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REACH-SA ordination creates more questions than answers

REACH-SA ordination creates more questions than answers
Who was chief consecrator? Were there any co-consecrators? Is consecration invalid, illicit, or irregular? Why all the cloak and dagger secrecy? Is schism being brought to Anglican Communion?

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
May 15, 2017

The recent under-the-radar episcopal consecration of Jonathan Pryke, by the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH-SA), on English soil, has raised a host of questions about the process by which the new missionary bishop was created and there don't seem to be any definitive answers.

An American bishop contacted VOL and asked if we knew how many REACH-SA bishops participated in the consecration.

"Do we know if it was just the Presiding Bishop or were there at least three bishops?" the bishop e-mailed. "... that's our (Anglican) tradition although I will have to check my history to see if there have been exceptions."

That is not an easy question to answer.

Initially, scanty news reports said that the early May consecration happened, but it was not known of either how many bishop(s) were involved or who the bishop(s) were by name.

After the news started to leak, Jesmond Parish Church, where now Bishop Pryke is listed as a multi-site senior minister, released a less-than-clarifying statement.

"On St Athanasius' Day, 2 May 2017, Jonathan Pryke, the senior minister, under its vicar, of Jesmond Parish Church, Newcastle upon Tyne, was consecrated a 'bishop in the Church of God,' the Jesmond Statement said. "This was by the Presiding Bishop of REACH-SA (the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa), formerly known as CESA (the Church of England in South Africa) and whose orders of bishop, priest/presbyter and deacon are recognized by the Church of England."

However, like the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa is not formally recognized as a part of the wider Anglican Communion in union with the Archbishop of Canterbury, although it does have a warm relationship with GAFCON and has previously participated in GAFCON events.

"But like the new ACNA, whose orders are also recognized, it (REACH-SA) is not in communion with the Church of England," the Jesmond Statement explains: "Officially, the Church of England is in Communion with the heterodox ACSA (the Anglican Church of South Africa), and with the heterodox TEC (The Episcopal Church). But, in practice, many orthodox English and Global Anglicans are in communion with both REACH-SA and ACNA."

"The GAFCON movement is a global family of authentic Anglicans standing together to retain and restore the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion," GAFCON's website explains. The GAFCON Primates' Council basically consists of Anglican primates in the Global South, including the primatial archbishops in Nigeria, Uganda, the Congo, the Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and South America. ACNA's Archbishop, Foley Beach, is also a recognized member of the GAFCON Primates' Council.

"GAFCON-UK are aware that Jesmond Parish Church has for some years been in a form of impaired communion with the Bishop of Newcastle, and has developed a special relationship with REACH-SA," the GAFCON-UK statement explains. "The leadership of Jesmond church has for some time been speaking publicly about the need for new missionary Bishops in Western nations who can oversee new Anglican ministries in the Celtic model."

However, GAFCON-UK says that it cannot comment any further on the latest breaking developments.

Quickly, the unexpected consecration caused a stir in the Anglican world and church media.

Christian Today calls the new REACH bishop a "rogue bishop" and refers to REACH-SA as "renegade conservative Anglicans" ... Anglican Mainstream refers to Jonathan Pryke as "Unofficial bishop" and speaks about "new forms of Anglicanism"... Premier calls REACH a "breakaway group"... and the BBC talks about a "breakaway Anglican church" ... The Conservative Women writes about "Bishops Without Borders"... Jesmond Parish Church even calls Bishop Pryke a "new style English bishop" ...


Jesmond Parish Church is a relatively new Church of England parish in Newcastle upon Tyne in England, dating to the middle of the 19th century. Officially, its name is Clayton Memorial Church, honoring the Rev. Richard Clayton, who was the master (senior priest and minister) of the Church of St. Thomas the Martyr.

St. Thomas, situated in the Haymarket region of Newcastle, historically stretches back to the later part of the 12th century. Its Gothic spires pierce the English sky.

Master Clayton, a strong, Bible-teaching Evangelical, died in 1856. His successor, Master Clement Moody, was not considered a strong Bible teacher, so a new conservative evangelical congregation was planted in the Newcastle suburb of Jesmond, which "will form a central point for the maintenance and promulgation of sound scriptural and evangelical truth in a large and populous town."

The new church was officially dedicated Jan. 15, 1861 as "a church in memory of the late Rev. Richard Clayton ... in which evangelical truth shall be declared."

Today the Jesmond Parish Church is a yoked parish with three ministry sites: Clayton Memorial (Jesmond); St. Joseph (Benwell); and Holy Trinity, Gateshead).

The Jesmond Parish Church bio of the new bishop states: "Jonathan is the Senior Minister of JPC, responsible for leading the church day-to-day. He worked as a civil engineer before ordination and was a curate in Corby in the East Midlands before joining the staff of JPC in 1988. He is married to Vivienne and they have three adult children."

