over the course of 2014, more IARB churches are expected to join, but according to the FCE: "A gradual process is envisaged because of the distance and difference of language between the two countries."