THERE was talk of "going forward with confidence" at this year's
National Assembly of the traditionalist organisation Forward in
Faith (FiF). It was held last Saturday in St Alban's, Holborn, in
London, on the eve of the legalisation of women bishops in the
Church of England.
A motion carried by the Assembly thanked the Catholic Group in
the General Synod and those who had served in the facilitated
conversations and on the steering committee for achieving the
provision for traditionalists.
Introducing the motion on behalf of the Council of Forward in
Faith, the Revd Edward Martin told the gathering of local
representatives: "We have the sacraments; we have the scriptures;
we have the teachings and the traditions of the Church. We have
everything we need. We have now been given the posssibility of
flourishing. What will we make of this opportunity?"
The Assembly mass on Saturday morning was concelebrated by the
Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt Revd Peter Wheatley, with nine episcopal
In his sermon, the Revd Philip North, Bishop-designate of
Burnley, said: "For far too long we have felt ourselves to be
powerless victims of the decisions of others, slaves to the
electronic voting machines of the General Synod. Today, on paper,
we have the means to regain some control: a Bishops' Declaration; a
Society; the five principles that assure us that we remain within
the spectrum of the teaching and tradition of the Anglican
In his address as the outgoing chairman, the Bishop of Fulham,
the Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, said that the principal achievement of
FiF in the past four years had been "the defeat of bad
legislation", and the bringing to birth of arrangements that
offered many possibilities for the future. FiF had been
"prophetic", he said. "Had you told me [in 2012] that the doctrine
of Reception was going to be enshrined in a House of Bishops'
Declaration, attached to a Canon which could only be altered by a
two-thirds majority in each House of the General Synod, I would not
have believed you."
He is succeeded by the Bishop of Pontefract, the Rt Revd
Tony Robinson, elected unopposed. Bishop Robinson asked: "If we
have sometimes been pushed to the margins - or even preferred to
take refuge there - are we now ready to move back and take our
rightful place at the centre?"
The Assembly heard from a range of speakers about aspects of
"flourishing": vocation, parish mission, and urban ministry; as
well as about over-reliance on legacy income which was now being
addressed, and a financial situation that was improving.
The director of FiF, Dr Colin Podmore, urged the members to
continue teaching and explaining the traditional Catholic position
on women's ordination, and reminded them that the Society of St
Wilfrid and St Hilda, which has been set up as a means of
continuing sacramental assurance for traditional Catholics, was
envisaged as an "ecclesial body".
He explained the new arrangements, which include a system of
diocesan representatives who will be the first port of call for any
parish that encounters difficulties under the legislation. He urged
representatives to keep him informed of any bad behaviour, towards
individuals or parishes, meriting a complaint to the new
independent reviewer, Sir Philip Mawer.
FiF's elections officer, Anne Gray, urged a positive and
proactive attitude going into next year's General Synod elections:
"For the first time in over 25 years, we won't be entering those
elections labelled as being anti-everything. Let's take up the
opportunity to be constructive and positive, and let's be proud of
who we are."