Britain in battle for its soul, says Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen
by Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
July 7, 2009
Britain is facing a "battle for the soul of the nation", an archbishop warned yesterday at the inaugural meeting of a group that threatens to split the Church of England.
The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, called for a spiritual renewal of Church and State in his keynote speech to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in London. Dr Jensen, arguably the most powerful evangelical in the Anglican Communion and a driving force behind the conservative revival, said: "In this country, the Christian foundations have been shaken. In this and the next generation there will be fought what may amount to the last battle for the soul of the nation.
"It will be an ideological war, a war of ideas. But great issues will hang upon the outcome: the fate of a culture and the eternal fate of souls." He warned: "The culture of the West has adopted and promulgated anti-Christian belief and practice.
"It confronts every Christian with the choice of submission or harassment. It pretends to be the true heir of the Christian faith, and that the entire structure of Christian thought can disappear into the receding past. The conflict is over the authority of Jesus Christ. The fact that sexual ethics is where the contest is sharpest should not divert us from this basic truth."
Members of the fellowship said their agenda was to reform the Church of England from within and to bring the increasingly liberal Anglicans in the West back to their biblical Protestant roots. They are opposed to blessing gay civil partnerships, ordaining gay clergy and, in particular, the ordination of women bishops.
Many Anglicans believe the fellowship's agenda is backward-looking and would alienate moderate believers.
Delegates meeting in Westminster Central Hall took comfort from messages of support sent by the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
In her letter, the Queen sent "good wishes to all concerned for a successful and memorable event". Dr Williams said: "I shall be glad to hold all of you in my prayers for the occasion."
Even the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, gave his backing to the new group, despite being an advocate of women bishops.
Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner, accused the Queen of "a serious error of judgment". He said: "It is very alarming to see the Queen endorse a homophobic grouping within the Church of England."
Bishop Greg Venables, primate of the Southern Cone in South America, told delegates: "Schism is not the point of what is happening. Schism is when you separate over secondary issues. This is about essential theology. That is where the divisions are coming. It is not schism, it is real separation."
Leaders of the fellowship told The Times that they believed disestablishment was both inevitable and necessary if the Anglican Church was to remain true to its biblical heritage.
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