Hardline Anglican church leaders from Africa and Asia are considering consecrating an anti-LGBT bishop as a ‘missionary’ to the UK, without permission from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Deep divisions have arisen in the global Anglican church over LGBT issues, which has been exacerbated by the shift in Western churches towards LGBT rights.
In the past few years, Canadian Scottish and American churches have all sparked anger from hardline African archbishops by modernising on LGBT rights, while the Church of England is also considering adopting a more liberal stance.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recently vowed to go back to the drawing board on LGBT issues, promising “radical new Christian inclusion in the Church”, though details of any agreement are murky.
Anti-LGBT Anglicans have been incensed by the discussions – and the Mail on Sunday reports that a number of Anglican Archbishops from Africa and Asia are considering making a provocative move to challenge Welby’s authority
The newspaper reports a controversial plan to consecrate a UK bishop without permission is this week under consideration at the meeting of archbishops affiliated with conservative group GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference).
Anglican leaders from African and Asian nations could throw their weight behind a plan, which would see a ‘traditional’ UK bishop consecrated without support from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
A source told the newspaper: “I would say there is now a 75 per cent probability of the GAFCON archbishops voting to consecrate a new bishop for the UK.
“If it did happen, though, there is a serious risk that Archbishop Welby would press the nuclear button. This would be very dangerous territory.”
GAFCON UK chair Andy Lines has been rumoured to be under consideration for the role.
A Church of England bishop recently backed a formal ceremony for same-sex unions.
Bshop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell said: “Let me plain: LGBTI+ people are welcome in the churches of the Chelmsford diocese.
“They are welcome and we want to listen to them and work with them so as to find appropriate ways of expressing their love – for it is not good for human beings to be alone – in permanent, faithful, stable relationships.
“At the moment there is no consensus in the Church of England for those relationships to be formally blessed in Church, or for the Church of England to embrace same-sex marriage, but the current arrangements do welcome lay people and clergy into civil partnerships and there is no reason why prayers of thanksgiving for these relationships – perhaps a Eucharist – cannot be offered.
“We do not want same-sex couples to be cut off from the Church, and we want those who come to us seeking God’s blessing for their love to receive the guidance, challenge and support of the Church.”
Ultra-conservative group Anglican Mainstream, which opposes acceptance of LGBT people in the Church, agitated for a split after his comments.
They said: “It is difficult to see how his role as guardian of a distinctive, counter-cultural apostolic truth has not been forfeited.
“It is now over to the orthodox clergy and laity in Chelmsford Diocese, first, to see what they will do.
“Some will be talking about looking for some form of differentiation, perhaps alternative oversight, whether informal or more visible.
“Some, especially laity, will be looking for another denomination. We hope that those who continue to recognize the Bishop’s spiritual authority and do nothing, will see the need to join others in taking principled action. This pattern will be repeated in other Dioceses in coming months.”