Murray crosses Rubicon

On 16th February 2005 the Revd David Robarts OAM, National Chairman of Forward in Faith Australia issued this Statement to the Members of FiF Australia:

Dear Member,

As many of you will know, Father David Moyer, the courageous Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, Pennsylvania, is to be consecrated as a bishop in the Church of God at Rosemont at 7.30pm today (local time). I ask your prayers for him and his future ministry.

I write to inform you that Father David Chislett, the equally courageous Rector of All Saints Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, and Vice-Chairman of FiFA is also being consecrated as a bishop in the Church of God at that service. I am sure that each and every one of us will uphold him with our prayers and rejoice with him on this wonderful occasion.

This course of action has been undertaken after much prayer and deliberation and in light of the commitment made by the FiFA National Council last June, as to which we have received such a positive response. Indeed, it was this action that led to Archbishop Carnley’s Primatial initiative for us to engage in dialogue with him and the other Metropolitans along with the Traditional Anglican Communion’s Archbishop Hepworth and FiFA leaders regarding the implications of this commitment.

This dialogue began with a cordial and constructive meeting held on 19th January last. Bishop Chislett’s consecration will supply something of a level playing field for our future discussions and, we hope, assist the Primate in representing our position to other Australian Bishops. To this end, Bishop Chislett will not perform any episcopal acts either in the Anglican Church of Australia or in the Anglican Catholic Church of Australia until our November National Conference in Melbourne, the theme of which is, appropriaEtely, “Shaping Our Future”. In other words, during the next ten months we want to work with the MetEropolitans of the Anglican Church of Australia in devising a harmonious way for this new ministry to operate.

This step is a crossing of the Rubicon with all that this implies for us. It is a step taken in the risk of faith and in the face of legal threat and political pressure asserted from both within and beyond our shores. It is also a step taken in light of our Mission Statement and our other foundational documents. This, I believe, is God’s opportune moment for us: it is now-or-never for FiFA.

It may be that there will be a surprise for some as to the lack of prior notice given, or public announcement of, this event. We have acted in this way to protect Father Chislett and Bishop Davies. Indeed, given the harsh reality of the circumstances I would draw a parallel with ordinations and consecrations undertaken in prison camps during the dark days of Soviet tyranny to ensure survival of apostolic ministry to the faithful in the face of hostility and persecution. Christian history offers other examples.

Bishop Chislett’s consecration heralds a new era for our constituency; one, though, in which the Lord will present us with fresh challenges and opportunities. Not least, will be a paradigm shift in moving beyond reactive, and often negative, responses due to others writing our agenda.

We are being called out of the too familiar gloom of the trenches to engage the world with reshaped attitudes and the undertaking of new gospel initiatives. The Lord of the church summons us not only to the upholding of Catholic Faith and Order, but to reaching out with a new evangelistic zeal to transmit the faith of our fathers to a generation which has lost its way in a dehumanizing materialist hedonism, a generation in desperate need of Jesus Christ.

Would you please read the accompanying letter from Bishop Ross Davies with care and, while giving thanks, pray fervently for him along with Bishop Chislett.

Yours in Christ,

The Rev’d David Robarts O.A.M.

National Chairman,

Forward in Faith Australia

Bishop Ross Davies,

Bishop of The Murray,

wrote this letter to

the Archbishop of Brisbane:

Dear + Phillip,

Out of courtesy and respect for you I believe it is right for me to inform you personally that I shall be participating in the Consecration in the USA on the 16th February 2005 of the Reverend David Chislett as a Bishop in the Church of God.

I believe that Archbishop John Hepworth has written to the Primate to inform him of his intentions, in particular that Bishop Chislett, as he will be, will not exercise any episcopal function in Australia (either in the Anglican Church of Australia or in the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia) until such time as the discussions presently underway to find a ‘modus vivendi’ for a ‘flying bishop’ are further advanced.

I will be participating in this Consecration with other diocesans and also with retired bishops of the Anglican Communion alongside Archbishop Hepworth and bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion. My actions, which I am advised do not contravene the Constitution or Canons of the Anglican Church of Australia are undertaken to ensure that the Consecration is seen as having credibility in the Anglican Communion and as my public statement that it is essential that we have alternative Episcopal oversight.

It is now over twelve years since the ordination of women to the priesthood in Australia. I cannot understand why we did not have the generosity of the Church of England in providing for the constituency of which I am part. I can see no other way forward to provide what should have been provided in Australia.

I expect to be part of the on going discussion between the ACA Archbishops and Forward in Faith this year and hope that we can proceed with charity.

In the hope that this action will not diminish the fraternal goodwill which has always existed between us,

+ Ross The Murray

The letter was copied to:

the Archbishop of Canterbury,
the Primate of Australia,
the Acting Metropolitan
of South Australia
and the Chancellor of The Murray