I run Forward in Faith, but also act as an
adviser and co-ordinator for the Catholic bishops, the Catholic
Group in General Synod, and the Catholic movement generally.
Forward in Faith has approaching 5000 national
members. We need to convert those who belong to Forward in
Faith parishes, as well as branch members and other supporters,
into national members.
Our aim, at the moment, is to secure provision
that will enable us to flourish as a positive presence within the
Church of England.
The response to my appointment was overwhelmingly
positive and generous. I received very warm messages from
people who disagree with me. Only a few congratulated me through
I had 25 years of wonderful experiences working at
Church House, but I don't miss anything. I have a sense of
having "done that". Though managing a large division taught me a
great deal, I was glad to leave management behind.
I was doing graduate research at Oxford, on the
role of the Moravian Church in the English Evangelical Revival in
the mid-18th century. After I left university, I went to work in a
German boarding school in a little village, both Moravian; so I
became fascinated by the history of this tiny European Protestant
Church and its influence on Methodism - John Wesley's heart
becoming "strangely warmed" - and I knew that, because of that, it
had played a quite disproportionate role in the English Church.
Towards the end of my three years' funding, I
looked for a job, and a junior job in Church House came up. All my
later roles flowed from that.
All organisations need administration. Church
administrators help people to make decisions, and then record and
I'd like to be remembered for my modest contributions to
church history and Anglican ecclesiology. Every time I
attend an ordination, I am proud of my part in the genesis of our
My beliefs are Anglican; so conversion to Roman
Catholicism as an individual or in a group is not an option. Nor
would it fulfil the vision of Christian unity. I am staying, and
hope to be able to stay joyfully.
People on our side of the debate over women bishops are
more committed to engaging with the rest of the Church of
England. There are signs that some advocates of women
bishops are ready to adopt a more inclusive approach, but sadly
others seem even more determined to purify the Church (as they see
it), and extinguish traditions with which they disagree.
Ordaining women as priests militates against the unity
of Christ's Church. To change unilaterally something
which, like the Nicene Creed, belongs to the whole Church is to act
as if the Church of England were the whole, not merely a part. Men
and women are equal but not interchangeable, and priesthood is an
inherently male role.
If you believe that the role of the priest is to
represent Christ, and in particular Christ at the altar,
presiding at the eucharist, you have to ask if the fact that Christ
was male in his incarnation was relevant, or whether he could have
been incarnated as a woman. I think the fact is that it was
And a bishop is said to be a "father in God".
Can women be fathers? This is a gendered role. There's a theology
in scripture of Christ as bridegroom and the Church as bride -
there's a whole world of thought lying behind that.
There have been all those changes in interpreting gender
and family, and it is important to engage with that; but
there is an irreducible core - a difference between father and
mother, not just biologically speaking - however they have been
interpreted and enacted over the years.
This strand is only one part of the argument,
and not all Anglo-Catholics would be opposed in principle, but I
have to be honest and say that I am.
My work in ecumenism has shown me that unity is fostered
by personal engagement and relationships, conversation and
fellowship. Reaching out to people tends to bring out the best in
them. Many people you expect to dislike or disagree with become
more likeable and less disagreeable when you spend time working
A happy family upbringing, and close
relationships within a large extended family, have provided a
secure framework for my life.
I owe a great debt to my Methodist Sunday
school, and the Methodist Association of Youth Clubs, and
to my chaplain at Keble, Geoffrey Rowell.
Becoming an Anglican at 19, returning to Oxford
for doctoral research at 25, and leaving Church House for Forward
in Faith this year are among the big choices of my life. But,
ultimately, most important decisions make themselves.
Becoming an Anglican was partly because of the appeal of
Catholic Anglican worship, and partly because of the
feeling that, in the Church of England, you're identifying with the
Christian tradition in this country going back to the Dark Ages: in
Cornwall, to the age of the saints - the sixth century. In Bodmin,
where I grew up, Roman Catholicism was introduced in the 19th
century. You're standing very deliberately in that succession
rather than in a group who, at some stage, broke away from that
As a separate Church, the Church of England is a
post-Reformation body. But, then, so is the Roman Catholic
Church. Before then, it was just "the Church". Our Church is
incomplete because of its lack of communion with the rest of the
Western Church, but I'd say that the Roman Catholic Church is also
incomplete because of its lack of us.
There's not one body that has everything, to
which the rest have to go back. That's why we strive for the unity
of the Church - we long for greater completeness.
I don't remember having any childhood
ambitions, but I felt called to work for the Church
nationally as a layman long before that came about.
When I was young, I worked too hard and played
too little. That's my biggest regret.
Geoffrey Rowell and Mary Tanner were both important
Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Hermann Hesse, Barbara
Pym, and Alan Bennett are some of my favourite authors.
Polzeath beach is a favourite place of mine. I
am happiest on a beautiful coastline, on a beautiful day, in
A Cornish male-voice choir singing a rousing Wesley hymn
is hard to beat.
I love the Gospel and Epistles of John.
Leviticus is not very inspiring.
I am most often angered by unfairness and
I pray most for people I love, living and
The fact that God is calling increasing numbers of
gifted young men of traditional Catholic views to the priesthood
gives me great hope for the future.
I'd like to get locked in a church for a few hours with
Michael Ramsey. I once sat opposite him and Lady Ramsey on
a train from Oxford to Birmingham, but we were too shy to talk to
Dr Podmore was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.