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New network aims to unite Catholics

26 April 2013

by Margaret Holness


Looking forward: above: the Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway, celebrates at the Catholic Future launch; below: some of the congregation

Looking forward: above: the Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway, celebrates at the Catholic Future launch; below: some of the congregation

A NEW network, Anglican Catholic Future, has been endorsed by 21 bishops from 19 dioceses.

The network was launched on Thursday of last week at the Church of the Annunciation, Marble Arch, in central London. More than 300 Anglo-Catholic clergy and laity were present at a votive mass of the Holy Spirit celebrated by the Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway.

The object of the new network, it says, is to restore faith and unity within the C of E's Catholic wing. Its mission statement declares: "By returning to the fundamentals of the apostolic faith, but without recourse to political agendas and party rivalries, we seek the renewal and revitalisation of the Church's mission and apologetic proclamation."

It continues: "The Catholic identity of the Church of England has suffered a crisis stemming from a preoccupation with divisive issues. As a result the Catholic tradition in Anglicanism has become fragmented and nerveless. Many who hold this tradition dear feel that the time is right to rediscover our Catholic roots and values for the sake of the Church's witness in our land."

In a message to the network, read by the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: "I am deeply grateful to God for the Catholic principles which you espouse and by which you live. I am thankful that together we belong to a Church both Catholic and Reformed - a Church which welcomes a breadth of Christian expression under the Lordship of Christ."

The sermon, preached by the Revd Dr Peter Groves, Vicar of St Mary Magdalen's, Oxford, one of the network's trustees, reflected its manifesto. The ACF was not a membership organisation, but a network intended to equip clergy and laity from the Catholic tradition for Christian ministry "rooted in Catholic practice, piety and theology".

"If we are prepared to stop talking loudly about our own new ideas, we might be patient enough to listen to and learn from the universality, the Catholicity, of the Christian faith. There is nothing in God's creation which is not transformed by the incarnate love of Christ, past, present, and future."

The new network wanted to avoid divisive issues that had led to a crisis in the Catholic tradition in Anglicanism. "These issues are important but not of the essence," another trustee, the Revd Philip Chesters, Vicar of St Matthew's, Westminster, said.

Last week's launch was the culmination of almost two years of discussion among Anglo-Catholics in Greater London. The aim was to extend the network throughout the country, Fr Chesters said this week.

Ten regional groupings are being established. Future events will include a pilgrimage to Canterbury in October. 


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