Two Church of England bishops welcome controversial 'missionary bishop'
Two Church of England bishops are welcoming a controversial 'missionary' bishop consecrated last week by a splinter Anglican church.
Rt Rev Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn, and Rt Rev Keith Sinclair, the Bishop of Birkenhead, wrote to the head of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) to say they were praying for a service where Andy Lines was made a bishop.
The ceremony on Friday has caused anger among Anglican hierarchy with the head bishop in Australia rebuking two of his bishops for attending the event.
Archbishop Philip Freier has 'deep concerns' about the participation of the Archbishop of Sydney and the Bishop of Tasmania in the service which he condemned as 'contrary to the spirit' of ancient church teaching.
'The consecration in the ACNA is not on any view an act in communion with the Anglican Communion and its member churches, particularly the Provinces of the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church and existing jurisdictions in Europe,' he wrote in a letter to fellow Australian bishops.
But that did not stop two CofE bishops writing their best wishes for the ceremony.
An email on Friday to Archbishop Foley Beach, head of the ACNA, read: 'We pray for you today, especially for Canon Andy Lines, consecrated as a bishop in the church of God. It has been good to meet and pray with Andy in recent years, and to know his heart for the gospel and the witness of the church. Please pray for us in the Church of England, for faithfulness and fruitfulness in these days.'
It comes after the Bishop of Maidstone Rod Thomas, another evangelical leader, also welcomed Andy Lines' appointment.
Describing the Scottish Episcopal Church's decision to permit gay marriage as 'very serious' he said: 'I therefore welcome the steps that GAFCON (the global fellowship of orthodox Anglicans) is taking to support those who are seeking to stand firm by the Bible's teaching on marriage and sexual relationships, and wish to assure Canon Andy Lines of my prayers as he becomes a missionary bishop.'
The move is likely to irritate the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and raise tensions ahead of the Church of England's general synod which meets this week in York.
Andy Lines will offer 'alternative oversight' to conservative Anglican parishes in Scotland, England and across Europe who feel disenfranchised with their official local bishop.
Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), one fringe body not part of the CofE who Lines will be offering leadership to, welcomed the appointment.
'There is an urgent need for new Anglican churches where the Gospel is proclaimed and many can embrace the life-giving rule of Jesus Christ,' a statement read.
'A new generation of Anglican church leaders is being identified, trained and sent out to share the good news of Jesus and bring people together in new local churches. These churches and their ministers require the support and example of missionary bishops who themselves both proclaim and defend the Gospel, and will encourage others to do the same.'
Lines said afterwards 'Part of my remit is to look after churches and leaders of church in Scotland, England and the rest of Europe who are maintaining an orthodox belief in the Christian faith as revealed to us in the scripture and to provide a home to them if they are not within the official structures of the churches there.'