Church of England could split over gay marriage with parishes set to form ‘shadow synod’

Faction says Church is ‘watering down’ Christian teachings

Harriet Agerholm
Tuesday 30 August 2016 13:35 BST
Justin Welby said he was ‘constantly consumed with horror’ at the way the Church treated gay people
Justin Welby said he was ‘constantly consumed with horror’ at the way the Church treated gay people (PA)

A group of parish leaders may split from the Church of England to form a “shadow synod” over conflicting views on issues such as gay marriage.

Representatives from parishes across the home counties have scheduled a meeting to lay the foundations of a new, more conservative group.

Although the organisers of the faction said they do not have plans to separate immediately, they said they were establishing the “embryonic” structures of an independent group, which could become an alternative church in the future.

In the next few months, bishops in the Church of England are expected to consider offering a blessing service to same-sex couples.

Reverend Peter Sanlon, Vicar of St Mark’s Church in Tunbridge Wells and host of the meeting, told The Daily Telegraph: “If senior leaders of the Church of England water down the teaching of the Church of England on key issues like homosexuality, then this synod could easily evolve into a new Anglican jurisdiction in England."

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has signalled that he is aware of the possibility that a significant proportion of the church will not accept a change in the church’s teaching.

“This could be the beginning of that playing out."

Congregations in three dioceses – Rochester, Canterbury and Chichester – are to found the new alliance, but Mr Sanlon said he expected more to join and had received many inquiries.

The group said they may decide to withhold the donations they collect in order to fund their endeavours.

In response, the Church of England said “shared conversations” between different members of the Church had led them to better understand “deep convictions” and “profound differences” within their ranks.

It said it hoped these discussions would help “inform the way the church conducts whatever further formal discussions take place”.

The move comes after Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told an an audience at the Greenbelt Christian festival he was “constantly consumed with horror" at the way the Church treated gay people and that he lay awake thinking about the issue.

Speaking about the Church’s position on gay marriage, Mr Welby added: “I can’t see the road ahead".

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