Evangelical groups within the Church of England are readying for a split, in the event that the Church opts to embrace same-sex unions.
Under rules hastily implemented during the introduction of same-sex marriage, the Church of England remains opposed to same-sex weddings – meaning that clergy cannot carry out services or ‘blessings’ for same-sex couples.
The rules also ensure that gay members of the clergy are banned from getting married themselves.
However, current policy is seen as largely unsustainable – with many members of the clergy already flouting the rules by performing blessings or entering same-sex marriages themselves.
But evangelicals within the Church are steadfast in refusing to allow progress on the issue, and this week a dozen parishes met to discuss the possibility of setting up a new conservative ‘shadow synod’.
Rev Peter Sanlon, Vicar of St Mark’s, Tunbridge Wells in the Rochester diocese, told the Telegraph that the body would make it easier to formalise a split in the event of the Church changing its policies.
He told the newspaper: “If senior leaders of the Church of England water down the teaching of the Church of England on key issues like homosexuality, then this synod could easily evolve in to a new Anglican jurisdiction in England.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury has signalled that he is aware of the possibility that a significant proportion of the church will not accept a change in the church’s teaching. This could be the beginning of that playing out.”
He added: “Clergy like me are not going to just leave the Church of England. However, we need new structures to establish new churches to fulfil the mission that the Church of England ought to be discharging.
“My overriding concern is to see the mission of the Church of England effectively discharged: the partnerships to do that are not possible between churches which promote ambiguity about teaching on sexuality.”
Rev Canon Dr Gavin Ashenden also told the newspaper: “The energy behind this new jurisdiction comes from a growing perception that the CofE is so desperate to remain chaplain to a country that is turning its back on Christian ethics, that there comes a point when it fails to be faithful to Christ and in particular his teaching on marriage.
“At that point, and it may already have arrived, there will be a rupture and the orthodox will make arrangements to safeguard the integrity of the Church for the future.”