On Ash Wednesday 1988, a large number of bishops from all over the Anglican Communion issued a declaration of “Unity, Witness and Mission”, otherwise known as the Ash Wednesday Declaration. it declared their adherence to historic Anglicanism, and to orthodox biblical faith and morality, and it rejected the ordination of women to the priesthood.

Since that time the signatories and other bishops of like mind have been called together three times, and have formed themselves into a permanent body called the International Bishops” Conference on Faith and Order. It gathered together for the third time at Christ Church College Canterbury, from 13th to 16th September this year, chaired by Bishop Paul Richardson. About 25 bishops from all over the world were able to be present, including two of the English flying bishops, and it has clearly become permanent feature of the Anglican scene. Bishop Noel Jones of Sodor and Man was appointed the new Episcopal president.

Reports were received from the various countries represented. Active and fruitful evangelism in black Africa and parts of the Far East were reported, together with the challenge of Islam and the resurgence of traditional religions in some African countries. Strong criticism was voiced of the financial imperialism of ECUSA and its attempts to gag opposition to its programmes on homosexuality and feminism in poorer countries by financial sanctions. The gross over-representation of ECUSA at the Lambeth Conference was also discussed, and the bishops agreed to meet before the 1998 Conference to concert their policies.

As on a previous occasion the bishops decided to deliver a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury. This year it concerned the action of the Bishop of Nova Scotia in refusing ordination to any candidate who will not explicitly support the ordination of women to the priesthood, and the proposed canon in the USA designed to outlaw the policies of the four dioceses who still do not accept women priests. As no alternative episcopal oversight is allowed in Canada, nor on any except one of the hundred -odd diocese of the USA, these four dioceses are the only friendly home left for conscientious dissidents in the whole of North America. The Bishop of Nova Scotia may be a weak and malignant tyrant, but he cannot be called unrepresentative, since the primate of Canada supports his action.

As president of the Primates’ Meeting , the Archbishop of Canterbury is reminded in the letter of its agreed policy on the two integrities, and the recommendations of the Eames Commission that it appointed, which are being so flagrantly violated in Canada and the USA.

Alongside the meeting of IBCFO, a conference for clergy and laity was held, attended by the bishops, and organised by Dr Robert Hannaford. It heard three challenging papers by Dr Gillian Evans. Canon John Halliburton and the organizer. There was a lively response from the floor. At one useful session, a panel of bishops answered questions from the clergy and laity present. Among the points made at the conference was the vulnerability of parishes in unsympathetic dioceses when the parishes become vacant, and the important help that a flying bishop can give in those circumstances.

Roger Beckwith, the author of this piece is based at Latimer House, Oxford.