Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Free Church of England orders recognised by CofE

This press release: Free Church of England Orders recognised.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have recognised the Orders of the Free Church of England under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967. The Measure gives the Archbishops authority to determine whether the Orders of any Church are ‘recognised and accepted’ by the Church of England.

The recognition of the Orders of the Free Church of England follows approximately three years of contact between the bishops of the Free Church of England, the Council for Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Commission, which recommended that the Orders of the Free Church of England be recognised. That recommendation was subsequently endorsed by the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops…

Much information about the Free Church of England can be found on its websites:

The Free Church of England

The Northern Diocese

The Southern Diocese

The following pages may be of particular interest:

One FAQ is this:

Is the Free Church of England an Anglican Church?

The Free Church of England is required by its Constitution to ‘conform to the ancient laws and customs of the Church of England’. Our doctrinal basis, structures, organisation, worship, ministry and ethos are therefore recognisably ‘Anglican’. Anyone coming from an Anglican background would find much that was familiar to him or her – including the layout of our Churches, robes, churchwardens, church councils and the like. Our worship is that of the Book of Common Prayer or conservative modern-language forms that belong to the Anglican tradition.

The Free Church of England is not a member of the Anglican Communion – though the Provinces that make up the Communion are currently re-defining their relationships with each other and with the See of Canterbury. Since the 1870s the Free Church of England has been in full communion with the Reformed Episcopal Church in the United States and Canada. The REC is a full member of the recently-formed Anglican Church in North America. The fact that the ACNA has been recognised by some Provinces of the Anglican Communion means that the Free Church of England now stands in some degree of relationship with them, though the precise details have not yet been worked out.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 9:03am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ACNA | Church of England

There was I under the impression that the See of Canterbury is vacant.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 11:31am GMT

I was only moderately concerned about the CofE’s recognition when I first learned of it. (I was not happy with the absence of women among the Free Church of England’s clergy.) Reading the tortured explanation of the church’s “Anglicanism,” however, has raised my concern. Touting one’s relationship with ACNA as evidence of one’s Anglicanism is profoundly wrong-headed.

Justin Welby should—but I suspect won’t—make it clear that ACNA is not a member of the Communion and will remain outside it as long as The Episcopal Church wants to remain a part of the Communion.

Posted by: Lionel Deimel on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 1:07pm GMT

There's something not quite right here. The first Free Church of England congregations were formed in 1844. Why is it only now that they are seeking recognition of orders?

This will set an uncomfortable and unanswerable precedent for the C of E when it comes to the Anglican Church of North America and any requests they may make. The House of Bishops are sleepwalking into what is prospectively a very divisive situation.

Yes, Lionel I agree, the new Archbishop of Canterbury needs to make clear that the ACNA is not a member of the Communion ... but like you I doubt whether he will.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 1:45pm GMT


I totally agree with you on the ACNA point, but don't think we can grant or withold recognition of other churches' orders on the basis of whether they have female clergy or not (which seems to be implied by your "moderate concern") - we after all recognise the orders of the Roman church, to say nothing of multiple other national churches within the Anglican communion.... Even many of the OOW proponents see it as a second order issue!

Posted by: primroseleague on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 1:53pm GMT

Why this organisation and not others which pretend that they are the authentic voice of 'Anglicanism'. And why now?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 2:00pm GMT

If I recall correctly, one of the reasons for the formation of the Reformed Episcopal Church - which apparently provided the Free Church of England with its episcopal "pedigree" - was a rejection of baptismal regeneration. Is this still a tenet of the Free Church of England today?

Posted by: Old Father William on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 6:40pm GMT

Fabulous news - a home from home for all those who continue to reject the ordained or episcopal ministry of women. No longer any need for provision as all res a,b & c parishes can now be FREE and the rest can proceed with a single Clause measure with a clear conscience, knowing that provision has, cannily, been made without the need for a code of practice. Inspired move by h of b's methinks:)

Posted by: Lindsay Southern on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 6:44pm GMT

One of the Bishops, John Fenwick, was a C of E vicar in the Blackburn diocese. But the websites dont tell us the number of adherents...I cant imagine its more than 1000 ,if that. Quite what has precipitated this I dont know...perhaps some congregations are becoming non-viable ( I can scarcely believe its a growing church)and they are hoping for integration with the C of E in a manner that wouldnt require re-ordination. Under Coggan the orders of the Church of England in South Africa were recognised ( no doubt to the annoyance of many in the CPSA) and I believe there are something like seven presbyters of that chuch now serving in the C of E. We had one at St James,s Muswell Hill I remember when I was the Edmonton ( London) DDO.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 6:59pm GMT

The orders of Church of England in South Africa were recognised by the CofE in 1965, the orders of the Roman Catholic Church are recognised .... I wonder what is the point of all this, can someone tell us?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 7:14pm GMT

Previously Free Church of England clergy were re-ordained conditionally in the C of E. One such case was Paul Avis.

