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Forward in Faith looks to the future

JOHN R. SALMON

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Looking ahead: the Bishop of Edmonton elevates the host at the FiF National Assembly eucharist

Credit: JOHN R. SALMON

Looking ahead: the Bishop of Edmonton elevates the host at the FiF National Assembly eucharist

THERE was talk of "going forward with confidence" at this year's National Assembly of the traditionalist organisation Forward in Faith (FiF). It was held last Saturday in St Alban's, Holborn, in London, on the eve of the legalisation of women bishops in the Church of England.

A motion carried by the Assembly thanked the Catholic Group in the General Synod and those who had served in the facilitated conversations and on the steering committee for achieving the provision for traditionalists.

Introducing the motion on behalf of the Council of Forward in Faith, the Revd Edward Martin told the gathering of local representatives: "We have the sacraments; we have the scriptures; we have the teachings and the traditions of the Church. We have everything we need. We have now been given the posssibility of flourishing. What will we make of this opportunity?"

The Assembly mass on Saturday morning was concelebrated by the Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt Revd Peter Wheatley, with nine episcopal concelebrants.

In his sermon, the Revd Philip North, Bishop-designate of Burnley, said: "For far too long we have felt ourselves to be powerless victims of the decisions of others, slaves to the electronic voting machines of the General Synod. Today, on paper, we have the means to regain some control: a Bishops' Declaration; a Society; the five principles that assure us that we remain within the spectrum of the teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion."

In his address as the outgoing chairman, the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, said that the principal achievement of FiF in the past four years had been "the defeat of bad legislation", and the bringing to birth of arrangements that offered many possibilities for the future. FiF had been "prophetic", he said. "Had you told me [in 2012] that the doctrine of Reception was going to be enshrined in a House of Bishops' Declaration, attached to a Canon which could only be altered by a two-thirds majority in each House of the General Synod, I would not have believed you."

He is succeeded by the Bishop of Pontefract, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson, elected unopposed. Bishop Robinson asked: "If we have sometimes been pushed to the margins - or even preferred to take refuge there - are we now ready to move back and take our rightful place at the centre?"

The Assembly heard from a range of speakers about aspects of "flourishing": vocation, parish mission, and urban ministry; as well as about over-reliance on legacy income which was now being addressed, and a financial situation that was improving.

The director of FiF, Dr Colin Podmore, urged the members to continue teaching and explaining the traditional Catholic position on women's ordination, and reminded them that the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda, which has been set up as a means of continuing sacramental assurance for traditional Catholics, was envisaged as an "ecclesial body".

He explained the new arrangements, which include a system of diocesan representatives who will be the first port of call for any parish that encounters difficulties under the legislation. He urged representatives to keep him informed of any bad behaviour, towards individuals or parishes, meriting a complaint to the new independent reviewer, Sir Philip Mawer.

FiF's elections officer, Anne Gray, urged a positive and proactive attitude going into next year's General Synod elections: "For the first time in over 25 years, we won't be entering those elections labelled as being anti-everything. Let's take up the opportunity to be constructive and positive, and let's be proud of who we are."

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