John Herve offers a perspective from the ordinary parish and shares his judgement on the Forward in Faith Assembly
There has been much in the media about the reaction of bishops and organizations to the July Vote. But what about those ‘at the sharp end’ – i.e. in the parishes? After the initial numbing shock, followed by a sense of outrage, now that the dust has begun to settle, grim determination is beginning to develop. This results from a number of uncomfortable realizations.
Realization that outrage, though a natural response under the circumstances, is both futile and negative. It only serves to reduce ones quality of life and threaten personal integrity. A far more measured and calm response is required.
Need for penitence
Realization that a more appropriate (and uncomfortable) response may be that of penitence. Penitence that the Anglo-Catholic Movement has not brought the Church of England to the fullness of the Catholic Faith. We are now reaping the poor harvest of half a century of complacency.
Realization that despite all the valiant efforts at every level of Church life, including synodical government (at General, Diocesan and Deanery); despite entering into years of debate, detailed argument and persuasion in many arenas (Consecrated Women? etc.), others just do not understand our point of view. We are talking a different language. As far as they are concerned we may as well be on a different planet.
Realization that they wish we were on a different planet! The sheer guile, the ungenerous nature of the Synod debate (I know, I was there) demonstrated quite plainly that we are not wanted. It is better that one person (the Anglo-Catholics) should die for the people (the liberal majority).
Realization that trust has gone. The Act of Synod, Bonds of Peace, far from being solemn agreements or covenants, were actually cynical ploys and not worth the effort or the paper they were printed on. Whatever happens now – even a free province -could only be seen as provisional, subject to retraction and emanating from dubious motives.
Realization that those clergy who resisted the temptation to take advantage of the financial compensation after 1993, who made major decisions about their future based on the assurances of the Act of Synod, but above all, remained faithful to their parishes and people, have been betrayed.
A new focus
So out of these realizations has come a grim determination. A code of practice is not enough and will not work. Up to now we have been waiting to see what the Manchester Group would produce and what the reactions to it may be. Now we know – and the gloves are off! Just as 1992 galvanized the Catholic Movement, giving it new identity and purpose, so now we have a new focus, and it is having the same effect.
The National Assembly this year was more uplifting, stimulating and positive than they have been for some time. There were calls for us to consolidate and hold firmly together in a united purpose. But the contributions from all areas of our constituency demonstrated that we are doing just that! We are united in the realization that a code of practice is not enough. We are united in a common purpose – that whatever we do and whatever direction we go in, we will do it together.
And this was the overwhelming message from the floor of the Assembly. The new look procedures, interspersing the formal motions with input from the whole spectrum of our membership, was partly responsible for the revitalization of purpose. People we had never heard before, from all walks of life and areas of the country, made keynote speeches.
It gradually emerged that we are indeed united in purpose, fortitude, determination and faith as we go forward together into the future. This then was the realization that we took home with us. We may feel isolated and often beleaguered at the sharp end – in our parishes, dioceses and other contexts, but we are part of a strong united movement. God has brought us this far. Think what has thus far been achieved! He will not desert us.