Conservative Christians will throw down the gauntlet to the Archbishop of Canterbury this week by demanding that he openly disowns the American church over gay bishops.
A letter to be sent to Dr Rowan Williams tomorrow by Reform, an evangelical group representing 1,000 parishes, urges him to make it clear that he opposes the American position
The group warns that his failure to do so would split the Church of England from “top to bottom” and lead to a further demand that the US church is barred from the Lambeth Council, the annual gathering of bishops.
Reform also says it will bring in foreign archbishops to ordain priests in dioceses where incumbent bishops refuse to disassociate themselves from the American church, which appointed the openly homosexual Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.
The ordination of three clerics last year in the diocese of Southwark by a South African bishop ignited a battle between conservatives, who initiated the move, and liberals, who regarded it as an attack on the traditional authority of all bishops.
The Rev Rod Thomas, the chairman elect of Reform, said: “The situation in the Anglican communion is so serious now that we have to plan for an inevitable split in the Church of England from top to bottom.”
One important thing to remember is that the Church of England is a dying institution with rotten incumbencies and bishoprics. Reform, on the other hand, is a group made up of growing and giving churches. While 1,000 parishes is probably two whole Dioceses within the Church of England out of about 44, it is a significant number of the actually self supporting parishes, rather than those that are maintained by tax dollars. +Rowan will not be happy about this and will be under tremendous pressure to do something.