Anglican Mission in England celebrates new status and opportunities

Dec 18, 2020 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream:

The Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) is not a new organisation. Its origin was in the early 2000’s, when new congregations started to appear in England which identified as Anglican, but were outside the Church of England. In some cases they left because they were no longer able to accept the authority of, and fellowship with a liberal Bishop. In other cases the C of E Bishop initially granted a “mission order” to plant a new church, only to rescind it following pressure from local parishes – and the plant had decided to go ahead anyway. In those early years informal oversight and networking for these congregations was provided by the evangelical global mission agency Crosslinks, led at the time by Andy Lines, a former missionary in South America.

A number of key evangelical leaders within the Church of England saw the need for a new organisation for these churches to belong to, with an Anglican identity, and connected to the wider evangelical constituency in the C of E. AMiE was formed in 2011, with a particular character and focus: reformed evangelical theology, informal worship style, and strong commitment to evangelism and church planting. In 2013 AMiE was recognised as an Anglican mission initiative by Gafcon. 2017 saw the consecration of Andy Lines by the Anglican Church in North America, and his appointment by Gafcon as ‘Missionary Bishop for Europe’ – his immediate task was to provide oversight for those congregations which had left the Scottish Episcopal Church after their change of marriage canons and liturgy in that year. Bishop Andy continued his relationship with the AMiE churches on an informal basis while discussions took place about the shape of a new jurisdiction which could include AMiE, the faithful Scottish Episcopalians, and any other Anglican congregations in Britain or continental Europe in need of a home.

In the first few months of 2020, Bishop Andy, with the encouragement of Gafcon worked with representatives from the two main groups and other consultants to negotiate the development of a new ecclesial structure. In June it was confirmed that this would take the form of two distinct ‘Convocations’, each with its own character, canons and constitution, but both part of the Anglican Network in Europe (ANiE), of which Andy Lines would be the Bishop. Since then, AMiE has had to adjust its own constitution and develop canons, and the Anglican Convocation in Europe, geographically and in terms of churchmanship slightly broader than AMiE, has constituted itself from scratch in less than six months. ANiE has done the same in forming the overarching body – a remarkable achievement. On December 9th the Gafcon Primates confirmed their recognition of ANiE as an authentically Anglican jurisdiction, similar to the Extra Provincial Diocese of New Zealand, and the Provinces in Brazil and North America.

The result is that AMiE is no longer a loose affiliation of evangelical congregations with an Anglican heritage, but an authentically Anglican proto-diocese of a proto-Province, with a Bishop and strong connections with global orthodox Anglicanism. While it retains its own convictions on issues such as complementarian ministry, its partnership with ACE under ANiE ensures that it is part of a biblically orthodox church which reflects the diversity of Gafcon. As it seeks to grow through planting new churches, AMiE, together with ACE, can also provide a genuinely Anglican home for existing congregations currently in other jurisdictions who want to be part of a faithful global fellowship rather than another expression of Anglicanism with declining commitment to biblical authority.

This was the background to the celebration of the new stage and status of AMiE which took place on December 14th in an online event hosted by Bishop Andy Lines, and Lee McMunn, Rector of Trinity Church (AMiE) in Scarborough. As the nearly 250 participants arrived on the Zoom call,  they heard a number of pre-recorded messages of goodwill and praise for this missionary enterprise, from among others, Peter Jensen, Michael Nazir Ali, William Taylor, and Martin Mills the Chair of Gafcon UK and a member of the Church of England, who said:

You have grown from a church planting movement to a new Anglican jurisdiction, a Convocation of the Anglican Network in Europe under Bishop Andy’s oversight, authenticated by the leaders of the majority Anglican world. I’m committed to ensuring that through Gafcon UK you continue to feel part of the Gafcon family, owning the vision and praying for our brothers and sisters around the world as they pray for you. And also that you continue to have fellowship with many like me who share the same faith and desire to see God’s kingdom come. There are different contexts, different strategies, but we’re united in Christ and part of a global family together.

Bishop Andy then welcomed those present, and gave a brief history of AMiE and his involvement. He emphasised the primary reasons for this new structure: a home for existing congregations outside an official system to belong to, and the great mission need in Britain and the continent of Europe. After this, the format switched to a pre-recorded video of a service of thanksgiving and commissioning led by Lee McMunn.

There were songs, prayers and readings. Robert Tong, a canon lawyer from Sydney who has spent countless hours over the past six months assisting with the development of canons and constitutions, was interviewed, and explained he was giving his time partly in gratitude for the initiative by English Christians (especially Wilberforce and Newton) who ensured that faithful ministers of the gospel were a key part of the foundation of the colony of Australia. Archbishop Foley Beach gave warm greetings from the Gafcon Primates and the ACNA. Tim Davies, minister of Christ Church Central (AMiE) in Sheffield, led a prayer of dedication in which different sections were read by all of the ministers of the founding AMiE churches.

Bishop Andy’s sermon was based on 1 Thessalonians 5, and emphasised the reality of the return of Christ as a motivation for our love for and another and our evangelistic mission to the world. After concluding prayers, we returned to the multiple faces of Zoom, and were sent into small groups for sharing of our concerns, and prayer for one another and for AMiE. Most of the participants on the evening were clergy and lay members from AMiE churches, but there were a number of others supporting from the Church of England and from around the world.

Four key things to note about this event, which perhaps serve to correct misunderstandings. Firstly, it showed that AMiE is genuinely Anglican and episcopal although of course not part of the Church of England or in communion with Canterbury. Secondly, it looks to Gafcon for inspiration and oversight, and embraces other groups in fellowship which share the same gospel vision, rather than being a federation of independent churches. Thirdly, it is not seeking to attack the Church of England and to actively recruit from it, although of course robust debate will continue between individuals in various jurisdictions on whether bible believing Anglicans should remain in the C of E. Lastly, AMiE and its parent body ANiE are small but appear to have put structures in place for growth – much prayer and work is still needed. The ACE convocation will launch officially in January 2021..

See Anglican TV interview with Bishop Andy Lines here

and with Lee McMunn and Philip de Grey-Warter here

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