Seventh FiF National Assembly meets in Westminster

When the first FiF National Assembly met in Westminster Central Hall in September, 1994, few in the Church would have expected the annual event to last into the next century! Whether one is of the school of thought that believes we are already in the 21st Century, or that which believes that it commences in a few weeks’ time, the simple truth is that the National Assembly is alive and well and that, such is the confidence of the FiF Council, the 8th Assembly is already booked for 12/13 October, 2001.

This year’s Assembly was graced by a number of distinguished guests: Fr David Robarts, Chairman of FiF Australia and Rector of Christ Church, Brunswick in Melbourne, gave the Keynote Address, treating delegates to a whistle-stop history of the Anglican Church in that land. Fr David Moyer, President of FiF North America and Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, gave an update on the latest very exciting developments in the USA. The Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, Archbishop Louis Falk, was present for part of the Assembly, along with two TAC bishops, George Langberg, from the USA, and John Hepworth of the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia, the latter of whom enthralled delegates with his description of his ministry down-under. Fr Aidan Mayoss, CR gave the traditional Friday evening Devotional Address.

The much-heralded Forward in Faith Guide to Safe Churches was launched, with very grateful thanks to Fr Lawson and Mrs Mary Nagel for all their hard work. With 1,226 churches listed it will soon become an indispensable part of every FiF member’s armoury – and at just £5 per copy, post free, from the FiF Office at Faith House!

The Assembly’s high point for many would have been the Solemn Concelebrated Eucharist at Christ the King, Gordon Square, at which the Bishop of Fulham presided, assisted by the Bishops of Richborough and Beverley, Bishop John Richards and almost one hundred priests. Fr Tony Delves, Chairman of FiF Sheffield, preached an inspiring sermon and Fr Ronald Corp’s mass setting written for Christ our Future at the London Arena received another performance (just ahead of its planned publication by OUP); particular thanks are due to John Gant and John Hunt, who oversaw our music.

Music also reared its head at the Emmanuel Centre, when delegates serenaded Canon Beaumont Brandie, Organiser to the Catholic Movement, whose sixtieth birthday coincided with the Assembly. As ever, our thanks are due to Fr Beau and his team of stewards for ensuring the sweet running of what was, by common consent, one of the best Assemblies yet!

The Assembly also saw some changes to the FiF Council. After sterling service to the Council, Joanna Monckton and David Morgan both decided to step down and were replaced respectively by Jackie Ottaway and Sister Joan Michael SSM. Returning re-elected to the Council are Frs Malcolm Gray, Ian Cook, Robbie Low and Beresford Skelton and Messrs Barry Taylor and Geoffrey Wright.

But in between all the elections, addresses and singing, some serious work was transacted:

Resolution 2000/01, proposed by the Norwich Area Assembly, asked the Council to investigate the possibilities of a Forward in Faith Youth Council, which would be both national and international. Resolution 2000/02, from the Southwark Area Assembly, was perhaps more of a challenge: “This Assembly, recognising the importance of Forward in Faith’s continuing role in providing leadership and resources for the promotion and understanding of the Faith, requests the Council to examine the structure of Forward in Faith and develop plans for the implementation of co-ordinated and comprehensive policies, practices and resources and that such an examination give consideration to:
[a] the need for specific organisational units/divisions charged with responsibility for developing resources, expertise and practices in the areas of:
Education and Communication
Moral Theology and Ethics
[b] the role and resourcing of Regional and Area structures and initiatives in the promotion of the Faith.

Resolution 2000/03, from Bradford, urged the Council and all local organisations to endeavour always to present a positive image of Forward in Faith, projecting a joyful acceptance of the faith received from the Fathers and proclaimed in the Catholic Creeds. Next, in 2000/04, again from Bradford, the Assembly congratulated the Editor of Forward! Plus on its excellent contents and presentation, but asked the Council to recruit additional help, to ensure that it is always published and circulated at the times given.

In Resolution 2000/05, Fr Sam Philpott, seconded by David Morgan, asked the Assembly to call upon all its members, and upon all the members of Forward in Faith, to take pro-active steps to foster vocations to the sacred ministry and asks the Regional Deans, in conjunction with the Co-ordinator for Ordinands, to take steps to monitor the resulting growth in the number of candidates of our integrity sponsored for ordination by the Bishops.

Then followed three resolutions proposed by the Forward in Faith Council:

2000/06 This Assembly:
i] takes note of the recent decision of the General Synod of the Church of England, in response to a Private Member s Motion proposed by Archdeacon Judith Rose, that a Working Party be set up to explore the theological implications of women in the episcopate;
ii] recognises that the findings of that Working Party may well lead to legislation to permit the consecration of women as bishops;
iii] reiterates its determination, in that event, to secure a Free Province of the Church of England, in order to accommodate those who are in conscience unable to accept the ministry of women bishops.

2000/07 This Assembly asserts that it is only by making full use of the provisions of the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod, 1993, and in particular by passing Resolution C, that Parishes can be most afforded the degree of protection necessary during the unfolding debate on the consecration of women to the episcopate.

2000/08 This Assembly:
i] believes that the consecration of women to the episcopate will make the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod, 1993 unworkable;
ii] requests the Council of Forward in Faith to continue to engage in dialogue with the Archbishop of Canterbury with regard to future provision to safeguard the position of those who have enjoyed the benefits of the Act of Synod during the years since 1993;
iii] requests the Council of Forward in Faith, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, to set up a Working Party, comprising members of Forward in Faith, ecumenical partners and others, to advise and inform the Archbishop of all the implications for our integrity of the consecration of women as bishops.

In Resolution 2000/09, the Birmingham Area Assembly offered a particular challenge: “This Assembly: [i] invites isolated members of Forward in Faith to consider worshipping at a nearby traditional Church, in due course applying to join the Electoral Roll of that Church, but (if appropriate) without cutting themselves off completely from the Church where they may have worshipped for many years; [ii] requests the Editorial Board of Forward! Plus to include an article or notice about this matter in its next and subsequent issues; [iii] requests Forward in Faith Diocesan Committees to co-ordinate and encourage transport where necessary.”

And finally, in Resolution 2000/10, Frs Robin Ellis and Sam Philpott came up with a simple, practical and very welcome suggestion of “the appointment of a lay parish representative for Forward in Faith, both in our Registered Parishes and, where possible, other parishes also.”

Finally, just to prove that National Assembly delegates are just as efficient (or not!) as the average New Directions reader, the Director made an appeal for more Gift Aid Declarations! Over 100 were received during the Assembly, taking our total up to over 1,100, worth some £12,800 per annum to Forward in Faith in recoverable tax. Readers are invited to keep them coming!