Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the Rev Dr Peter Sanlon, vicar of St Mark’s in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said a split in the Church of England was a real prospect if its leaders continue to “water down” teaching on issues such as homosexuality.
Representatives of almost a dozen congregations are due to gather in Tunbridge Wells this week to discuss how they will uphold traditional teaching. They have no immediate plan to break away from the church but are forming “embryonic” structures in case the church continues to move in what they consider to be a liberal direction.
Sanlon told the Telegraph: “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: “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.”
The Church of England’s traditional teaching is that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. It does not conduct same-sex marriage services, nor permit clergy to bless same-sex civil marriages. Clergy cannot be married to same-sex partners, and any same-sex relationships are expected to be celibate.
Congregations in three dioceses – Rochester, Canterbury and Chichester – are to become founder members of the new alliance, which does not yet have a name, but they expect others to join, according to the report.
The warning comes after the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, reportedly told an audience at the Greenbelt Christian festival this weekend that he was “constantly consumed with horror” at the Church of England’s treatment of gay people.
Monday 29 August 2016 12.06 BST
Last modified on Monday 29 August 2016
This article was amended on 29 August 2016 because it incorrectly stated that three dioceses are to become founder members of the new alliance. The founder members comprise particular congregations in those dioceses.