Synod fight to go on, though FiF wooed by Rome

by
21 October 2010

by Glyn Paflin

THE chairman of the council of For­ward in Faith (FiF) UK, the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd John Broad­hurst, told its National Assembly that he intended to offer the Queen his resignation before the end of the year. He was resigning, not retiring.

At the meeting last weekend in Westminster, Bishop Broadhurst said: “That is to facilitate my replace­ment. There will be complications after January for any suffragan bishop. I have spoken to the Bishop of London. He intends to replace me.”

He said that he expected to enter the Ordinariate when it was estab­lished, but had not resigned as chair­man of FiF. “This is not a Church of England organisation.” But later, if it was thought appropri­ate that he should stand down, there could be a postal ballot after “measured dis­cussion”.

The Bishop recalled that the or­gan­­isation had started with 40,000 supporters. “When we became a democratic society a year later, 8000 paid the sub,” he said. FiF had always had the support of a “large number of non-members”.

The Revd Geoffrey Kirk, Vicar of St Stephen and St Mark, Lewisham, in Southwark diocese, who, like the Bishop, was a founder of FiF, assemb­ling its first mailing list out of cards in shoeboxes, gave his valedic­tory address.

In it, he spoke of the many things that over the years they had got “resoundingly wrong”, the failure of their constituency to deliver on its rhetoric, and the “total inability” of Church of England bishops to “grasp anything except geographical mono-episcopacy”.

Neither he nor Bishop Broadhurst was optimistic about the future in the C of E even if the legislation were defeated. Fr Kirk suggested that the “mayhem that would result . . . is horrendous”.

If it was passed, however, there would not be an honourable place for those who would make do with a code of practice, he warned. “A Cath­olic party cannot subsist at all on mere sufferance.”

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Fr Kirk, who has recently suffered ill-health, said that he would prob­ably not see the outcome in the C of E; or, if he did, it would be from another communion and on another continent. The Assembly stood to applaud him, and he was presented with a coffee-maker.

MEMBERS of Forward in Faith (FiF) UK held their National Assembly last weekend in Westminster — and in what their new secretary, the Revd Jonathan Baker, described as “such a changed landscape from a year ago”.

“Everybody is wrestling with their own consciences; their own ability to make decisions and to make them now; their obligations and respons­ibilities to this Church; their aspira­tions for a greater future,” he said.

The Pope’s offer to Anglicans was announced just before last year’s Assembly; and the draft legislation for women bishops, which the Synod voted on in July, and which now stands referred to the dioceses, is unacceptable to FiF.

“We have heard . . . of the lack of charity among the clergy in the General Synod, and I think that’s absolutely true,” Fr Baker said, as he told the Assembly about the defeat of amendments that the Catholic Group had set its hopes on.

The Assembly carried a motion aimed at maintaining charity within its own ranks. It recognised “the variety of sincerely held convictions” of the members, and committed itself to “the prayerful support in every way” both of those exploring Anglicanorum Coetibus and those committed to remaining in the Church of England.

The Revd Paul Benfield explained “what was wrong with” the draft legislation as it now stood.

The safeguards from 1993 would be lost; a code of practice would not be directly enforceable; and the Synod would not even see a draft of that before February 2012. The dio­ceses were being asked to “sign a blank cheque”, he said.

The proposed provision would vary from diocese to diocese, and was loaded in favour of incumbents who wanted to invite women to officiate, and against PCCs’ being able to vote for a Letter of Request.

It took no account of who had ordained a male priest, even if it was a woman bishop; and there were prob­lems about the rights of private patrons, and about which male bishops would provide episcopal care. “This is nothing to do with ‘tainted hands’, but about com­munion and collegiality.”

Both he and and the chairman, the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd John Broadhurst, quoted assurances given to the parliamentary Ecclesi­astical Committee in 1993 which were now to be overturned.

As Second Church Estates Com­missioner, Michael Alison had assured the MPs of “built-in, per­manent parochial safeguards”, Bishop Broadhurst said. “Well, he was wrong, wasn’t he? The Synod has decided that their word to Parli­ament, and Parliament’s word to us, will be turned into a lie.”

Although Bishop Edwin Barnes and others were on hand to say that “the game is up,” and to urge the claims of the “see of Peter”, members of the Catholic Group said that the legislative process was not yet over, and Synod members were “not all bad”. It was quite possible, Prebend­ary David Houlding said, that a “blocking third” could be obtained in the House of Laity.

