It is hard to believe that a year has gone by since the women bishops’ legislation was defeated in the General Synod and, once again, as this magazine goes to press the Synod is meeting to discuss more proposals to take the legislation forward. The new proposals it seems may offer a better way forward but there is still a great deal of work to be done. This work must include the Synod listening to the very people this legislation will affect; members of our constituency.
Reaction to the legislation has been broadly very warm. There was naturally some critical comment on various blogs. It was sad to read one comment from Miranda Threlfall-Holmes that for ‘her personally, the biggest concession demanded by this legislation is the continued ordination of candidates who are against the ordination of women.’ In one sense it is easy to see where she is coming from, if there were no candidates from our constituency we would be guaranteed to simply disappear and we, so often perceived as the Church of England’s problem children would be problems no more. And yet to allow this to happen would be to break the promises of the past made to us and to ignore the recognition by both the General Synod and the Lambeth Conference that Anglicans of both views have an equal and honoured place. Forward in Faith has not, and has never, proposed that this should not be the case.
We wish to have that honoured place secured so that we can work for the mission of the Church. There was a very positive statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury recently in an interview about Christian Unity. He spoke of the importance of the ecumenical movement saying: ‘in the context of churches and ecclesial communities…no sacrifice is too great to be obedient to the call of Christ that we may be one.’ In light of the current debates about women in the episcopate this in an important statement. It acknowledges that we are in a continued period of reception. As Catholics in the Church of England we must join with the Archbishop in this work of reaching out to other Churches and seeking to move ecumenical dialogue forward, we have come a long way in the last century and this must not be allowed to be lost in the current climate.
Ecumenical dialogue is vital for the future of the church in this land and it would be foolish for us in the Church of England to ignore. Pope Francis has reminded the church that she must be outward looking and we must heed this and in our parishes continue to work for the spread of the Gospel and to help those in need. As has been said before, it will be easier for this work to be focused upon when we know that our position is secure and that we have a continued honoured place in the Church of England. We urge the General Synod to take these proposals seriously and to see that what emerges from discussions is indeed good news for all in the Church of England and not just for the majority.
This view of ecumenism is not shared by Gordon Reid the parish priest of St Clement’s Philadelphia in The Episcopal Church. In a recent sermon to the Society of Catholic Priests he calls for a New Oxford Movement, and this is indeed a laudable cause. However, such a movement as proposed by Father Reid would not resemble anything Pusey, Keble, Froude or any of the Oxford Movement fathers would have understood. Indeed it would not be anything our Catholic constituency could understand. Its aim would be to encourage priests and people to be:
‘willing to proclaim that we are happy to liberate Roman Catholics and Orthodox Church Christians from the misogynistic and homophobic teaching, which is their official line (though thankfully many of their priests hate those teachings privately as much as we do). But why should it have to be private, that is a hypocrisy from which we can deliver them if they will be received into the Episcopal Church.’
This is most certainly not in line with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s measured and positive approach to ecumenism that seeks a convergence of doctrine and understanding. This attitude is far from Catholic and we would argue far from an Anglican understanding of the Church and her doctrine and teaching.
We must be willing to disassociate ourselves with this sort of talk as it is not what the Catholic movement is about nor is it a sentiment that can be shared by loyal Anglicans. It is not that banner under which this organization can work, nor is it one we should want to work under. We must reaffirm ourselves to being loyal Anglicans and as such encouraging the ecumenical endeavour begun by our forefathers. ND