After the Church’s gay vote in Wales, what options are available to evangelicals?
Reverend Peter Jones is President of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Church in Wales (EFCW). This body of 90 clergy is fighting for Anglican orthodoxy after the Church of Wales voted in favor of same-sex relationships on September 6.
An electronics engineer by training, Rev Jones, 56, worked in industry for 19 years, becoming a Christian in his mid-30s.
He was ordained into the Church of Wales in 2008 and is a minister of the Pembroke, Monkton and Lamphey group of churches, becoming dean of the South West Pembrokeshire local ministry region in 2017.
Christian Today spoke to Reverend Jones about the impact of the Church’s vote in Wales and the future of Anglican Evangelicals in the Principality.
CT: How surprised you was with the Church in Wales vote for gay blessings?
PJ: Not really a surprise in the end. I thought the clergy would just have had the numbers to hold back the bill proposing the change, but it was always going to be very tight.
Many discussions and prayer meetings took place before the vote. Throughout these meetings we have seen many people having different perspectives on the consequences for the Church in Wales.
If the bill were defeated, some LGBTQ + supporters had indicated they would leave, and dissidents were expected to come under heavy pressure on this side of the debate. What it would look like, we weren’t sure.
If we lost, our response was going to be determined by the debate itself and what the bishops would do.
It turns out that the debate was very poor in theological arguments on the pro side, and the manner in which it was treated was very difficult for those who rose to oppose it.
CT: What are the logistics and practicalities for evangelical ministers and their congregations leaving the Church in Wales?
PJ: It’s difficult to answer. Some congregations, should they wish to leave, have sufficient support to be able to set up an alternative ecclesial congregation in a relatively short period of time. For those who do, an important consideration is who they would turn to for surveillance.
This is one of the issues we struggle with in the Church of Wales – the lack of proper oversight and accountability for the bishops themselves and we have seen the consequences in the behavior of some of the bishops. So this should be an important thing for all leavers to consider.
In Wales we have very little money and resources to rely on for those who want to leave and the possibility of taking over a church building or buying such a building is almost impossible in the structures and agreements of current ownership.
However, offers of support, obviously prayer, but also financial support are starting to be offered and this would greatly facilitate things. I can see that you have to do a bit of âtent makingâ by leaving the clergy for the first few years.
CT: How do you feel about lay evangelicals?
PJ: Each minister is in a different position compared to their often very mixed congregations. But this question clearly affects many lay people as well. Most people I’ve spoken to have the question, where do I go now? Where is my Anglican home if the Church in Wales has moved away from Orthodoxy?
As I said, some have already started to leave, but this process will unfold over the next few years as individuals determine where their future home is.
CT: Christian Today reported last week that Church of Wales evangelicals have asked Gafcon for help. How can Gafcon concretely help Anglican Evangelicals on the ground in Wales?
PJ: Gafcon and his primates in particular have been amazing in their support. They have posted video messages to support and encourage us, writing letters of support and also in some cases to the bishops’ bench here in Wales. There is a structure available for those who choose to leave and there have been a few offers of practical help.
But this process is still in its early stages and the EFCW is careful to take the time to discern what its role will be in the future. But we are determined to maintain a place of fellowship for Evangelical Welsh Anglicans, whether they remain or leave the Church in Wales.
CT: What is your message to traditionalists in the Church of England?
PJ: Unity in Christ. Maintain your oneness of fellowship in Christ as it unfolds. Hold on to the first-rate things of our faith. If we are divided, the god of this world will celebrate and create new divisions among those who hold fast to the apostolic faith as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.