At least eight conservative priests in the Diocese of Chelmsford have told their bishop, the Rt Rev John Gladwin, that they will refuse to share Holy Communion with him. The priests are angry that the bishop signed the letter sent by six bishops to The Times on Monday announcing their support for continuing communion with ECUSA and supporting the commitment to listen to lesbian and gay people.
One of the group, the Rev John Richardson, a priest in Henham, Elsenham and Ugley, Essex, said that a number of conservative parishes would not be able to participate in services of confirmation, baptism or communion with Bishop Gladwin. “We have never had a collective group of clergy out of sacramental fellowship with their bishop since the 17th century”, said Mr Richardson. “While this is not the end of the road, it is one of the most serious protests we could make short of leaving the Church.” The Rev Richard Farr, the priest in charge at the parish, added: “We want Bishop John to admit that he’s made a mistake and for him to step back from what he has said. As far as we are concerned, we are now in a position of fractured communion.”
Mr Richardson thought that their numbers could swell significantly over the next few weeks. Last November 100 priests in the diocese – more than a fifth of the total – signed a statement expressing unease about the positive moves in the Anglican Church to welcome lesbian and gay people and consider consecrating women bishops.
Chelmsford Diocesan Synod meets next Saturday; 19 March, and could be test the real strength of opposition to the bishop.