“If we must defeat it, defeat it we will,” he said. “We have no choice. We may not be successful, but in con­science we have no other choice.” It was likely that following motions would be suggested.

He did not want to claim too much for the new Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda (News, 1 October). “It will be no use at all if it doesn’t have jurisdiction at its heart. That undoubtedly will be where the battle is. The House of Bishops is changing. The question, therefore, remains: will they recognise such a grouping of clergy in the life of the Church?”

Sacramental assurance would not be the icing on the cake, but the cake itself. The society idea might be able to guarantee it for a while if the legislation was passed. “Will the bishops who seek to lead in this society be prepared to break the rules when needed, to consecrate further bishops? If not, this society will come to its natural conclusion.”

Bishop Broadhurst said: “I can only welcome the fact that my brother bishops now want to do something for our constituency. That said, I am concerned that this was without consultation. Most of the bishops, even those who support the society, were not consulted before it was launched as a fait accompli. . .

“With the PEVs gone if the Measure is passed, what guarantee is there that there will be any orthodox bishops in the Church of England in ten years’ time, and, if there are, what guarantee will there be that they have not been consecrated by women bishops, among others? . . . And how can a priest in the society take an oath of allegiance to a woman bishop, even if he’s cared for by the society?”

The National Assembly heard from, among others, Bishop Jack Iker from Texas. “I stand before you as the most sued Anglican bishop in the whole of North America,” he said. “I am presently named in three differ­ent suits in three different courts in two different counties, but all for the same offence — for standing firm for the historic faith and order of the undivided Church and not allowing the diocese of Fort Worth to compromise that.”

He and the diocesan corporation had engaged six law firms to respond to the litigation against them. Of the 110 diocesan clergy, only about 23 or 24 had stayed with the Episcopal Church, he said.

He was now counter-suing a minority group who had taken him to the Federal Court for trademark and copyright name infraction, alleging that he was unlawfully using the name of the corporation of the diocese of Fort Worth, and the great seal of the diocese.

“The diocese of Fort Worth, up until this recent lawsuit was filed in the Federal Court, has spent over $1 million in attorney fees defending ourselves. . . Our attorney and cor­pora­tion managers have estimated that probably, before this is over, we will spend between $3½ and $4½ million in litigation.”

The Assembly also heard reports on the Ordinariate. Groups need not be parishes or deaneries: they could be widely spread, the Revd James Patrick said. In the Bristol diocese, there was a group of 50. How the clergy would be received was still unclear, as was the timetable.

Archbishop John Hepworth, Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), a Continuing Church in talks with Rome, de­scribed the Pope as walking up and down in his study practising the Prayer of Humble Access for his first Anglican mass.

“How many of us haven’t said the ‘We do not presume’ for years, let alone what the Pope says is the best bit of Sarum that we’ve still got, which is the Collect for Purity?” the Archbishop asked. “And he wants to see the apostolic origins of our heritage shine through in our wor­ship — a challenge to all of us.”

Cardinal William Levada had written that he knew that the move would pose “exquisitely delicate challenges of conscience to Anglican men and women”. That was why there had not been a rush; and, in the RC hierarchy, there was not “a high level of understanding about An­glican­ism, and it’s for us to teach them as they teach us”.

MEMBERS of Forward in Faith (FiF) UK held their National Assembly last weekend in Westminster — and in what their new secretary, the Revd Jonathan Baker, described as “such a changed landscape from a year ago”.

“Everybody is wrestling with their own consciences; their own ability to make decisions and to make them now; their obligations and respons­ibilities to this Church; their aspira­tions for a greater future,” he said.

The Pope’s offer to Anglicans was announced just before last year’s Assembly; and the draft legislation for women bishops, which the Synod voted on in July, and which now stands referred to the dioceses, is unacceptable to FiF.

“We have heard . . . of the lack of charity among the clergy in the General Synod, and I think that’s absolutely true,” Fr Baker said, as he told the Assembly about the defeat of amendments that the Catholic Group had set its hopes on.

The Assembly carried a motion aimed at maintaining charity within its own ranks. It recognised “the variety of sincerely held convictions” of the members, and committed itself to “the prayerful support in every way” both of those exploring Anglicanorum Coetibus and those committed to remaining in the Church of England.

The Revd Paul Benfield explained “what was wrong with” the draft legislation as it now stood.

The safeguards from 1993 would be lost; a code of practice would not be directly enforceable; and the Synod would not even see a draft of that before February 2012. The dio­ceses were being asked to “sign a blank cheque”, he said.

