The Church of England continues to remain focused on growth and mission and this is a good thing. It is unclear whether the revision of the baptismal rite will lead to growth or whether it is good for the mission of the Church. The publicity and press coverage have not been positive and broadly speaking the public, and indeed churchgoers, seem rather bemused by the changes. It is to be hoped that, as is discussed elsewhere in this edition, the liturgical commission can see sense and return to a theological understanding of baptism that is consonant with the teachings of the Church. There should be no need for a period of reception with regard to the sacrament of baptism.
We continue to be in a period of reception with regard to the ordination of women and this means people can and will change their minds (in both directions). The issue for us has never been about so-called ‘taint’ but rather with a theology and communion. For example, a bishop, who has in the past ordained women, by that act, created an impairment of communion between him and bishops who did not ordain women. He also created an impairment of communion with some of his priests and his people. If the bishop changes his mind and decides not to ordain women and feels that it is not right for the Church then he returns to being in communion with those who cannot accept the ordination of women. Communion can be broken, but it can also be restored. Our critics would like to brand us as obsessed by a word they have coined, ‘taint’, but that is simply not the case. Our issue has always been one of theology and sacramental assurance. The need for these assurances comes from a desire to preserve the highest degree of communion.
The latest proposals to come to the Synod need to be carefully studied. In general they have been welcomed by Forward in Faith. The area of concern currently lies with what will happen to ensure that bishops are consecrated in a suitable form to serve our constituency. It is vital that this is resolved. This legislation, and the provisions within it, is not something that can have a time limit on it. If the Church of England is serious about our place within its communion (as serious as we are
endeavouring to be) then it must be willing to make promises and to keep them.
The new Society will help us to go some way to working this all out. The Society offers a way for us to work together within the Church of England to serve the Church better and to work with all in the Church to bring about the conversion of England. It is no mistake that the Society is focused on mission. As a constituency we need to be passionate about growing our churches and finding new missionary activities and avenues. It is vital that as parishes we are outward looking and seeking to engage the world and the Church. In order to be taken seriously we must show ourselves serious about the mission of the Church and willing to work with all our colleagues to bring this about.
We must also improve on the ways in which we support one another within the constituency. If the Society is to succeed at all it must be strong and united. Travelling around different parishes in our constituency (one day we will be able to talk of parishes of the Society) one cannot help but be struck by the range of liturgical styles, the different atmospheres and emphasis of each parish as well as the vast range of different projects in which our parishes are involved. This needs to be developed further and expertise needs to be shared across the Society. The Society offers us a way to secure our Catholic identity together within our Anglican heritage as members of the Church of England. If you have not joined the Society yet then please do so; it is vital in the months and years ahead that we are all in this together and that we have a vibrant network to support us and to give guidance.
The time ahead may not be easy but we can be certain that called by the Holy Spirit we have a great work to do in the mission fields of this land. United together under the patronage of Saints Wilfrid and Hilda and of Our Lady of Walsingham we can move forward in faith, united together to work for the up-building of the Kingdom. The Church of England needs to be clear that we are serious and committed to this work. We are committed to the future and will work to ensure a secure place for our children and grandchildren. We do not want terminal care; we want to thrive. ND