At its 2015 National Assembly, held on 14 November at the Church of St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, Forward in Faith completed an important transition. Our long-term campaign for provision for traditional catholics in the Church of England having been successful, our primary role in future will be as a support structure for The Society under the patronage of S. Wilfrid and S. Hilda, and for its bishops, parishes, clergy and people. The Assembly added to Forward in Faith’s Constitution a new power to support The Society.
After a keynote presentation by the Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, on the Society bishops’ recent statements on Communion, Catholicity and a Catholic Life, the Assembly replaced constitutional references to Forward in Faith’s previous Communion Statement. New provisions tie the organization to ‘the traditional understanding of the historic apostolic succession, the ministry of bishops and priests, and full ecclesial communion’ as reflected in the Prayer Book, Ordinal and Canons of the Church of England prior to 1994.
Principal celebrant of the Solemn Eucharist with which the Assembly began was Forward in Faith’s Chairman, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield. The concelebrants included eleven other bishops of The Society, while thirteen ordinands currently in training served as acolytes. In his sermon the Ven. Luke Miller, Archdeacon-designate of London, called for a renewal of catholic mission. Others in the Church of England ‘wanted our Mission’ and had ‘shown great graciousness towards us’. They had not offered ‘a place which is off behind high walls and protected from all contact with others’ – though ‘the distinction is there, and at points will be acute’. Catholics would need ‘graciousness in our zeal and generosity in our orthodoxy’.
The outgoing Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod, Canon Simon Killwick, (pictured) was thanked for his ten years of service in that role. One of the key lessons from the ‘roller-coaster ride’ over legislation for women bishops, he suggested, was the importance of talks outside the synodical process. Urging catholics at every level ‘to engage positively with the life of the wider Church, to show that we are really interested in it, and to build up good relationships’, he said: ‘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.’
Anne Gray, employed for the past twelve months as Forward in Faith’s national Elections Officer, introduced new and returning members of the Catholic Group, which enters the new Synod larger in each of the three Houses and also re-invigorated, more than half of its members having been elected for the first time. The fact that many non-catholic electors had given high preferences to catholic candidates was a positive sign – attributable to the quality of their addresses and the range of their interests. It was announced that grant funding had enabled Forward in Faith to appoint Mrs Gray to the new role of Projects Officer for the Council of Bishops of The Society.
Addressing the Assembly, one of the Group’s newly-elected members, Fr Damian Feeney, Catholic Missioner in the Diocese of Lichfield, spoke of his longing ‘for our churches to grow, in number, in depth of discipleship, and in mutual love’. He called for prayer, training, building afresh of ‘relationships… damaged by the difficulties of the past’, repentance, positive engagement, and, most importantly, ‘a fundamental rethink about attitude and about our own response to the love of Jesus Christ shown to us supremely on the cross, proclaimed and made known in every mass’.
In other business, the Assembly unanimously passed a resolution, moved on behalf of the Council of Forward in Faith by Prebendary David Houlding, welcoming the Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to call a meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion and his invitation to the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, and assuring the Archbishop his fellow Primates of best wishes and prayers. The Assembly concluded with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, given by the Rt Revd Glyn Webster, Bishop of Beverley, with a meditation by Fr Nicolas Stebbing CR.