By Hilary White
LONDON, July 7, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II has twice written to support an emergent group of conservative Anglicans that rejects the ultra-liberal and sexually permissive direction of the Church of England. The Queen recently wrote to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) that she “understood their concerns” and “understands the commitment to the Anglican Church” and that she wished them well on the day of their official launch on Monday.
FCA leaders had written to the Queen to assure her of their loyalty to the Church of England. Palace spokesmen said that the letters did not constitute an official endorsement of the FCA. The FCA is an alliance of evangelical and Anglo-Catholic parishes in Britain and Ireland whose formation was precipitated in part by the acceptance of homosexuality by segments of the Anglican leadership in the developed world.
Unlike the US and Canada, Britain's official church is tightly intertwined with the civil constitution of the country. The Queen is not only head of state, but in her capacity of Supreme Governor of the Church of England she also formally appoints bishops on the advice of the Prime Minister. She has had little public input in the crisis that has enveloped the Worldwide Anglican Communion since the consecration in 2003 of openly active homosexual Gene Robinson as a bishop of New Hampshire.
Among the five bishops supporting the FCA, one of the most prominent is the bishop of Rochester, Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali, who has stirred controversy on many occasions with his vocal defence of Christian moral teaching and the traditional Christian cultural foundations of British society.
In a recent statement, issued just hours before Sarah Brown, the wife of the Prime Minister, was due to march in last month's London Gay Pride parade, Nazir Ali said of active homosexuals, “We want them to repent and be changed.” He said the Church of England must uphold the Biblical teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman. “We want to hold on to the traditional teaching of the Church. We don't want to be rolled over by culture and trends in the Church,” he said.
In a sermon on the Sunday before the FCA launch, Nazir Ali said, “If we continue in God's way then we will flourish as persons. Marriage will be strong, family will be strong and society will be strong. It's not rocket science.”
Another supporter bishop of the FCA, the Rt. Rev. Wallace Benn of Lewes, denied accusations that the group is “divisive.” To an audience of approximately 1,600 people from 300 parishes across the UK and Ireland, Benn said it is those “parts of the Church of England” who do not adhere to the biblical teaching who are “moving away from the historic Biblical Christianity.”
“We're trying to move back to the core of our Christian faith,” Benn said.
Apart from members in Britain, the FCA has attracted parishes in Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America as well as the US and Canada. It claims membership of nearly half the world's 77 million baptised Anglicans and was a project of the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON), established at the time of the 2008 Lambeth Conference. While the group rejects active homosexuality and actively homosexual clergy, it remains divided on the issue of female ordination.
Although not yet regarded as the “mainstream” Anglican church, the GAFCON section of Anglicanism currently represents two thirds or more of the Worldwide Anglican Communion's active lay membership of approximately 55 million and a third of its bishops.
FCA was launched at the same time as a similar initiative in the US. The official launch of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) last month was attended by 800 people in Bedford, Texas, where the group ratified its provisional constitution and elected its first archbishop. ACNA comprises approximately 700 parishes in North America with 100,000 members, making it bigger than the Anglican provinces of Wales and Scotland. While the ACNA has yet to achieve acceptance by the Anglican Communion, it is in full communion with the Anglican Churches of Nigeria and Uganda.
The launch of the FCA and ACNA comes as senior Anglican figures are warning of the looming demise of the Church of England and of Christianity in general in Britain. In a June 27th op-ed in the Sunday Telegraph, one of the Church of England's longest serving bishops heavily criticised his fellow bishops for failing to take the crisis seriously. “Christian Britain is dead,” wrote the Rt. Rev. Paul Richardson, Assistant Bishop of Newcastle.
Richardson said that with only 1 percent of Church of England members attending weekly services, “it is hard to see the church surviving for more than 30 years.” Of every 1,000 live births in England and Wales in the period 2006-07 only 128 were baptized as Anglicans. “Many bishops prefer to turn their heads, to carry on as if nothing has changed, rather than face the reality that Britain is no longer a Christian nation.”
“At present church leaders show little signs of understanding the situation. They don't understand the culture we now live in.”