Now is not the time to give up or to give in. As we move forward in the legislative process it is important that we as a constituency keep our nerve and keep together. It is only natural that there should be some concern over the future and indeed following the last General Synod there was some dismay as to what was happening. The Catholic Group in voting to allow the process to continue (or abstaining at any rate in the vote) were indicating that in their view the legislation before us is the best for the Church of England and the best that we as a constituency can expect, as the Church of England moves ever closer to consecrating women as bishops.
We must make it clear, however, that we would expect the Catholic Group to vote together with a resounding ‘no’ in the final approval debate. Not to do so would be to cheapen what had gone before and to behave as if none of it had mattered. As Catholics in the Church of England alongside our Evangelical brothers and sisters we must be clear that we do not believe that ordination of women to the episcopate is the will of God for the Church of England, and whilst we might accept that is going to happen as that is what the majority desire, it is not something that we can support in all conscience. It is vital that this is made clear at all levels, be it in deanery and diocesan synods or in the General Synod.
We have not changed our minds and we have not given in, there is no white flag flying over the New Directions offices. We are dedicated to forging a future as Catholics in the Church of England that remains true to the teaching of the Church and true to the apostolic faith. The Bishops of the Church of England may be confused and may not be able to set out a coherent argument but we are and we are willing to stand firm for what we believe. For the past twenty years we have stood firm and declared that the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are not good for the Church of England and are not part of the way we understand tradition and Scripture, and we continue to say this.
What we are committed to doing is doing what we have always done – working with our brother and sisters with as deep a communion as is possible under the circumstances, but that does not mean that our views have changed or that our concerns have become any less. We wish to have a future in which we can thrive and it may be that the legislation that is coming before the Synod will allow us to do that. It is vital that our bishops stand firm together and represent our views and seek to help and protect us.
As The Society comes into existence it is vital that we all communicate one with another and that we stand together as we face the future. It will not be easy and communication will be vital. It is to be hoped after the vote in July our Bishops will call meetings of their clergy and laity so that we can work out where it is that we are going together in a calm and reflective way. As others have written elsewhere in this month’s edition, we have many exciting mission opportunities and it is vital that we take these up and work for the mission of the life of our church. It is simply no good for us to say that we will do things in the next ten years, or will see what the next few years bring. We need to act now and we need to act decisively or we will see our church disappear before our eyes.
We are being given a small glimmer of hope with the legislation that is before the Synod; it is up to us to make of it what we will, as it was for those who formed the life of Forward in Faith and the PEVs in the early Nineties. The founders of our post-1992 movement were brave and committed in their vision for the future. We too must have that same bravery and determination to stand firm for the faith, whatever comes our way. We stand in line with the historic faith and the teaching of the Universal Church; we must never forget that, nor must we forget that our call is to remind the Church of England of her Catholic heritage. The road ahead is not an easy one but we face it together and we must face it firm in the faith – now is not the time to give in.
We have an opportunity to build a future for ourselves and future generations within the Church of England. This will only happen if we take the opportunity we have been given, if we are willing to take chances and at times risks. Those who have gone before us stand as a fine example of this and we can follow them as with The Society we go Forward in Faith. ND