I have been catching up on news about GAFCON, especially through John Richardson’s Chelmsford Anglican Mainstream blog and the Church Times Blog run by another Essex Anglican, Dave Walker. The latest news is a denial that GAFCON will cause schism in the Anglican Communion.
But there is one important news report, by Ruth Gledhill in the Times, whose significance for Essex Anglicans neither of these bloggers seems to have noticed; John ignores it completely, while Dave links to it by title without mention of the relevant part. Here is that relevant part of what Ruth writes, concerning an international conservative Anglican Fellowship which may be set up in the aftermath of GAFCON:
Members of the fellowship could attempt to opt out of the pastoral care of their diocesan bishop and seek oversight from a more conservative archbishop, either from their own country or abroad.
The success of the fellowship in averting schism will depend on the response of the local leadership.
It is understood that hundreds of parishes in England could be interested in joining such a fellowship, if it did not mean schism from the Church of England.
The dioceses most affected by parishes looking for more conservative leadership are understood to include Chelmsford, St Albans and Southwark.
Graham Kings reports this on the Fulcrum GAFCON forum, “Monday 23 June 2008 – 09:12am”, but has little to add himself.
So we are talking about hundreds of parishes in England, and Chelmsford as one of the most affected dioceses. That means, I suppose, dozens of parishes in Essex and east London expected to join such a Fellowship and possibly “attempt to opt out of the pastoral care of their diocesan bishop”. If this happens, it will indeed be big news. But if so, why is it being announced in hints by Ruth Gledhill, and why is John Richardson, who as spokesman for Chelmsford Anglican Mainstream is certain to be close to the heart of this, making no mention of this story?
But then perhaps John was alluding to intentions of this kind when, on his personal blog The Ugley Vicar, he quoted with apparent approval the following words of Nigel Atkinson:
What will we have then achieved? We will have formed ourselves into a coherent ecclesial body. We will have our bishops, our clergy, our parishes, our people and our money welded together.
This was outwardly in a different context, that of women bishops. But could there be a plan to bring the two aspects together, to set up, formally within the Anglican Communion, “a coherent ecclesial body” with its own bishops, clergy and parishes, united not only by opposition to women bishops but also by a broader opposition to liberal trends in the Church of England?
The problem with that plan is, where would it leave the large number of us Anglicans who support ordination of women but reject what really is creeping liberalism?