The proposed provision would vary from diocese to diocese, and was loaded in favour of incumbents who wanted to invite women to officiate, and against PCCs’ being able to vote for a Letter of Request.

It took no account of who had ordained a male priest, even if it was a woman bishop; and there were prob­lems about the rights of private patrons, and about which male bishops would provide episcopal care. “This is nothing to do with ‘tainted hands’, but about com­munion and collegiality.”

Both he and and the chairman, the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd John Broadhurst, quoted assurances given to the parliamentary Ecclesi­astical Committee in 1993 which were now to be overturned.

As Second Church Estates Com­missioner, Michael Alison had assured the MPs of “built-in, per­manent parochial safeguards”, Bishop Broadhurst said. “Well, he was wrong, wasn’t he? The Synod has decided that their word to Parli­ament, and Parliament’s word to us, will be turned into a lie.”

Although Bishop Edwin Barnes and others were on hand to say that “the game is up,” and to urge the claims of the “see of Peter”, members of the Catholic Group said that the legislative process was not yet over, and Synod members were “not all bad”. It was quite possible, Prebend­ary David Houlding said, that a “blocking third” could be obtained in the House of Laity.

“If we must defeat it, defeat it we will,” he said. “We have no choice. We may not be successful, but in con­science we have no other choice.” It was likely that following motions would be suggested.

He did not want to claim too much for the new Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda (News, 1 October). “It will be no use at all if it doesn’t have jurisdiction at its heart. That undoubtedly will be where the battle is. The House of Bishops is changing. The question, therefore, remains: will they recognise such a grouping of clergy in the life of the Church?”

Sacramental assurance would not be the icing on the cake, but the cake itself. The society idea might be able to guarantee it for a while if the legislation was passed. “Will the bishops who seek to lead in this society be prepared to break the rules when needed, to consecrate further bishops? If not, this society will come to its natural conclusion.”

Bishop Broadhurst said: “I can only welcome the fact that my brother bishops now want to do something for our constituency. That said, I am concerned that this was without consultation. Most of the bishops, even those who support the society, were not consulted before it was launched as a fait accompli. . .

“With the PEVs gone if the Measure is passed, what guarantee is there that there will be any orthodox bishops in the Church of England in ten years’ time, and, if there are, what guarantee will there be that they have not been consecrated by women bishops, among others? . . . And how can a priest in the society take an oath of allegiance to a woman bishop, even if he’s cared for by the society?”

The National Assembly heard from, among others, Bishop Jack Iker from Texas. “I stand before you as the most sued Anglican bishop in the whole of North America,” he said. “I am presently named in three differ­ent suits in three different courts in two different counties, but all for the same offence — for standing firm for the historic faith and order of the undivided Church and not allowing the diocese of Fort Worth to compromise that.”

He and the diocesan corporation had engaged six law firms to respond to the litigation against them. Of the 110 diocesan clergy, only about 23 or 24 had stayed with the Episcopal Church, he said.

He was now counter-suing a minority group who had taken him to the Federal Court for trademark and copyright name infraction, alleging that he was unlawfully using the name of the corporation of the diocese of Fort Worth, and the great seal of the diocese.

“The diocese of Fort Worth, up until this recent lawsuit was filed in the Federal Court, has spent over $1 million in attorney fees defending ourselves. . . Our attorney and cor­pora­tion managers have estimated that probably, before this is over, we will spend between $3½ and $4½ million in litigation.”

The Assembly also heard reports on the Ordinariate. Groups need not be parishes or deaneries: they could be widely spread, the Revd James Patrick said. In the Bristol diocese, there was a group of 50. How the clergy would be received was still unclear, as was the timetable.

Archbishop John Hepworth, Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), a Continuing Church in talks with Rome, de­scribed the Pope as walking up and down in his study practising the Prayer of Humble Access for his first Anglican mass.

“How many of us haven’t said the ‘We do not presume’ for years, let alone what the Pope says is the best bit of Sarum that we’ve still got, which is the Collect for Purity?” the Archbishop asked. “And he wants to see the apostolic origins of our heritage shine through in our wor­ship — a challenge to all of us.”

Cardinal William Levada had written that he knew that the move would pose “exquisitely delicate challenges of conscience to Anglican men and women”. That was why there had not been a rush; and, in the RC hierarchy, there was not “a high level of understanding about An­glican­ism, and it’s for us to teach them as they teach us”.

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