The Newcastle church's statement on the consecration merely says that "Pryke "was consecrated a 'bishop in the Church of God, ' ... the Presiding Bishop of REACH-SA ..."

This raises another question. Who is the Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa? That information was not revealed in the various news stories or communiques coming from either the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa nor Jesmond Parish Church in England.

However, the REACH-SA website does list the Rt. Rev. Glenn Lyons as the presiding bishop under its 'Contact Us' link. Wikipedia, too, lists Glynn Lyons as REACH-SA's presiding bishop.

REACH-SA also released a statement about the Bishop Pryke's consecration: "It is noted that bishops of REACH-South Africa (The Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church -- SA) participated in the consecration of the Rev. Jonathan Pryke on 2 May 2017 (St. Athanasius Day) in Newcastle, UK."

However, the African statement does not delineate how many bishops laid hands on Jonathan Pryke (one, two or three), nor does it identify the consecrator(s) by name. REACH-SA's account is just as ambiguous and lacking in facts as the Jesmond Statement.


Historically, churches which claim an apostolic line of unbroken succession back to Christ, including the Church of Rome, Anglicanism, Orthodoxy and Porvoo Communion Lutherans, have traditionally used three bishops in the consecration of a new bishop to insure the purity of apostolic lines of succession. If one or even two bishops' consecration were in question, the unbroken connection back to Christ would hopefully be retained by the third consecrator.

For those who do not believe that women can be consecrated bishops, and when a female bishop is used as a consecrator, it is believed that the line of apostolic succession is damaged or totally destroyed, and that the denomination has strayed away from apostolic unity.

Although three bishop consecrators is considered to be the norm, there are times it has been bypassed.

Fr. Henry-Joseph Icard, S.S., a 19th century French Catholic priest, seminary professor and the superior general of the Sulpicians, a French order of priests, explains in "Praelectiones Juris Canonici" (Lectures on Canon Law) that the general practice of the Church to require two co-consecrating bishops is not of divine application, but rather an "Apostolic institution" so in the case of necessity -- when it is impossible to procure three bishops -- one bishop can validly consecrate a brother bishop.

History has shown this to be the case. In fact, when the Roman Catholic Church was planted in the United States, the first Bishop of Baltimore, the Most Rev. John Carroll, SJ, who established the American line of succession, was consecrated by Bishop Charles Walmesley, OSB. The 1790 consecration took place in Dorset, England. History seems to show that the Benedictine bishop was the sole consecrator. However, the waning Holy Roman Empire Prince-Bishop of Liège, Charles Plowden, was the sermonizer for Bishop Carroll's consecration, signed his consecration certificate and also wrote about the first Catholic bishop's founding of the Baltimore diocese. Another bishop who witnessed the consecration and signed Bishop Carroll's Certificate of Consecration was fellow Jesuit Bishop, James Porter, but he apparently did not lay-hands-on the new American bishop. Official Catholic Church documents only show Bishop Walmesley as the sole consecrating prelate.

In fact, the 1784 consecration of the first Episcopal Bishop, Samuel Seabury (I Connecticut), in Scotland showed the Catholics that they could send an American priest to be consecrated on foreign soil (England) and then return to the United States to institute a national bishopric and establish an American line of apostolic succession.


When a bishop is consecrated by fewer than three bishops, it is considered to be valid, but irregular.

An irregular consecration happened in 1978, as the Anglican Continuum was getting established following the 1976 actions of General Convention allowing for the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate and its ratification of the irregular ordinations of the Philadelphia 11 (1974) and the Washington Four (1975).

The 1977 Congress at St. Louis was the launching pad for the formation of the initial Anglican Church in North America (Episcopal) and the Anglican Continuum in the United States. The next year (1978), Archdeacon Charles Doren was consecrated the first bishop in the Continuing Anglican Movement by only two bishops: retired Bishop Albert Chambers (VII Springfield) and Bishop Francisco Pagtakhan from the Philippians Independent Church, which had separated from the Catholic Church and was in communion with The Episcopal Church. There was no third consecrator, however Bishop Mark Pae of the Anglican Church of Korea did send a "Letter of Consent", but did not participate in the Denver, Colorado ceremony. Bishop Doren's consecration was considered valid, but irregular because it failed to have a third bishop actually lay hands on the new Continuing Anglican Movement bishop.


There have been other notable cases of valid, but irregular episcopal consecrations within Anglicanism, including the 2000 consecration of AMiA (Anglican Mission in America) missionary bishops, John Rodgers and Chuck Murphy in Singapore, by six bishops of the Anglican provinces of Rwanda and South East Asia, including Archbishop Moses Tay (South East Asia) and Rwanda Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda). The other Rwandan bishop of record was John Rucyahana.

Bishops Murphy and Rodgers were irregularly consecrated as missionary bishops in the United States "to minister to those Episcopal congregations who believe that the authority of Scripture and the historic creeds are central to our faith, conduct, and unity as Anglicans."

