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Free Church of England Celebrates 90 Years of Unity

10th June 2017

Members of the Free Church of England from around the country and overseas gathered at Wallasey on 10th June for a special service to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the union between the original Free Church of England (FCE) and the UK branch of the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC).

The first congregations of the FCE had been formed in 1844; the Reformed Episcopal Church was established in the UK (from North America) in 1877. The two churches lived in parallel (and sometimes rivalry) until formally uniting, after several years of conversations, in June 1927.

The anniversary service was held in the same building – Christ Church, Liscard, Wallesey on the Wirral – in which the union took place.

The preacher was Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester and President of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Development. Readings and intercessions were led by members of different FCE congregations. The Rt Revd Paul Hunt, General Secretary of the FCE, led an act of rededication.

The Most Revd Ray Sutton, Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, and the Most Revd Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, both brought greetings. Other bishops from Brazil, Germany and the United States were also present.

The Revd Dr David Cornick, General Secretary of Churches Together in England, also addressed the congregation made up of FCE members and Christians of other Churches; the Roman Catholic Church sent a representative and Dr Hugh Osgood, the Free Church President of CTE also attended.

In his opening remarks, the Bishop Primus of the FCE (the Rt Revd John Fenwick) reminded the congregation that a united orthodox Anglican witness is needed today just as much as it was in 1927, continuing: ‘To those who despair at the latest bout of Anglican fragmentation, we offer our experience as sign of hope’.

The service was followed by generous refreshments in the Church hall.

Primus extends right hand of fellowship to GAFCON Missionary Bishop

8th June 2017

Following earlier announcements by the GAFCON Primates, the appointment of the Revd Canon Andy Lines, General Secretary of Crosslinks, to be a GAFCON-sponsored Missionary Bishop in the UK was announced on 8th June. The announcement followed the decision by the Scottish Episcopal Church to alter its canons to allow the marriage of persons of the same sex.

As a matter of courtesy, the FCE bishops (who have themselves subscribed to GAFCON) were informed some weeks in advance of the impending announcement and of the identity of the candidate. Canon Lines and Archbishop Foley Beach, who made the announcement on behalf of the GAFCON Primates, attended the Anglican Unity Forum hosted by the FCE before travelling to Edinburgh for the press conference.

Canon Lines will be a Missionary Bishop of the Anglican Church in North America, which means that he will automatically be in communion with the bishops of the Free Church of England.

Bishops John Fenwick and Paul Hunt look forward to working with Canon Lines as his new ministry takes shape.

Free Church of England hosts Anglican Unity Forum

8th June 2017

On Thursday 8th June the Free Church of England hosted a Forum for orthodox Anglicans – within and without the Church of England – to take counsel together about courses of action in the present situation. Approximately 23 people were present, representing a range of jurisdictions, churchmanships, organisations and perspectives.

The Forum began with a Bible study from 1 Chronicles looking at the transition from the untidy group of people who initially gathered around David to the settled arrangements of the Kingdom of Israel, and drawing parallels with the current context.

Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America then opened in prayer, after which he addressed those present concerning the present situation and introduced Canon Andy Lines, the announcement of whose appointment as Missionary Bishop was made later in the day.

For most of the day the participants were guided by Bishop Trevor Walters of the Anglican Network in Canada, which is part of the ACNA. Among the themes that Bishop Trevor explored was that of acknowledging our weaknesses and our need of each other.

The REC/ACNA bishops present shared their testimony of the need to build trust among all participants, especially the bishops, who needed to learn to work together and ‘watch each other’s backs’. Another bishop spoke of his positive experiences of working with colleagues of very different churchmanship.

By the end of the day a resolve had emerged to try to work towards an overarching organisation/structure for the UK that would include both ‘leavers’ and ‘remainers’. Arrangements for the next step are being put in place.

Convocation 2017

6th-8th June 2017

The 90th Annual Convocation of the Free Church of England was held at The Hayes, Conference Centre, Swanwick from 6th to 8th June.

