IN A unanimous vote, the National Assembly of Forward in Faith
UK, meeting in the Emmanuel Centre, Westminster, last Saturday,
resolved that the draft women-bishops Measure was "unfit for
purpose" - "notwithstanding" recent attempts by members of the
House of Bishops to improve it.
In a resolution moved on Saturday afternoon by the Revd Ross
Northing, the Assembly said that the draft Measure failed to
provide "the promised honoured place in the Church of England to
which our members are entitled".
It called on General Synod members to reject the draft Measure
so that "a more measured approach, capable of providing for all of
Her Majesty's subjects in the Church of England, might be taken by
a future Synod".
Although the resolution was carried nem. con., one priest
expressed unease about the wording. "We haven't made enough of the
fact that they are taking something away from us," the Revd John
Hervé said, referring to the removal of the existing conscience
provision if the draft Measure was carried: "An honoured place is
not what we are entitled to, but what we have been used to."
The Assembly went on to reiterate, in a further motion, that a
Code of Practice could not adequately provide for FiF's
constituency, and offered the Church of England a reminder that
"acceptable episcopal oversight incorporating the necessary degree
of sacramental assurance was the hallmark of a number of proposals
in the past which traditionalists could have embraced, not least
that set out in the pages of Consecrated Women?."
This 2004 book edited by the present chairman of FiF, the Bishop
of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, set out proposals for a
third province. It had been prepared, the mover of the motion, the
Revd Paul Plumpton, said, at the behest of an Archbishop of
Canterbury, to shadow the work of the then Bishop of Rochester's
group. Its book represented a set of coherent proposals for dealing
with the problems that women bishops posed over jurisdiction and
sacramental certainty. "The General Synod did not even give the
courtesy of a perusal to these proposals - but I should not
complain, because it did not give much more to poor old Bishop
In fact, throughout the process, the Synod had appeared to be on
"caller display" whenever FiF called, and didn't want to pick up
the phone; and he spoke of the "cowardly" withdrawal by the House
of Bishops of its "somewhat modest" amendment to the draft Measure
this summer once the amendment had been attacked by "a group of
unreconstructed Sixties feminists".
Fr Northing said that the concept of "respect" in the amended
draft was of "neither use nor ornament", since it had no legal
force. "Brothers and sisters, what a mess of pottage!" he said. "We
cannot give up our birthright for that. We need guarantees in the
Measure. This is just going to mean that bishops treat us with as
much or as little respect as they see fit."
But one bishop, it was said, had suggested that the advice was
that it did have legal force; and the Bishop of Chichester, Dr
Martin Warner, told the Assembly that if the legislation went
through, they would have to look at what that legal force might be.
But it was "not a very strong basis on which to go forward", he
The Revd Paul Benfield was sorry to disagree: the draft Measure
was based on "false principles", and the discussion over Clause
5(i)(c) had been a "dangerous" distraction. "This Measure doesn't
give us what we need, and that is the end of the matter."
And Canon Simon Killwick said that no lawyer had been able to
give him a legal definition of "respect"; but if one or two members
of the House of Bishops had tantalisingly said that they had
received such advice, then the Church needed to "get it out and
"They really want to tie us in knots," was the comment by
Felicity Greenfield, a lay representative from St Hilda's, Leeds,
who said that the draft Measure would take away lay people's rights
in law, as enshrined in Resolutions A and B. "Many of us have
theological reasons why we are opposed. But how many on a PCC could
articulate them in front of a bishop or his representative? Many
Earlier in the afternoon, the Assembly carried a motion urging
the bishops of the Mission Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda to
"secure a continuing ecclesial future for all who may turn to them,
in the event that the proposed legislation before the General Synod
to attempt the ordination of women as bishops is passed".
The Assembly also received a young people's presentation, and
encouraged members of FiF to continue to pray for and encourage
vocations among men to the priesthood, and among men and women to
the religious life, if the traditional Catholic witness in the
Church of England was to be maintained. This was vital, what- ever
happened in November. The "new response to the psalm", it was told,
should be: "No priests: no future."
There were presentations to stalwarts who had bowed out: Sister
Anne Williams CA, and the Rt Revd Martyn Jarrett and his wife,
Betty; and to the current director of Forward in Faith, Stephen
Parkinson, who was praised for his "tireless work" since 1993, and
who stands down at the end of the year.
His successor will be the present Clerk to the General Synod, Dr
Colin Podmore, who is also director of the Central Secretariat and
of Ecumenical Relations at Church House.
Dr Podmore, an ecclesiastical historian who has worked at Church
House since 1988 in fields that include ecumenism, liturgy, and
reviews of appointments processes, appeared on the platform to make
a brief statement. He said that it had been a matter of vocation to
work at Church House, as it was now to take up this new post after
Easter. "I can't wait," he said. He will be available for interview