For a number of years, Anglican Christians in the UK and abroad have often heard of The Rt Revd Josep Rossello. Before moving to the UK, he was a successful church planting, missionary bishop in Brazil and Venezuela. Lately, he has been in the spotlight as he, his parish, his former diocese in South America, and a number of other Free Church of England works have withdrawn from that denomination. We asked Bishop Rossello if he would be willing to be interviewed for our readers. He agreed.
EC: Have you always been an Anglican Christian and if not, what drew you this expression of the Christian faith?
“No, I have not. In fact, I grew up Roman Catholic in a small town in Valencia. I came to the Lord when I was 20 years old. It was the work of the Holy Spirit in my life that bought me to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. A few months after my conversion, I regularly visited a Baptist Church, but I never became a member. As God’s calling became more evident in my life, I knew I had to decide what denomination I should become part of. I was shocked and even surprised when the Lord directed me to the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church (Anglican Communion). It was the beginning of my Anglican journey”.
EC: Where did you do your theological training?
“I studied in various theological colleges in Spain, England and the USA. I was a student at ECaT (Spain) and Trinity College (Bristol), and Bethany College of Missions (USA). I did further studies at St Alcuin House Theological College, the USA, and BENSOM (Spain)”.
EC: How did you come to be part of the Free Church of England?
“In 2011, the Reformed Anglican Church of Brazil (later become the FCE South American Diocese and back to be Reformed Anglican Church) had a Synod where we decided to investigate options of Anglican denominations that had a similar doctrine, worship and discipline to ours. We began to explore and contacted various churches. We found the FCE, a church that we could agree with the Declaration of Principles, the Articles of faith, the Canons and Constitution, and the BCP. We were amazed at how clearly evangelical the FCE was. Therefore, we approached them and began conversations. We visited in 2012 and approved that year a motion to ask the FCE to accept us as a diocese. In 2013, I was in the FCE Convocation, and finally, in February 2014, the first Brazilian congregations were taken into the FCE”.
EC: How many congregations and how many clergy did you have in South America? How many members?
“We started in 2009 with a couple of families. At the highest point, we had 29 churches and missions in Brazil and Venezuela. If I remember correctly, the weekly ASA (Available Sunday Attendance) would be over 800 people at the time. Membership would have been around 1,000 communicants. However, it was our best moment. The diocese was really poor, we did not own our buildings, and all the clergy was bi-vocational. Therefore, many challenges were facing us”.
EC: How would you describe your churchmanship? For example…Prayerbook Evangelical? Liturgical Charismatic? Some other description?
“It is such a tricky question because people start putting you in a box once you describe your churchmanship. Therefore, I don’t like labels. I have called myself a Reformed Evangelical Anglican, but I am a continuist when it comes to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I am at home with historic evangelicals. I love the Prayer Book, but I am happy with a more contemporary and freestyle of worship. Most of my heroes are Reformed and Anglicans. Therefore, I suppose Reformed Anglican would be a good way to identify myself”.
EC: Where do you see your congregation at Exmouth and the others that have recently left the FCE going?
I think that is a fascinating question. My church has taken time to reflect on what it is next. Leaving the FCE has not come easy. It is vital for those that we have left the FCE to take the time to reflect, pray and maintain fellowship and support each other. We have not left the FCE because we disagree with the doctrine, worship and discipline of the FCE. It was a question of conscience and concerns that we had over the years. We should not rush into anything but prayerfully consider the options and what the Lord is saying.
EC: Will you serve as bishop to your old diocese and the other English congregations that have left the FCE?
“When I left the FCE, I stopped being the Bishop of the FCE South American Diocese. Therefore, I am a bishop without jurisdiction right now. Our readers may not realise that the FCE South American Diocese left when the FCE Bishop Primus wrote an e-mail two hours after I sent my resignation letter, informing the diocese that he was now the new bishop and asking how many congregations and clergy had the diocese. People could not believe what they were reading, and they decided to call a meeting the next day and they decided to leave the FCE. At that point, I was not their bishop any longer. People in the diocese have asked me to come back, but I don’t believe it would be the right decision. I am too far away and I believe God has a new chapter in their story. In that new chapter, I am not part of it.
“Interestingly enough, since I left the FCE, I had many contacts with C of E clergy, even ministers not in an Anglican church, asking me if I would consider becoming their bishop. Obviously, I support spiritually those churches that have left the FCE, and they are helping me, as well. It does not mean that I am their bishop. It means we are praying together and having fellowship and discerning what the Lord is saying. It is too early to tell what will happen.
“I am really thankful for the encouragement and love that I have received from many brothers worldwide. It has helped me to realise that I am not alone”.
EC: Will you become a GAFCON diocese as part of the AMiE?
“ I suppose you mean ANiE (Anglican Network in Europe). AMiE is one of the convocations of ANiE. I know it can be a little bit confusing. I love the ANiE brothers. I can imagine the price and sacrifices that they have made to be faithful Anglicans in the UK. It is too soon to see if that scenario is even an option right now. Or even if it is what the Lord wants us to do at this time. I can say that they’re our good brothers and they are doing a great job in England. For sure, I hope the Lord will help us to find ways to work together for the gospel in this country. However, it is difficult to know what it would mean in practical terms.
“Personally, I laid my Episcopal ministry down when I left the FCE. I have been surprised by the people that have approached me asking me to consider being their bishop. Time will say if my ministry as a Bishop has come to an end, or the Lord will revive again. Personally, I have been enjoying my first three weeks being a Minister after 17 years of Episcopacy.”