The conservative evangelical group Reform has published plans to boycott and withhold funds from bishops who support gay priests. Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is among those bishops whose views on gay sex are considered “problematic” and who could see his ministry rejected by evangelical clergy. If the proposals are endorsed at the Reform conference in October, evangelical parishes whose bishops support the liberal gay agenda will refuse to allow them into their churches to perform confirmations and other services. They will also channel funds away from the diocese and into Reform’s evangelical mission.
Reform leaders denied that they were instituting schism. However, the plans could have a serious effect because, although fewer than one third of Church of England clergy would count themselves as supporters of Reform, these parishes are the wealthiest in the Church. The precise sums have not been calculated, but if all the country’s Reform parishes decided to withhold funds it would cost the Church millions of pounds a year. The plans make clear the growing fears among evangelicals around the world that the Lambeth Commission, set up by Dr Williams to resolve the crisis, will fail adequately to discipline provinces such as the US and Canada, which have taken the lead on the gay issue.
Liberal bishops who have already earned the opprobrium of evangelicals in England by coming out in support of the celibate cleric Dr Jeffrey John include the bishops of Hereford, Leicester, Newcastle, Ripon and Leeds, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Salisbury, Truro, Worcester and Oxford. The report says:
“Sadly, there are also problems in Canterbury, where the Archbishop holds that homosexual relationships can be compatible with Christian discipleship.” The report continues: “It is incumbent on each congregation to stand firm in this current crisis and safeguard their Anglican heritage.”
Reform claims to represent up to a third of the 9,000 stipendiary clergy in the Established Church.