Free Church of England Congregation Leaves After Actions of Bishops

The Church Council & Trustees of Emmanuel Anglican Church (FCE), Tunbridge Wells have unanimously voted to leave the denomination after actions by Bishop Primus (Presiding Bishop) John Fenwick and Bishop Paul Hunt have gone unanswered.

The parish was a recent addition to the Free Church of England after leaving the Church of England in February 2019. The rector, The Revd Dr Peter Sanlon, is a regular columnist for this publication. Dr Sanlon self-identifies as a conservative evangelical clergyman.

What started the troubles was Fenwick’s disposition of the FCE parish in Middlesbrough and the £300,000 proceeds of the sale of the property. Since then, accusations of blackmail and racism have been added to the mix. Both stories have been featured in lengthy reports in the Telegraph.

The Church Council & Trustees released the following announcement.

“On 12th February a bishop, clergy and some laity emailed the General Council of the FCE to raise concerns about governance in the Free Church of England. Our rector was one of those who signed that letter.

Some of the matters arising have subsequently been reported on by the Telegraph:

Telegraph: Questions of Missing £300,000

Telegraph: Bishop Accused of Blackmail and Racism

“These articles make clear that serious matters are being considered by the Charity Commission and Police. To this date no satisfactory explanations have been given by Bishop John Fenwick or Bishop Paul Hunt. Whistleblowers who have raised alerts have been subjected to abuses of process and unjust treatment.

“In light of this our Church Council met on 27th April. The proposal that our rector resign his license in the FCE and our church leave the denomination was unanimously agreed.

“We will be seeking suitable ecclesial oversight and support for our church family and mission. This will of course take time to arrange but we are thankful to those who have already reached out to explore how they can support us in this period of transition. Meanwhile our day to day ministry continues unchanged, and we are thankful to God for his many blessings.”