real threat to church, says Synod member
By Martin Beckford, Religious Affairs Correspondent in Jerusalem Last updated: 12:49 AM BST 28/06/2008
Divisions in the Church of England over homosexuality and women bishops are nothing compared with the threat it faces from Islam, a prominent member of its governing body has warned.
More than 1,000 conservative Anglicans have been meeting in Jerusalem this week to develop a new movement within the worldwide Communion, in order to combat liberals who they say are departing from the Bible's teaching by supporting gay clergy.
Next week the General Synod, the Church of England's parliament, gathers in York to discuss the introduction of women bishops without provisions for those who oppose the historic move, which could see dozens of conservative clergy leave the church and claim millions in compensation.
But Alison Ruoff, an evangelical lay member of the Synod and a former magistrate who is at the Gafcon summit in Jerusalem, told The Daily Telegraph that the church needs to get past these divisions and concentrate on fighting the rise of Islam in Britain.
She says that under an Archbishop of Canterbury who said it is inevitable that elements of Sharia will be introduced in the UK, the church has not done enough to put its message across.
And she believes the Government, out of politically correct sensitivity, is not preventing the growth of Muslim communities which do not integrate with those around them.
Mrs Ruoff, who earlier this year called for a halt to mosque building in Britain, said: "The problems of homosexuality and women bishops which face the Church of England are minor compared with the threat to the church and the nation from Islam.
"The church is sleepwalking into an Islamic state. Hopefully we can unite against it.
"The leaders of the church have lost their confidence in the Gospel. We have got an Archbishop of Canterbury who doesn't stand up for Christianity but wants a degree of Sharia law.
"The church should be getting out with the Christian message.
"Our Government is allowing it to happen out of political correctness, but it should be protecting our values and heritage."
She added that many people share her fears but do not like to speak out about it in case they are criticised.
"People are genuinely worried. There's a general concern in the nation about its building blocks being rapidly eroded.
"But we are very afraid of the law and of being persecuted. The police in many respects are standing up for Islam rather than Christianity."
Mrs Ruoff believes the problem with the growth of Islam in Britain is that some communities do not integrate, and that some immigrant imams do not learn English, leading to segregation.
She fears that if these communities introduce Islamic law, all non-Muslims and women will be treated as second-class citizens by them.
Gafcon leaders are still working on a statement which will determine the structure of their new movement, which is more likely to be an organization for traditional Anglicans worldwide rather than an outside rival.
However Mrs Ruoff believes a complete split is justified as liberals, particularly in America, have departed so far from the traditional teaching of the Bible and church rules by consecrating an openly gay bishop.
Yesterday, Gafcon leaders said the conference was itself an ultimatum and a challenge to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the existing structures of the Anglican Communion.
Dr Peter Jensen, the Archbishop of Sydney, said: "Gafcon poses a challenge now. If all we did was meet here it would pose a challenge to others in the Communion and the leadership.
"The fact that Gafcon has now come into existence as a conference and possibly a movement, that has got to be taken into account.
"All around the world, the sleeping giant of orthodox Anglicanism has been awoken."
He said it was an "act of folly" for the liberal Americans to consecrate a gay bishop without thinking there would be serious consequences.
Archbishop Greg Venables, Primate of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, said he was sorry that more conservative church leaders at Gafcon were not also going to the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops, as he is.
"I personally would have liked us all to be there," he said.
A final statement is expected to be signed by Gafcon leaders on Sunday.
FYI: That great emancipator of women, the Holy Bible, teaches that women should not teach, they are to be silent in the churches (1 Tim. 2:12); they are commanded to keep silence in the churches, they are not permitted to speak, it is a shame for them to speak in the churches (1 Cor. 14:34-35).
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