In 2006, the founding bishop of Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), Bishop Martyn Minns, was consecrated in Nigeria by Archbishop Peter Akinola as chief consecrator. Both Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and Episcopal Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, pleaded with Archbishop Akinola not to proceed with the " controversial" foreign consecration of an American bishop. As a result, Bishop Minns was not invited to the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

In 2007, William Murdoch and Bill Atwood were consecrated in Nairobi, Kenya, by Archbishop of Kenya, with Benjamin Nzimbi acting as chief consecrator. Bishop John Guernsey was also consecrated on African soil by Ugandan Archbishop, Henry Luke Orombi, serving as the primary consecrator.

In 2007, The Living Church reported that with the episcopal consecration of CANA Bishop David Anderson by Archbishop Akinola, there were "17 African-sponsored missionary bishops in the United States: six from Nigeria, two from Uganda, two from Kenya, and seven from Rwanda."

The consecration of bishops of foreign soil or the importing of overseas bishops for episcopal laying-on-of-hands has resulted in cries impairing the Instruments of Communion and "border crossing."

Former Episcopal Bishop, William Wantland (IV Eau Claire), explains: "The requirement of three consecrators first appears in a fourth century canon that also provided that if there was to be a consecration with only one bishop, consent from ALL of the bishops in the Province is required."

"An ordination by just one bishop of another bishop is not canonical," explains Allan Haley, an Anglican canon lawyer who blogs as the Anglican Curmudgeon. "However, it's sacramental validity (if it was done within the apostolic succession) ..."

Bishop Wantland is also a canon lawyer in his own right. Being consecrated bishop in 1980, he is now the second ranking senior bishop in the Anglican Church in North America's College of Bishops.

This raises the question of how many bishops actually participated in Bishop Pryke's consecration. The REACH Statement indicates that there were two or more bishops involved in the event: "It is noted that bishops of REACH-South Africa ... participated in the consecration of the Rev. Jonathan Pryke ..." However, the level of participation is not delineated. Were they merely witnesses to the consecration or active co-consecrators?

"REACH-SA bishops have regularly stood in to help with ordinations and other episcopal ministry to the Jesmond Parish Church, due to its members being in impaired communion with their own diocesan bishop," the African statement continues.


Jesmond Parish has been in "impaired communion" with the Diocese of Newcastle since November 2015 when the XII Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, was enthroned. She is one of 10 women bishops in the Church of England's House of Bishops. Following her consecration, Bishop Hardman joined the House of Lords in January, 2016.

"The oath was of 'all due reverence and obedience' not to the Presiding Bishop of REACH-SA but to 'bishops and other chief ministers' under whom Jonathan is set," The Jesmond Statement explains. "So he [Pryke] has a dispersed responsibility and duty: in things temporal to the Bishop of Newcastle [Hardman], with whom, sadly, in things spiritual, Jesmond Parish Church, along with other churches in the diocese, are in impaired communion ..."

VOL reached out to Bishop Hardman for a comment on the activities surrounding Jonathan Pryke but received no answer. Nor has Bishop Pryke or Jesmond Parish responded to media inquiries. There is a steadfast refusal to impart critical details surrounding Pryke's consecration as bishop by all concerned -- the Newcastle diocese ... Jesmond Parish Church ... REACH-SA.

Jesmond Parish was careful to explain in its posted statement that the clandestine service was not held at Jesmond Parish Church or in any Church of England edifice nor in "an unconsecrated place of worship." However, it did not reveal where the consecration ceremony took place.

"The ceremony was according to the REACH-SA consecration Holy Communion service, with only REACH-SA bishops taking part," the Jesmond Statement says.

Both the Jesmond and REACH-SA statements refer only to unnamed Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa bishops "taking part." Only the new missionary bishop, Jonathan Pryke, is mentioned by name.


Anglicanism was planted in South Africa when chaplains followed the British troops to the Cape of Good Hope. In 1821, the first missionary for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel arrived. In 1870, the Church of the Province of South Africa (CPSA) was constituted and several conservative South African congregations decided not to be a part of that forming Anglican province, which became known as the CofE in South Africa and was formally was established as the Church of England in South Africa (CESA) in 1938. It was eventually renamed The Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa in 2013. The church is dedicated to Protestant, Reformed and Evangelical Anglicanism.

The first CESA presiding bishop was consecrated in 1955. Bishop Glenn Lyons is now the seventh presiding bishop of the renamed Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa. The African church is also a member of the World Reformed Fellowship, a worldwide ecumenical organization of conservative reformed churches which includes Baptists, Presbyterians, Christian and Evangelical Reformed churches, Free churches, Biblical churches, United churches, and other reformed evangelical Protestant bodies.

Hopefully, this research helps answer the American bishop's initial question about Bishop Pryke's episcopal consecration in England.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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