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Anglican, but not Church of England

Anglican, but not Church of England

By Andrew Symes
September 25th, 2013

Christ Church Wyre Forest (CCWF) is one of a small number of congregations in England that are Anglican, but not part of the Church of England. Each church has its own story to explain its irregular status. In the case of CCWF it happened like this: Charles Raven was vicar of the parish of Christ Church Kidderminster in the West Midlands Diocese of Worcester.

His Bishop at the time, Peter Selby, was of a different theological persuasion: he was vocally critical of the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution 1:10 and openly advocated the acceptance and blessing of homosexual relationships. Charles and his congregation bravely stood up to their Bishop, asking him to please refrain from teaching what was contrary to Scripture and accepted church doctrine. Selby of course refused, and after a stand-off Charles Raven's licence was revoked. Many of the congregation stood with their vicar and set up the new church in 2002 with support from a number of evangelical churches and networks across the country.

Here was an Anglican church which found itself outside its Diocese and the Church of England without having left or declared independence, and without having said or done anything contrary to what the Church of England believes. In the meantime temporary oversight has been provided by Crosslinks, the evangelical Anglican mission agency, but eventually it was cases like CCWF which have led to the formation of the Anglican Mission in England, which will be able to provide a strong worldwide link and Episcopal oversight for such congregations through the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

Summer 2012 saw Charles Raven move to Kenya with his wife Gillian, to a key position in the office of Archbishop Eliud Wabakala. In the meantime Christ Church Wyre Forest has been without a pastor. The problem was to attract a convinced evangelical Anglican minister to a church which is not part of the official structures of the Church of England. Last Saturday was the joyful answer to that problem: the commissioning of Revd Leo Davison as the new pastor.

Leo trained at Oak Hill theological college alongside Church of England ordinands. He went to work as a lay leader and preacher with Christ Church Durham, another church plant "outside the system". It was the Church of England in South Africa (CESA) Bishop Martin Morrison who eventually ordained Leo. At the service on Saturday he was commissioned into his new post by Rt Revd John Ellison, formerly Bishop of Paraguay. Representatives were present from Crosslinks, the Reform network, Anglican Mainstream, Oak Hill College, and Jesmond Parish Church in Newcastle. Revd David Banting, a former Chair of Reform who had made regular visits to support the church over the years, preached the sermon, in which he focused on Jesus the Good Shepherd: "The church should be set up in such a way that the Shepherd's voice can be heard and his care experienced".

A message from Charles Raven was read out, of greeting and blessing on the church, and Leo, his wife Vicky and their three children. He assured all present that he and Gillian were safe, and urged us to continue to pray for the situation in Nairobi where dozens had been killed in a terrorist attack on a shopping centre. Bishop John reminded the congregation of the importance of the forthcoming GAFCON meeting to be held in Nairobi, and dedicated the offering to the support of church leaders travelling to GAFCON from poorer countries.

The Commissioning Service was full of praise to God and thanks for his faithfulness, re-statement of life-giving Gospel truth and the power of the Holy Spirit, and hope for the future. Christ Church Wyre Forest now meets in Stourport, a small town just south of Kidderminster, and the service was held in the hall of Stourport High School, although normally services are held in a Community Centre. Leo Davison says that there is a serious missionary challenge: a population in the area of 100,000, with only 500 people attending bible-believing churches of any denomination.

There are four primary schools in Stourport, but only a handful of children in church. So there is an urgent task to mobilize the church for prayer and outreach. Churches need to come together around the common message of Jesus' death and resurrection, and work together, irrespective of denomination, to bring people to faith and build them up in maturity.

It would of course be very good if the Diocese could give a lead in this Gospel ministry and find ways of accommodating, encouraging and re-integrating churches like CCWF. But if this cannot happen, the work of Gospel mission must go on, and there are now new Anglican structures available which can sustain them.


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