The FCE is now split between a hardline very Protestant section, led by an ex Catholic priest now a FCE Bishop and a more ecumenically higher church friendly grouping led by John Fenwick, once an Anglican working in Lambeth Palace.

In total about 600 active members in the UK and a thriving chiurch in St Petersburg, Russia.

For years the FCE was riddled with free masonry.

The sister Church the Reformed Episcopal Church has also ben split with high church refugees from TEC taking it over.

Of course recognition of a Church's orders by Canterbury does not make it Anglican , as since 1965, CESA ( South Africa) orders have been recognised and of course the Church of England recognises Roman Catholic orders.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 7:24pm GMT

Is this the first opening to Bishop Minns and his schismatic offshoot of GAFCON?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 8:44pm GMT

"Our worship is that of the Book of Common Prayer or conservative modern-language forms that belong to the Anglican tradition."

Is self-defined "conservatism" to become an intrinsic element of the Anglican Communion? This recognition would seem to bring that a step closer. [I'm just trying to imagine an Anglican church describing itself in self-defined "liberal" or "progressive" terms, and how that would be received by the wider AC: not well, I'm guessing!]

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 10:00pm GMT

I take it the recognition of orders is not reciprocal then?

Posted by: Lindsay Southern on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 11:01pm GMT

This is not a life or death issue for me -- but what kind of resolution was made concerning the validity of their orders under apostolic succession?

It's my understanding that the initial FCE bishops were consecrated by a single bishop from the Reformed Episcopal Church in the United States within just a few years of the formation of the latter church.

The single ordaining bishop is problematic as are the questions connected with the orders of the REC in the U.S for the same reason -- it was founded by a single assistant bishop, who then ordained other bishops on his own. The founding bishop's view of episcopacy was that a bishop was essentially a presiding presbyter, which is essentially the theological view of the United Methodist Church in the U.S. has concerning its own bishops.

I believe that bishops from other non-Anglican traditions have been brought in to bolster the claims to apostolic succession but I don't know whether that has been sufficient to satisfy those who are scrupulous about this issue.

(I know that Rome has in issue with the CofE orders -- Archbishop Parker and all that -- but that's a matter of words not the proper number of proper persons.)

Posted by: dr.primrose on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 at 1:09am GMT

Free Church of England orders came via a TEC bishop in 1873. TEC vetoed recognition at Lambeth, on the grounds of changes in the ordination services.

Also in the Free Church of England a minister of a non episcopal church is accepted without re-ordination.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 at 6:59am GMT

The "Evangelical Connexion of the FCE" is currently led by Rt Rev Arthur Bentley Taylor - they do not want, nor do they seek, recognition of their orders from Canterbury. Being essentially Congregational Anglicanism this would be a nonsense.

The FCE-REC (1927) desires union with the CofE as its ultimate goal. However, it does not have any solid theological position - three years ago it still held its original teaching - that the NT guides to only TWO orders of ministry - that has been thrown out and they now have three...

Pragmatism now seems to be the over-riding element in its decision making, and in its theology.

Posted by: Luther on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 at 3:28pm GMT

Luther...the denomination is so tiny, neither of the two factions can afford to sue each other to capture the denomination.

The section which has Fenwick as a bishop assuredly wants recognition from Canterbury. Fenwick likes to fantasise that the FCE is the heir to the Church St Augustine established!

Posted by: robert ian williams on Thursday, 31 January 2013 at 6:30am GMT

Is it just me or does this quote from the southern bishop make this move seem perverse?

"The Diocese seeks to make friends of those who are dissatisfied with the present established church. You will find the Free Church of England to be like what the Church of England of the past used to be."

I don't want the Cof E of the past - I want the CofE of God's future!

Posted by: Charles Read on Thursday, 31 January 2013 at 2:05pm GMT

The reason the FCoE only now has sought recognition is that it's only recently been through an internal 'disruption' of its own. The more recognisably 'conservative' and decidedly calvinistic/evangelical, have regrouped as the FCoE-Evangelical Connexion. The Fenwick faction are the more 'liberal' - controversially allowing Masonic membership, now less vehemently Protestant- hence their desire for CofE recognition- anathema to the founders and the present 'Connexional' anti-ecumenical, Protestants. The Connexional Primus, Dominic Stockford is an ex-R.C. and President of the Protestant Truth Society. I suspect the Fenwick party's 'liberalism' would still be viewed as comparatively cautious and even as 'reactionary' on women's ordination and even more so on homosexuality.

Posted by: E. Wilson on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 at 11:02pm GMT
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