By NATASHA SMITH
WHILE IN the Algarve to officially license the new Anglican Chaplain at St Vincent’s Church, Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Geoffrey Rowell, spoke candidly to The Resident about some of the controversial issues at the forefront of debate in the Anglican Church today.
With around 80 million Anglicans in the world today and around 280 congregations in Europe, in 44 countries, the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe is continuously growing. “The cover is more and more difficult because it is a Diocese that stretches from Madeira to Vladivostok and from Casa Blanca to Trondheim, in northern Norway,” according to Bishop Geoffrey. He believes that “the main purpose of the Church here is to proclaim, to share, to live the Gospel, and meet the pastoral needs of the English speaking community” in the Algarve. He said it is important to retain good ecumenical relations between the different local churches. “We are sitting outside a Catholic Church, which we use with the blessing of the Bishop of the Algarve. We are very grateful,” he said.
With gay marriages at the heart of theological debate, Bishop Geoffrey says that “marriage is between a man and a woman” but he said that all Anglicans, irrespective of sexual orientation, should be offered the same pastoral care. “There is tension” but part of that is between the Church and government legislation.
Abortion laws in Portugal are still heavily debated and the Church of England’s position is less definitive than the Catholic Church’s. Bishop Geoffrey believes that “when life begins, life begins”. The Church “does not want to be judgemental” but abortions should only be performed when “there is real distress rather than inconvenience”.
Bishop Geoffrey has called for a delay in ordaining women bishops because there is too much of a split in the Church. “We need to do this together” because bishops are “the focus of unity” and it is too controversial.
Another controversial issue is that younger generations do not have as much faith but Bishop Geoffrey believes that, in the UK, “the culture is more hostile for the Church to connect” but he was convinced that there are still many young Anglicans.
In Europe, Anglican churches can run the risk of being inward looking, where they “should be a place of open doors and warm welcome”, especially for tourists. “We know that there is one very painful tragedy in Luz at the moment, but the Church is there to respond and to have a worshipping and welcoming community,” Bishop Geoffrey Rowell said.
Since Reverend Haynes Hubbard arrived in Luz to be the new chaplain at St Vincent’s, “he has been absolutely the pastor that I knew him to be when I appointed him”. He hoped that Madeleine McCann would be returned soon and “we offer every support and encouragement” to the family and the police.
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