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FCE South American Synod declares Impaired Communion with Primus John Fenwick

FCE South American Synod declares Impaired Communion with Primus John Fenwick
Middlesborough parish fights bishop's decision to close church

John Fenwick and Jonas Bragatto in 2018 -- Photo

Press Release
April 8, 2021

A statement about the closure of St. Stephen's FCE

In November 2020, the Central Trust of the Free Church of England contacted our Minister, The Revd Jonatas Bragatto, without any consultation with the congregation, and proposed to reduce our minister's stipend and possibly terminate his employment agreement with St. Stephen's within 6 months.

This proposal was rejected by Revd Jonatas in a letter to Central Trust, affirming the illegitimacy of such proposal, since Central Trust was never our minister's employer. His contract was with the local church. The response from the denomination was that the diocesan Bishop went behind the back of our minister, calling a minority of members in the Church to seek their support to close St. Stephen's and force our minister into redundancy.

This decision was protested by us in a letter sent to the General Council of the Free Church of England on the 18th of February, following a letter of no confidence in Bishop Fenwick's leadership presented by other clergymen and lay officers from the various congregations. Both letters and ecclesiastical charges presented against him were ignored by the Bishops Hunt and Fenwick. As of this date, ecclesiastical charges against Bishop Fenwick for racist comments and failure in his duties remain unacted on by the denomination.

Our minister was forced into an unreasonable and illegitimate process of redundancy that left us no option other than leaving the Free Church of England. Bishop Fenwick claimed that when St. Stephen's was closed, the remaining members could stay in the denomination as "scattered members". We were not consulted about such a decision and we reject such a proposal on the basis that we no longer want to be associated with his leadership. After St. Stephen's was closed uncanonically, the Revd Jonatas Bragatto announced that he would establish a reformed evangelical Church in Teesside. We have requested membership in such a church under his spiritual leadership.

We are glad that despite enormous opposition, our minister has remained faithful to the protestant and reformed faith of the FCE. We are saddened at the discrimination and persecution that he has suffered for not accepting uncanonical practices. Bishop Fenwick has undermined the identity of the FCE and continues to this day to persecute other clergy and lay officers who oppose his agenda of remaking the denomination in the image of his personal theological hobbyhorse.

In closing St. Stephen's, Central Trust became the main beneficiary of the remaining funds from the congregation, funds that were never designated or restricted according to good practice in charity administration.

The malpractice and conflicts of interest have had to be reported to the authorities. He declared the closure of the church without having an extraordinary meeting with the members of the Church. Bishop Fenwick knows that we would have never accepted such a decision and we would request the capital that belonged to St. Stephen's of more than £200,000 to be returned to the local account from Central Trust.

We pray that everything that happened will come to light and that Bishop Fenwick and others involved in the decision of the closure of our former church are held accountable for their actions, both spiritually and legal.

Free Church Diocese Sul Americana

After observing various doctrinal and leadership deviations in our denomination, the Synod of the South American Diocese of the Free Church of England decided to make its position public.

Statement from The Synod of the South American Diocese of the Free Church of England.

The Synod of the South American Diocese of the Free Church of England meeting on 28 March 2021, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, after a period of prayer and reflection, agreed and makes public the following declaration. The South American Diocese of the Free Church of England:

1. Has upheld and will remain faithful to the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and the testimony of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, believing that the Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation;

2. Remains faithful to and subscribes fully to the Free Church of England (FCE) Statement of Principles as written and bequeathed to us by our founding fathers, subscribing to what is written therein: "as a Protestant and Reformed Church, comes to reaffirm its steadfast witness against all innovations in doctrine and worship, by which the primitive faith has been disfigured or superimposed over time, and which were repudiated and rejected in the Reformation"; So we reject any spurious attempt at revisionism; we understand the Statement of Principles to be a confessional document that establishes the ecclesiastical foundation and boundary of FCE;

3. Conforms to the Constitution and Canons of FCE, submitting to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of said church;

4. Confesses and holds fast to the 39 Articles of Religion as presented by FCE, and welcomes and conforms to the pattern of worship in the FCE Book of Common Prayer;

5. Noting the foregoing commitments, declares its abhorrence of the revisionism, doctrinal deviations and grave faults in church governance which have been introduced in a manipulative and underhand manner by Bishop Primus Rt Rev John Fenwick who:
a) has promoted revisionism in contradiction to the Declaration of Principles;
b) Has promoted revisionism in the FCE in action contrary to the Constitution and Canons of the FCE;
c) Has committed various abuses against the Canons of FCE;
d) Has promoted the closure of a fully functioning congregation, St Stephen's, Middlesbrough and the dismissal of its minister, without complying with the due canonical and legal processes, without any pastoral concern for the members or due financial probity. Bishop Fenwick has acted like a wolf trying to scatter the flock of Christ. His actions are a serious breach of contract and misappropriation of the finances of a congregation by the Central Trust, which he chairs;
e) Decided to employ, despite warning, a publisher to publish his books, knowing that the same publisher caused financial losses to the South American Diocese. This same publisher misappropriated a donation fund that was destined for the publication of the Book of Common Prayer in Portuguese.
f) Promotes, by misusing his position as Primus and corrupting the principles of FCE, the dissension and dispersion of the flock of Christ; many good members and ministers have left FCE in Brazil and Venezuela because of Bishop John Fenwick's poor witness; and the alienation of other brethren, many people, congregations, and ministers have given up on joining FCE when they see Bishop John Fenwick's actions for themselves.

In response to the above there was no option other than for the Synod of the South American Diocese to declare itself to be in IMPAIRED COMMUNION with Bishop Primus John Fenwick, while this Diocese remains committed and faithful to the worship and doctrine of the Free Church of England. We note that Bishop Fenwick has been called on by many of his clergy and laity in England to stand down from leadership - for the peace of the Church we respectfully request he do so.


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