It has been said many times before, and it would now seem to be true: we are entering the endgame for those who hold to the traditional understanding of the ministry of the Church within the Church of England. As the Bishop of Beverley points out elsewhere in this magazine there is still lots to play for. There is also the possibility that as with previous proposals our work may come to nothing. We must of course be prepared to help and further the work of the Society in any way that we can. The proposals, as they stand, to allow women to be ordained to the episcopate do not meet our needs. Discussions of these proposals will shortly begin in our dioceses at both deanery and diocesan level. It is important that members of our constituency attend and speak at these meetings. It may seem as though we are fighting once again battles of old; that we are going over old arguments and debates. If there is to be a future for Catholics and Evangelicals in the Church of England it is a work that we must undertake in order that we might secure a future for our children and our grandchildren. The Society represents our best hope for the future in the Church of England; we are some way off getting the best available provision and we need to continue to work to that end. In all of the debates we need to remind our brothers and sisters in the Church of England that this is an issue of theology and not equality. We need at every level to encourage people to affirm the following two statements which sum up clearly our position. We believe ourselves to be loyal Anglicans who deserve to be treated as such, not simply with a code of practice (which most certainly will not do) but with full jurisdiction for our bishops. In the current climate the Society offers the best hope that we can achieve this. The following motion written by the Church of England Evangelical Council offers some hope for Synods to affirm that they:
desire that all faithful Anglicans remain and thrive together in the Church of England and therefore
call upon the house of Bishops to bring forward amendments to the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure to ensure that those unable on theological grounds to accept the ministry of women bishops are able to receive Episcopal oversight from a bishop with authority (i.e. ordinary jurisdiction) conferred by the Measure rather than by delegation from a Diocesan Bishop
As Anglo-Catholics we are used to coming under attack from those who claim not to understand our position or who simply do not want to understand our views, which we hold as a matter of conscience. We have argued time and time again that the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate is not one of equality. Frank Field’s Early Day Motion in the House of Commons tries to make the issue into one simply of equality and seeks to make those of us who cannot accept these innovations look like bigots. The views held by members of Forward in Faith, on this issue, are those shared with the undivided Church of the first millennium and are born witness to in scripture, tradition and reason. It will simply not do to try to sweep us away, or force us to accept the priestly ministry of women by using secular legislation. We hope that Mr Field will reconsider this motion, for if he did come to speak with us and our members he would soon see that this is not an issue of equality but of theological conviction.
As this magazine goes to press many members of Forward in Faith, both lay and ordained, are preparing to be received into the Roman Catholic Church as part of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. This will be a time of uncertainty for many as well as one of great excitement. They are to be part of something unique within the Roman Catholic Church and it is to be hoped a bridge between those who remain in the Church of England and those in communion with the See of Peter. It has been said that this period marks the parting of friends. If this is indeed the case, then let us all resolve to pray for one another and support one another as we seek to live out our Catholic vocations. May we all under the patronage of Our Lady of Walsingham work for the conversion of England.