THERE was much talk about healing "relationships damaged by the difficulties of the past", as one speaker put it, when the National Assembly of Forward in Faith (FiF) met in London last Saturday.
The outgoing chairman of the Catholic Group in the General Synod, Canon Simon Killwick, told the gathering in St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, that one of the lessons of the "rollercoaster ride" to the final women-bishops legislation had been the importance of talks outside the synodical process.
"Engage positively with the life of the wider Church, to show that we are really interested in it, and to build up good relationships. There is still much healing and reconciliation needed, and we must be pro-active in seeking it, for the good of the Church, and to fulfil the teaching of the gospel."
The chairman of FiF, the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson, concelebrated with 11 other bishops of The Society under the Patronage of St Wilfrid and St Hilda; and 13 ordinands in training served as acolytes.
In his sermon, the Archdeacon-designate of London, the Ven. Luke Miller, said: "We will need graciousness in our zeal and generosity in our orthodoxy; for, whatever we might at times have thought we wanted, we have not been offered a place which is off behind high walls and protected from all contact with others."
An old warhorse was put out to grass. In amendments to the constitution, the 1994 Agreed Statement on Communion, which had been produced in the aftermath of the passage of the 1993 Measure for women priests, was superseded by a reference to "the understanding as reflected in the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal and the Canons of the Church of England" before that date.
Leading a presentation and question-and-answer session on the theology of FiF’s new statements on communion (News, 2 October), the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall, said that the statement in 1994 had been expressed "in terms of a pulling back, a withdrawal after changes had been made to the priesthood. Now we want — indeed we are challenged by our bishops and by the Church of England — to step forward, to use the provisions of the [House of Bishops’] Declaration, and to thrive as loyal Anglicans."
FiF also adopted a new explicit power to support The Society, which seeks to provide sacramental assurance for traditional Catholics.
The organisation’s elections officer, Anne Gray, introduced new and returning members of the Catholic Group in the Synod. She described the group as "larger and stronger than it was at the end of the last Synod in all three Houses".
A motion from Prebendary David Houlding welcomed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to call a meeting of the Primates, and his invitation to the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, which was, Prebendary Houlding said, in accordance with a resolution at the 1998 Lambeth Conference.
The director of FiF, Dr Colin Podmore, said that he was aware of about 170 parishes that had passed a resolution to place themselves under the bishops of The Society. "That’s a good start, but there is still a great deal of work to be done to make sure that all the other C parishes, and some of the A and B parishes as well, pass a new resolution before the old ones lapse in a year’s time." FiF also needed to address an "underlying deficit of £95,000 a year", to recruit members, and revive some of its branches.
He referred to the recent document on the seal of the confessional (News, 30 October) — "We are here to defend all the sacraments, and not just the sacrament of Orders" — and said: "We mustn’t be boring people who only ever bang on about one issue. . . But we must carry on, gently but persistently, explaining why there is a problem with ordaining women as bishops and priests."
The Revd Damian Feeney, giving a closing address on mission, said that his whole ordained life had been lived out against the background of this issue, and he was aware of the presumption that "our time is short, that we are somehow term-limited, whatever the settlement we have reached may say.
"The truth is that . . . without a considerable culture change, the whole of the Church of England is term-limited, and we have recent and relevant experience in surviving. No one can say that we are lukewarm." He urged members to embrace the "grace-filled recovery of trust" which had been called for, and "consciously rewire".