AMiE ordinations – update

A summary of the initial reactions to AMiE ordinations on 7th December

An earlier post summarized the background to the first ordination service of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) on Thursday 7th December 2017 at the East London Tabernacle Church. These were led by Missionary Bishop Andy Lines and was live-streamed on the AMiE website;  “footage from the event itself” is available here.

Reaction to the ordination

No formal statement has yet been made by the Church of England, although the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon issued a stinging riposte to GAFCON on the membership of the Anglican Communion, below. However the CofE Media Digest of 9th December summarized a report in by Harry Farley in Christian Today: “[n]ine men were ordained on Thursday night by Andy Lines, bishop for the Anglican Mission in England, at a service in east London. A Church of England spokesman is quoted”.

The report in the CT notes:

“Several retired bishops attended the ceremony at East London Tabernacle Baptist Church and a number of active CofE clergy were also present. …Rev David Banting, a well known evangelical in the Church of England and vicar of St Peter’s Harold Wood in the Diocese of Chelmsford, joined in the laying on of hands of the new ordinands – a key part in the process of ordination”.

Importantly:

“Before the service a Church of England spokesman said  ‘It has come to our attention that Bishop Andy Lines, a Bishop in the Anglican Church in North America, will be carrying out some ordinations this week in a denomination calling itself the Anglican Mission in England.

‘For clarity, this group is not part of, nor affiliated with, the Church of England, nor is Bishop Lines’s parent denomination part of the Anglican Communion [However, see GAFCON comment below].

‘Under our canon law, Church of England clergy are unable to participate actively in the group’s services.

Reflections on the ordination are given in a piece by Daniel Leafe on the GAFCON UK site,  The hope of a home. The elements of the ordination include:

“Historical- rooted in the 1662 liturgy with the same charge that has been given to ordinands for centuries.

Global- with prayers and greetings from four GAFCON Primates and in the presence of four representatives of the Anglican Church of North America.

Episcopal- led by Bishop Andy Lines four bishops ordained the men and did so alongside a phalanx of “other presbyters” with bishops of at least three other Anglican churches in attendance”.

On 11 December, Anglican Mainstream carried a piece by Andrew Symes, Anglican realignment moves forward as AMiE conducts first ordinations, which gives further insights on the approach of AMiE. He states:

“most of those ordained [on 7th December] serve new churches in the north of England. All have completed theological study by various means; all are already fully involved in pastoral and evangelistic ministry, and most are helping to support themselves and their families by working part time.

This model of church planting does not involve expensive up-front investment before the work has even started; nor are there concerns about parish boundaries. The groups meeting in school halls, cafes or front rooms, often not in the smartest neighbourhoods, may at first sight look independent rather than Anglican, or to use terminology from a previous generation, ‘chapel’ rather than ‘church’ …  disciples like this can emerge under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, with the flexibility of light structures, the doctrinal stability that comes from a clear confessional basis, and yet Anglican: episcopally-led and globally connected”.

In a letter dated 14 December (but issued on 12 December) the GAFCON Chairman, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, stated that GAFCON recognizes AMiE as ‘fully part of the Anglican Communion’. He explained [emphasis added]:

“…the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration clarified that the Anglican Communion is not determined simply by relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury. We are confessing Anglicans and historic ties, however fruitful they have been in the past, cannot be allowed to compromise the truth of the gospel. Consistent with this principle, we recognise AMiE as fully part of the Anglican Communion“.

These claims were flatly denied by the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, in The ties that bind our Anglican Communion family in which he reflects on how membership of the Communion is defined.

Comment

The Christian Today article comments “It is not clear whether [joining in the laying on of hands of the new ordinands] amounted to breaking the Church’s canon laws, and without further background information, neither are we. However, we are reminded of the case concerning the Revd Richard Coekin, whose licence as a priest was revoked in 2006 by the then Bishop of Southwark, for acting outside his authority in facilitating ‘irregular’ ordinations: i.e. he invited a bishop from a church in South Africa that was not in communion with the Church of England to ordain three of his deacons. The then Archbishop of Canterbury allowed Coekin’s appeal on the grounds that the summary procedure followed by the Bishop was technically flawed. [See the Bishop of Winchester’s report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, In the Matter of Canon C12(5) of the Canons of The Church of England between The Reverend Richard John Coekin v The Bishop of Southwark, 5 June 2006].

Thursday’s statement by the CofE spokesperson before the AMiE ordination added little to what was already known (or should have been known by the participants) regarding the legal position concerning the service – after all, it’s essentially what we said in out post. However, unless there is now some form of follow-up by the CofE, it will effectively cede control of the agenda to AMiE; it can be no coincidence that on the Thursday evening of the ordination, St Helen’s Bishopsgate declared it was in ‘impaired relationship’ with fellow Church of England parishes in its deanery in central London. Subsequently, in his sermon on Sunday, the rector at St Helen’s is reported as telling his congregation that it will be necessary to walk away from the Church of England if the next Bishop of London is not conservative on sexuality. Likewise, the timing of Archbishop Nicholas Okoh’s letter is significant.

These events have echoes of the situation in 2006 and the ordinations facilitated by Coekin, on which Stephen Bates gave a somewhat cynical overview in his Opinion piece in The Guardian:

“The conservative evangelicals increasingly have a pick ‘n’ mix response to their bishops … deciding whom they will respect and whom not, which injunctions they will follow and which not. Already, two deacons at St Helen’s Bishopsgate in the City of London – one of the most conservative of the evangelical communities, which has already repudiated the authority of Dr Williams – have announced that they will not consent to be ordained by their diocesan, the Bishop of London”.

Final interviews for Lord Chartres’ successor concluded last week, and the  announcement will be of significance to AMiE, the Church of England and the broader Anglican Communion. Some sources suggest will be on Monday 18 December, although the London Diocesan web site states “January 2018 (maybe)”.

We await developments with interest.

David Pocklington

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "AMiE ordinations – update" in Law & Religion UK, 13 December 2017, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2017/12/13/amie-ordinations-update/

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