Page last updated at 00:09 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 01:09 UK

CofE 'could back rebel US Church'

By Trevor Timpson
BBC News

Chris Sugden
Chris Sugden: US move was "extremely worrying and serious".

The lifting of a temporary ban on appointing gay bishops in the US could boost moves in the Church of England to back breakaway American Anglicans, a UK campaigner claims.

Canon Chris Sugden, a leader of the newly-launched UK section of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA), told the BBC News website Monday's decision by the Episcopal Church to drop the ban was "extremely worrying and serious".

He said it could increase support for a motion at the Church of England's General Synod to declare fellowship with the breakaway Anglican Church of North America (ACNA).

The ACNA is a union of traditionalist groups which split from the Episcopal Church following the appointment of an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in New Hampshire.

At the same time, Canon Sugden complains, advocates of a "gay agenda" in the Church are determined to keep pushing the issue.

This includes bringing Bishop Robinson to speak at the UK Church's music and arts festival, Greenbelt, in August. "A number of us are very concerned about that," he says.

Canon Sugden is the executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, a body set up in 2003 to represent "orthodox" views in the Church following the appointment of Bishop Robinson and of the gay Canon Geoffrey John as Bishop of Reading - an appointment he later renounced.

Canon Sugden is also secretary of the organisers of the FCA in Britain and Ireland - which was launched at a 1,600-strong meeting in Westminster on 6 July.

A number of bishops were among those at the launch, which he says was also encouraging because he reckons half the people there were under 40.

'Worldwide crisis'

"The Church is always within a generation of extinction - I think it's good news for the future of the Church that we had a large number of younger people there," he adds.

The FCA was established following the Global Anglican Future conference (Gafcon) which met in Jerusalem in June last year to address what it says is a crisis in the Anglican Communion worldwide - of which the most divisive aspect was the appointment of Gene Robinson.

Same-sex intimacy, Canon Sugden, says, "is something that excludes people - without repentance - from the kingdom of God. That's clear teaching."

Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans launch in the UK (Photo: Stephen Sizer)
Several bishops and many young people were at the FCA launch, Chris Sugden says.

He rejects claims he that those who think like him are obsessed with discussing sex, to the exclusion of more valuable Christian pursuits.

The trouble with controversies in the Church, he says, is that they divert attention and work from sharing the Gospel of Christ. He stresses the concerns of the FCA and allied organisations with issues of poverty, war and oppression.

"It's perfectly possible to address pastorally and sensitively the experience of people who have same-sex relationships," he insists.

'Obsessed'

On the other hand, he claims: "It's the people who are continually bringing up the pro-homosexual agenda. They're the ones who are obsessed by this.

"Why is Gene Robinson at Greenbelt? Why is he there? It's not as though he is unknown, it's not as though the issue hasn't been well aired."

He thinks the Church of England will "be looking very carefully" at its formal ties with the Episcopal Church in the US following the decision to end the freeze on appointing gay bishops.

The Archbishop of Canterbury had already said he regretted the US move - before the American House of Bishops confirmed it.

I think we'll see more people expressing the desire to be in fellowship with the ACNA
Canon Chris Sugden

A private member's resolution is circulating at the Church of England's General Synod, calling on the English Church to declare itself in fellowship with the ACNA.

Canon Sugden says he has spoken to several bishops about this motion, and they said they would wait for the Americans' decision.

"I think we'll see more people expressing the desire to be in fellowship with the ACNA," he adds.

Some British Anglicans will seek to be in fellowship with both American Churches, Chris Sugden admits.

He says: "That may be an approach that some take - institutional peace - but the issue is not institutional peace the issue is theological integrity and clarity and to say, 'Would you take Communion with those who bless sin?'

"It's not just who are sinners - we're all sinners... but those who bless sin? I think you'll find a great number of people will say No."



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