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Incumbent’s message to traditionalists: ‘Leave, please: you’re hurting us’

by
22 October 2008

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From the Revd Dr Ian Fisher

Sir, — Is the Church of England a Church? From your reports about Forward in Faith (FiF) and Reform (News, 17 October), it appears that neither considers it to be so. Our means of synodical government, our decision-making processes, our struc­ture, the authority of bishops — all seem to mean nothing to them. They seem to think that they are resistance groups in occupied territory, trying to liberate it for, in one case, Catholicism, and, in the other, a society for the promotion of Jesus Christ.

If the Church of England is a real Church, then, if we choose a woman as a bishop, and she properly con­ducts an ordination service, then it is not she but the Church that is ordaining.

For me, the Church of England is a Church: in fact, for all my life it has been the Church. Over the years, I have appreciated and benefited from the contributions that both Catholics and Evangelicals have put into the Church. Their contributions have added to the breadth, depth, and vitality of the Church of Eng­land, and still can, if they are willing to be part of this semi-organised collection of real people who want to call themselves Christians.

There was talk in the reports of a stake being placed in the ground — this far and no further. I think that that is correct. The Church of England is a broad Church; so if they cannot live with that breadth, if they cannot accommodate them­selves to the diversity of opinion or agree with the common mind expressed by our synods, then all I can say is “Leave! Leave! And do it quickly, because you are tearing the Church of England apart.

“You are stopping us ordinary Church of England priests from properly administering the sacra­ments, properly preaching the gospel, and properly spreading the gospel. There are plenty of Churches out there and plenty of Christian organisations: go and join one of them, and leave the rest of us to get on with the real job in a real Church.”

IAN ST JOHN FISHER
The Vicarage,
2 Weare Gifford
Shoeburyness,
Essex SS3 8AB

From Mr John Davies
Sir, — I was astonished to read the comments from the Bishop of Fulham that churches of the Anglo-Catholic tradition, such as St Augustine’s, Kilburn, or St Peter’s, Plymouth, or the Ascension, Lavender Hill, were not built by the Church of England, but with Catholic money. That sounds very much like Congregationalism to me.

Moreover, may I ask who paid the clergy stipends down the years — Forward in Faith?

JOHN DAVIES
25 Guisborough Street,
Eston
Middlesbrough TS6 9LA

From Dr Christopher Knight
Sir, — Your report on Forward in Faith’s National Assembly may have left your readers with the impression that nothing was formally agreed about FiF’s possible future relation­ship with GAFCON. It was precisely because of the Assembly’s direction (by Council) that the time was not now for a full discussion about GAFCON that I stood up to make the protest that I did.

A number of delegates spoke to me later supporting my interven­tion. The motion that was put to delegates (revised/amended by Council) merely stated that FiF welcomed the witness of GAFCON to the Thirty-Nine Articles and to the traditional orthodoxy. That motion was carried.

Am I happy? Yes and no. Yes, that FiF now stands closer (but not yet officially aligned) to GAFCON. No, that Council took it upon itself to censor a regional motion by “amendment”. In my view, the time was now for FiF to move forward under the umbrella of GAFCON (yet still retaining its independence). Clearly, the other traditionalist grouping, Reform, is heading that way.

From my own discussions with the Rt Revd John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham and chairman of FiF International, we are likely to see FiF discussing its possible future relationship with GAFCON very shortly. My message to your readers: watch this space.

CHRISTOPHER KNIGHT
90 Crescent Drive, Orpington
Kent BR5 1BE

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