Evangelicals call Williams a prostitute
Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent
Wednesday October 13, 2004
Conservative evangelicals flexed their muscles yesterday by denouncing the Church of England and its leader, the Most Rev Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, as sinful and corrupt, and threatening to refuse to recognise the authority of liberal bishops.
They warned that they might seek the ecclesiastical oversight of more theologically congenial bishops from the developing world if the church did not offer them the chance to align with bishops of their own stamp in England.
The complaints came in the run-up to next week’s publication of an international
commission reviewing the structure of the Anglican communion in the wake of the gay bishops dispute.
Supporters of the evangelical pressure group Reform, meeting at their conference in Derbyshire, overwhelmingly supported its plans to start disengaging from liberal bishops and refusing to pay funds to their dioceses, to indicate their disapproval of what they see as the church’s slide into acceptance of sexual immorality.
Dr Williams was denounced as a theological prostitute by the Very Rev Phillip Jensen, the controversial Anglican dean of Sydney, addressing the 200 clergy and lay members attending the conference.
He and his brother Peter, Archbishop of Sydney, have led the way in aggressive low church conservatism.
Dean Jensen was applauded as his sweeping denunciation of the Church of England took in the Prince of Wales – a “public adulterer”; King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, attacked as a “temple to paganism” for selling the records and compact discs of its famous choir in the ante-chapel; and women priests because, “as soon as you accept women’s ordination everything else in the denomination declines”.
But the dean reserved his strictest condemnation for Dr Williams, because he holds liberal private views about homosexual relationships, even though he has struggled to uphold the church’s unity by maintaining its traditional opposition to ordained gays.
“That’s no good. That’s total prostitution of the Christian ministry,” the dean declared, to applause and cries of “Amen”.
“He should resign. That’s theological and intellectual prostitution. He is taking his
salary under false pretences.”
Reform is developing links with the Anglican church in the developing world in readiness for the outcome of the report of the commission headed by Archbishop Robin Eames, set up a year ago in response to the decision by the US Episcopal church to ordain its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, to lead the diocese of New Hampshire.
Bishop Robinson was elected by parishioners in the state, even though he was known to be living with his partner, in defiance of traditional church practice.
Evangelicals now want the commission to discipline the US church, or at least those of its bishops who supported Bishop Robinson’s appointment, until they repent, though there is at present no mechanism for the worldwide church to do so.
In England the first targets of conservative evangelicals are likely to include the eight diocesan bishops who publicly supported the appointment of the celibate gay cleric Jeffrey John to the suffragan bishopric of Reading last year.
Dr John was later forced to give up the appointment, because of evangelical protests, but he has subsequently been made Dean of St Albans.
Reform members are already beginning to demand answers from their diocesan bishops about where they stand on the gay issue before deciding whether to continue to support them.
But some at the conference believed that shunning bishops was not going far enough. Ian Seymour, a churchwarden in Arborfield, Berkshire, said: “The Church of England is over, its days are numbered.
“If our rector was an adulterer, a drunk or a liar, he would be removed, but if he was in a same sex relationship he would be cherished.
“The institution is sinking – new groupings will emerge.”
Evangelicals call Williams a prostitute