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The Queen's former chaplain is leading a vicar rebellion over gay marriage, as he threatens to break away from the Church of England

The Queen's former chaplain is leading a vicar rebellion over gay marriage, as he threatens to break away from the Church of England

By Camilla Turner, education editor
JULY 25, 2017

The Rev Dr Gavin Ashenden, who until earlier this year was one of the special chaplains to the Queen, has warned of the prospect of a "declaration of independence" from vicars who feel that those with traditional views are being "marginalised" by the Church establishment.

In a letter published in today's Daily Telegraph, a group of 23 conservative Anglicans raise the prospect of a split in the Church.

They claim that the most recent meeting of the General Synod - the Church of England's lawmaking body which earlier this month appeared to signal support for gay marriage - has caused "great concern" to Anglicans, and has deepened tensions between the traditionalist and progressive camps.

"There are times, particularly in the face of social disintegration, when it is the duty of the Church to be counter-cultural," the letter said.

It added that the "booing of traditionalists" and the "personal abuse" they suffered at the General Synod has "deepened mistrust" between the two camps.

The letter concludes by raising the prospect of a split in the Church of England, similar to that which took place in the North American Anglican church.

Dr Ashenden told The Daily Telegraph that the letter is a warning that unless there is a change of direction, the archbishop risks a "revolt in the form of an independence movement".

"This is a warning that the Archbishop is under notice that unless he leads the Church in a way that remains consistent with the values and authority of the bible as opposed to progressive secularism, he will risk some kind of revolt in the form of an independence movement," he said.

In 2009, The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) was set up by former members of the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada who disagreed with what they saw as the increasingly liberal direction of their former Church's teachings.

"We are saying if you don't draw a halt at this point the same thing will happen here and there will be a significant number who will secede and reconstitute an Anglican church to keep faith with authentic Anglican Christianity," Dr Ashenden said.

An increasing numbers of orthodox Anglicans have lost confidence in the archbishops

The Rev Dr Peter Sanlon, Vicar of St Mark's Church in Tunbridge Wells, said that a lot of Anglican leaders are concerned "not just about votes at the General Synod regarding sexuality but also votes against the uniqueness of Christ and against urging all minister to share the gospel with the nation".

Dr Sanlon, who also helped to organise the letter, added that "increasing numbers of orthodox Anglicans have lost confidence in the archbishops. Clergy like me are in touch with senior leaders of ACNA."

Dr Ashenden resigned earlier this year after publicly criticising a church that allowed a Koran reading during its service as part of an interfaith project, saying the reading was "a fairly serious error" which he had a duty to speak out about.

A Church of England spokesman said: "As with any debating chamber, Synod often debates controversial issues and members can sometimes disagree strongly with each other. That is the nature of debate. If there is an issue the Chair will intervene. The expectation is that Synod members are courteous at all times both to each other and invited guests."

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