The Society: Church of the Poor

Posted on the 18th Nov 2017

420 parishes are under the oversight of a member of the Council of Bishops of The Society having passed a resolution under the House of Bishops’ Declaration, the Forward in Faith National Assembly heard when it met at the Church of St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, on Saturday 18 November. (Beverley 105, Burnley 19, Chichester 14, Ebbsfleet 94, Fulham 60, Richborough 97, Wakefield 31.) In the last four years the Society’s bishops have ordained over 50 priests (most of them young) to minister in these parishes.


84% of these parishes are in the more deprived half of the Church of England’s parishes (according to the Government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation – IMD). 43% are among the most deprived 10%. 23 of the parishes are among the most deprived 1%. In almost every diocese the profile of the Society bishops’ resolution parishes is more deprived than the diocese as a whole.


Mrs Anne Gray, the Council of Bishops’ Projects Officer, told the Assembly that these 420 parishes (3% of Church of England parishes) have cure of

  • 6% (1 in 16) of the population of England (over 3 million people)

  • 14% of the most deprived 10% of parishes (over 1.4 million people)

  • 18% of the most deprived 1% of parishes.

The members of the Council of Bishops are grateful to the Church House Research and Statistics Department for supporting them in their oversight of these parishes by providing the data on which these figures are based.


Anne Gray commented, ‘One of the most striking conclusions gained from evaluating this data is the irrefutable confirmation of what many people have reported anecdotally: that ministry and mission to the poor and deprived in Anglo-Catholic parishes is as much a hallmark of their commitment today as it was in the past.’


Addressing the Assembly, Fr Ian McCormack, a member of Forward in Faith’s Executive Committee who is a church historian and teaches at the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, said: ‘Much of the work the Tractarians and their successors did in the poorest parishes was not unique to them – but it was emphasized and prioritized within the movement to a unique extent.’


Fr McCormack, who is Vicar of the South Yorkshire ex-mining parish of Grimethorpe with Brierley (one of the 5% most deprived in England), also commented: ‘We are no longer threatened with riots for lighting the candles on our altars, or with suspension for preaching the Real Presence in the Eucharist, as our anglo-catholic forebears were; but we are faced with a demand for 79.17% of our income in parish share; with the need for a portfolio of policy documents so large that we’ve had to find new shelf space just to fit them all in, in a parochial setting where the reality is that some of the people I meet cannot read; and an ecclesiastical culture which sometimes seems to value numerical growth as the only possible gauge of success. The Tractarians cared passionately about church growth, as must any Christian worthy of the name; but they also cared about holiness of life, about a growing and deepening faith, about a closer walk with God.’


In other business, the Assembly unanimously adopted ‘Forming Missionary Disciples: A Mission Strategy for The Society’, presented to it by Fr Damian Feeney, Vicar of Ettingshall and Missioner to the Catholic Parishes of the Diocese of Lichfield.


Photographs, texts and sound recordings of the Assembly are published on the Forward in Faith website here.


Forward in Faith celebrates its 25th Anniversary

Posted on the 10th Nov 2017

For many loyal Anglicans, 11 November 1992 was a dark day. The General Synod’s vote for unilateral innovation in a fundamental matter of faith and order concerning Holy Orders and the celebration of the Eucharist placed the Church of England’s commitment to catholicity in question. However, it also gave the impetus for the decision five days later to found the organization that on 25 November 1992 was named Forward in Faith. In November 2017 Forward in Faith celebrates the 25th anniversary of its inception.


Significant moments in our first 25 years have included Christ our Future, the millennium Eucharist which filled the 10,000-capacity London Arena in June 2000; the publication in 2004 of Consecrated Women?, a substantial theological contribution to the debate on women in the episcopate; and the defeat in November 2012 of the first women bishops measure, now widely recognized as a blessing for the Church of England as a whole.


Forward in Faith is not a single-issue movement, nor is the sacrament of Orders the only sacrament under threat. We shall continue to defend, for the Church of England, Baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; the Eucharist as requiring the presidency of an episcopally ordained priest; Confirmation as integral to Christian initiation; Marriage as  ‘according to our Lord’s teaching… a union… of one man with one woman’; the inviolability of the Seal of the Confessional; and Anointing as a priestly ministry. Events earlier this year pointed to another reason why Forward in Faith is still needed.


The ordination of women to the episcopate has resulted in 420 resolution parishes – more than ever before – being formally committed to the oversight of catholic bishops. In the last four years these bishops have ordained over fifty men to the priesthood – the majority in their twenties or early thirties. They have formed The Society as a structure of full communion – not with a view to separation, but in order to enable Anglicans who are faithful to catholic tradition to live with confidence in the Church of England and contribute to its wider life. One of Forward in Faith’s principal tasks is to support The Society’s bishops in their task of leading their parishes, clergy and people in mission.


All of this would hardly have been possible had Forward in Faith not existed. For this we owe an immense debt of gratitude to those who founded Forward in Faith in 1992 and led it over the next two decades. The current Officers had an opportunity this week to express this gratitude personally to our predecessors.


Above all, we are grateful for the faithfulness and providence of God. At the Forward in Faith National Assembly on Saturday 18 November the mass will be a mass of thanksgiving in celebration of our 25th anniversary. Our agenda will be concerned principally with the present and the future.



The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield 


Dr Lindsay Newcombe
Lay Vice-Chairman



The Revd Ross Northing

Clerical Vice-Chairman


Response to the Sheffield Review

Posted on the 15th Sep 2017

Forward in Faith welcomes the report on the nomination to the See of Sheffield and related concerns by the Independent Reviewer, Sir Philip Mawer, and his recommendations. As the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have said, the report is ‘detailed, thoughtful and authoritative’. Like them, we shall read it carefully. We look forward to the more detailed response that the Archbishops promise.


