IT IS a paradox that
Forward in Faith is perceived as "a pressure group with a negative
and backward-looking agenda", despite its being "deeply committed
to the widest, most inclusive vision of unity and catholicity", its
chairman, the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, told a
packed St Alban's, Holborn, in London, on Monday. The occasion was
the commissioning of the organisation's new director, Dr Colin
Dr Podmore is leading
Forward in Faith, which describes itself as "an association of
Catholics and Evangelicals . . . seeking to renew the Church in the
historic faith", after nearly 25 years on the staff of Church
House, Westminster. His work there - on ecumenical relations,
liturgy, and finally as Clerk to the General Synod - was reflected
in Monday's service, which was drawn from Common Worship,
using its traditional-language options.
A number of his former
colleagues were present, including senior staff of both Church
House and the Anglican Communion Office, among a congregation that
included many from outside the membership of Forward in Faith, and
a handful of women priests. At the end of the service, Dr Podmore
thanked those who were not in sympathy with the organisation for
attending, and urged them to "continue the conversation".
But most of those at the
solemn pontifical mass were supporters of the Anglo-Catholic
network, including 12 bishops and more than 40 concelebrating
priests. They joined in rousing hymns such as Charles Wesley's "O
Thou who camest from above", Stuckey Coles's "We pray thee,
heavenly Father", and, to finish Edward Plumptre's, "Thy hand, O
God, has guided".
In his sermon, Bishop
Baker also urged the congregation to "keep going joyfully, and to
keep on in love", on what was a "rocky path".
"Let us never give anyone
the excuse to suggest that we are simply another churchy pressure
group. . . At every turn, we must abide in love." He acknowledged:
"No doubt blame, like gifts, can be distributed across the whole
Body [of the Church]."
In a note in the order of
service, Dr Podmore also referred to the breadth of the Church of
England, and how "our presence together speaks of our commitment to
the 'mutual flourishing' of its diverse traditions". He
particularly thanked members of Fidelium, "a growing network of
young Anglo-Catholics, focused on evangelism", who acted as
stewards at the service.