Proceedings followed the usual pattern, but were augmented this year by the presence of a number of bishops from the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in North America. The Most Revd Ray Sutton, Presiding Bishop of the REC, brought greetings to the gathering and presented a stole to Bishop Josep Rossello. Bishops Gerhard Meyer (Germany), Jasmin Milic (Croatia), David Hicks (REC) and Trevor Walters (Anglican Network in Canada/ACNA) also addressed Convocation.

Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America preached at the Eucharist on the last morning, speaking warmly of the FCE’s long witness and of the fact that the ACNA is in full communion with us.

Another first for Convocation was the two-hour skype session during which Canon Phil Ashey of the ACNA taught on Church revitalisation.

Primus gave his charge from Joshua 1, drawing out the lesson of the need to have the courage to leave the wilderness and enter the Promised Land.

Among the items of business transacted was a modification of a byelaw to create a fund exclusively for outreach and mission here in the UK.

90th Anniversary Union Celebrations

10th June 2017

On 10th June 2017 the Free Church of England will be holding a special thanksgiving service to mark the 90th anniversary of the union of the original Free Church of England (whose first congregations were formed in 1844 and came together under a common constitution and episcopate in 1863) with the UK branch of the Reformed Episcopal Church (founded in the USA in 1873 with its first UK congregations in 1878). The service will be held in Christ Church, Liscard, Wallasey where the 1927 union actually took place. The preacher is to be the Right Revd Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester. Representatives from a range of Churches and organisations have been invited to join fCE members from around the country.

Free Church of England to host Anglican Unity Forum

8th June 2017

On 8th June 2017 the bishops of the Free Church of England will be hosting a forum to which a wide range of traditionalist Anglicans have been invited. The forum is to be moderated by the Most Revd Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America. The hope is that a process may be initiated to bring together the hitherto fragmented witness of traditionalist Anglicans in the UK.

Southern Diocese joins GAFCON

11th March 2017

At its meeting on 11th March, the Synod of the Southern Diocese of the Free Church of England voted to affiliate with GAFCON UK, the follow up to the Global Anglican Future Conference held in Jerusalem in 2008. The Northern Diocese had already done so some time earlier. The Free Church of England’s affiliation with this movement to defend orthodox Anglicanism is very much in line with the vision of our founding fathers in the 19th century.

Northern Clergy Conference and Synod

9th – 11th March 2017

The Revd Dr Peter Sanlon, Vicar of St Mark’s, Tunbridge Wells, was the guest speaker at the March Clergy Conference. Dr Sanlon has been much involved in recent attempts to defend orthodox, biblical teaching in the Church of England and sees many parallels between the present situation and that which led to the formation of the Free Church of England and Reformed Episcopal Church. At Synod Dr Sanlon shared suggestions for funding new congregations and stipends in partnerships between Churches.

Retirement of the Revd John Taylor

15th February 2017

After 17 years as Presbyter-in-Charge of Holy Trinity, Oswaldtwistle, the Revd John Taylor retired on 15th February. The occasion was marked by a service of Holy Communion at which Bishop John Fenwick preached. The Bishop then chaired the Annual Congregational Meeting, following which there was a parish lunch in the upper room. We wish John and his wife Elsie a long and happy retirement.

ACNA Orders recognised by Church of England

2nd February 2017

In a statement from the Bishop of Peterborough, Chairman of the Church of England’s Council for Christian Unity, it was announced that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have recognised the Orders of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967. This is the same mechanism by which the Archbishops have also recognised the Orders of the Free Church of England. Indeed, the FCE is named in the statement as one of the Churches whose Order are so recognised.

Welcoming the statement, Bishop Primus said, ‘This recognition of the Orders of the ACNA (which of course includes our sister Church, the Reformed Episcopal Church) is a welcome development which contains the potential for strengthening further the growing relationship between the Anglican Church in North America and the Free Church of England. It is further evidence that it is possible for a Church to be authentically Anglican though not a member of the Anglican Communion.’

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