We welcome Sir Philip’s statement that ‘there is no doubt that Bishop North’s nomination was consistent with the House of Bishops’ Declaration and the Five Guiding Principles’ (para. 130).


Sir Philip finds that ‘not nearly enough’ has been done to inform and educate clergy and laity about the 2014 Settlement (190). We welcome his recommendation that the House of Bishops provide resources to help dioceses, deaneries, parishes and training institutions to engage in further consideration of the issues and to ensure that ‘mutual flourishing’ is achieved (191).


We note that Sir Philip does not believe that Professor Percy’s ‘view of what constitutes “mutual flourishing” is consistent with what the House and the Synod had in mind in espousing the Declaration and the Five Guiding Principles’ (167). He comments, ‘The challenge posed by Professor Percy and some others… is in effect a fundamental challenge to the 2014 Settlement’ (132). We welcome Sir Philip’s recommendation that the House of Bishops give further attention to this theological challenge to the Settlement (198). It is the House of Bishops’ Declaration, so the House of Bishops needs to defend it.


As Sir Philip says, the Settlement was a package. We note that the Measure and Canon which permit the ordination of women to the episcopate form part of that package. As Sir Philip comments: ‘Try to unpick the package and the basis for the settlement is immediately called into question’ (16b).


In his conclusion, Sir Philip comments starkly, ‘The choice for the Church is whether to continue wrestling with the issues I have identified, for the sake of the Gospel, or whether to abandon the Settlement. If those who take the majority view in the Church are to retain credibility with the minority, there is only one choice which I believe they can make’ (206). We must now await the House of Bishops’ response to that challenge.


In the last three years – and indeed for some time before that – no priest who publicly espouses the traditional catholic position on holy orders has been appointed as an archdeacon, dean, or residentiary canon in the Church of England. The Bishop of Burnley is the only such priest to have been appointed as a bishop in the three years since the 2014 Settlement was concluded. A positive response to Sir Philip’s challenge will only be credible if the House of Bishops and its individual members successfully address this deficit.


Much of Forward in Faith’s work over the last three years has been directed towards building up The Society as a structure offering those who cannot receive the sacramental ministry of women as bishops and priests both sacramental assurance and a context of full communion. This has been done not from a desire for separation, but in order to enable us to engage with confidence, from a position of security and support, in the wider life of the Church of England. Many examples, from a range of dioceses, could be given of good relationships and co-operation across the divide of theological conviction.


As a leaflet published by The Society in 2015 emphasizes,

‘The Five Guiding Principles challenge us to identify the highest degree of communion that principle and conscience allow, and to express this by sharing in the life of the diocese, making a positive contribution to mission and growth. Our communion with other members of the Church of England must be characterized by the love (charity) that arises from our common life in Christ.’


In response to Sir Philip’s report, we are happy to reaffirm our full commitment to the corporate life of the Church of England and to the flourishing of all within it.



The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield 


Dr Lindsay Newcombe
Lay Vice-Chairman



The Revd Ross Northing

Clerical Vice-Chairman


God's Church in the World: The Gift of Catholic Mission

Posted on the 4th Jul 2017

Forward in Faith and Anglican Catholic Future are delighted to announce a major conference in September 2018 to promote, renew and deepen catholic mission in the world. 


As a commitment to the mutual flourishing of the different integrities of the catholic tradition within the Church of England, the executive committees of both Forward in Faith and Anglican Catholic Future have jointly planned a major conference in September 2018. The conference will be called ‘God’s Church in the World: The Gift of Catholic Mission’. In working together we are demonstrating that mission and evangelism are priorities for the future growth and wellbeing of the Church. We see the Church primarily as a gift from God to the world in every possible area of life. As priests and pastors of God's people, our duty and our joy is to demonstrate and prove our engagement to our communities. ​


We believe that we have much to learn and share in our common approach to catholic mission in the Church of England and as such we are delighted to bring together a wide range of scholars, practitioners and thinkers to enable us to deepen and renew our part in the growth of God's Church in this country.


Confirmed speakers include Bishop Rowan Williams, the Revd Dr Alison Milbank, the Ven Luke Miller, Bishop Philip North, the Revd Canon Dr Robin Ward, and the Revd Canon Anna Matthews, amongst others.

We invite all those in the ordained ministry, members of religious communities and ordinands to join us in London for three ground-breaking days in September 2018.


+Tony Wakefield, Chairman, Forward in Faith

Alan Moses, Chair of the Executive of Anglican Catholic Future


The Council of Bishops of The Society has expressed its support for the conference.


Director of Forward in Faith Receives an Award from the Archbishop of Canterbury

Posted on the 13th Jun 2017


On Friday 9 June 2017, in a ceremony at Lambeth Palace, Dr Colin Podmore, Director of Forward in Faith received the Lanfranc Award for Education and Scholarship from the Archbishop of Canterbury.


In the citation for the award Archbishop Justin Welby first acknowledged the way in which Colin's scholarship and extensive writing have served both the Church of England and the wider Church during the period when Colin worked at Church House, Westminster.  However the Archbishop also went on to recognise:

"As Director of Forward in Faith, scholar and author he continues to make a distinguished contribution to the wellbeing of the whole of the Church of England."

Forward in Faith's Chaiman, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson, speaking on behalf of the Council, said:

"We are delighted that Dr Colin Podmore has been awarded the Lanfranc (Archbishop of Canterbury from 1070 to 1089) Award for Education and Scholarship by the Archbishop of Canterbury in recognition of his service to the Church of England and his scholarship and authorship of many publications and reports."



(Photo credit Lambeth Palace)







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