Fathers in God? – New book published by Forward in Faith

Posted on the 15th Dec 2015

Forward in Faith has published a new book entitled Fathers in God? Resources for reflection on women in the episcopate.


The Chairman of Forward in Faith, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson, has commented: “To some our theological case is well-known, but others say not just that they disagree with it but that they do not understand it. It is over nine years since the General Synod briefly debated the theology. In the Church of England at large there is at least one generation to whom it has never been presented. We are committed to upholding all of the Five Guiding Principles. In publishing this book we are not seeking to re-open what the second Principle calls the Church of England’s ‘clear decision’. But the fourth Principle bases provision for us on the fact that we hold a legitimate Anglican ‘theological conviction’: we therefore feel obliged to articulate what that theological conviction is. And the third Principle locates the Church of England’s decision within a ‘broader process of discernment within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God’: this book contributes to that process.”


At the heart of the volume is the theological material from Forward in Faith’s earlier report Consecrated Women?, together with the section of the Rochester Report that explains the Anglo-Catholic arguments, but it also includes new essays relevant to the present context. The Bishop of Chichester considers our vocation to live in love and charity despite the tear in the fabric of communion. Emma Forward (after ten years, now no longer the youngest elected female Synod member) explains how young women’s experience of equality in all areas of secular life enables them to be open to theological reasons for gender distinction in the Church’s ministry. The book concludes with Cardinal Kasper’s important address ‘The Mission of Bishops in the Mystery of the Church’.


In his Foreword the Bishop of Coventry comments, ‘It is important for everyone in the Church of England, whatever their position on the ordination of women, to understand the views presented…, to identify their theological assumptions and to engage with them responsibly.’


Fathers in God? is published by the Canterbury Press at £19.99. It is available to members of Forward in Faith at the special price of £12.50, including postage and packing. (Please send a cheque, payable to Forward in Faith, to the Forward in Faith office.)


New Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod

Posted on the 8th Dec 2015

The Catholic Group in General Synod has elected the Revd Paul Benfield SSC as its acting Chairman.


Fr Benfield practised at the chancery bar in Newcastle before ordination. After curacies in the Diocese of Newcastle, he served as a team vicar and incumbent in the Diocese of Chichester. He is now Vicar of St Nicholas Fleetwood in the Diocese of Blackburn. A member of the General Synod since 2005, he chaired the Steering Committee for the Miscellaneous Provisions Measure 2014 and was a member of the Steering Committee for the Women Bishops legislation. He is Vice-Chairman of the Dioceses Commission and a member of the Church of England Pensions Board.


Fr Benfield has been a member of the Council of Forward in Faith since 2005 and was recently co-opted onto its Executive Committee.


Fr Benfield succeeds Canon Simon Killwick, who did not stand for re-election to the General Synod. Fr Killwick had been a member of the Synod for seventeen years and had chaired the Catholic Group for the last nine years.


In accordance with the Catholic Group's constitution, Fr Benfield will serve as acting Chairman for one year and the Group will then elect a Chairman to serve for a full five-year term.


Forward in Faith Assembly completes transition

Posted on the 16th Nov 2015



At its 2015 National Assembly, held on 14 November at the Church of St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, Forward in Faith completed an important transition. Our long-term campaign for provision for traditional catholics in the Church of England having been successful, our primary role in future will be as a support structure for The Society under the patronage of S. Wilfrid and S. Hilda, and for its bishops, parishes, clergy and people. The Assembly added to Forward in Faith’s Constitution a new power to support The Society.


After a keynote presentation by the Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, on the Society bishops’ recent statements on Communion, Catholicity and a Catholic Life, the Assembly replaced constitutional references to Forward in Faith’s previous Communion Statement. New provisions tie the organization to ‘the traditional understanding of the historic apostolic succession, the ministry of bishops and priests, and full ecclesial communion’ as reflected in the Prayer Book, Ordinal and Canons of the Church of England prior to 1994.


Principal celebrant of the Solemn Eucharist with which the Assembly began was Forward in Faith’s Chairman, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield. The concelebrants included eleven other bishops of The Society, while thirteen ordinands currently in training served as acolytes. In his sermon the Ven. Luke Miller, Archdeacon-designate of London, called for a renewal of catholic mission. Others in the Church of England ‘wanted our Mission’ and had ‘shown great graciousness towards us’. They had not offered ‘a place which is off behind high walls and protected from all contact with others’ – though ‘the distinction is there, and at points will be acute’. Catholics would need ‘graciousness in our zeal and generosity in our orthodoxy’.


The outgoing Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod, Canon Simon Killwick, was thanked for his ten years of service in that role. One of the key lessons from the ‘roller-coaster ride’ over legislation for women bishops, he suggested, was the importance of talks outside the synodical process. Urging catholics at every level ‘to engage positively with the life of the wider Church, to show that we are really interested in it, and to build up good relationships’, he said: ‘There is still much healing and reconciliation needed, and we must be pro-active in seeking it, for the good of the Church, and to fulfil the teaching of the Gospel.’


Anne Gray, employed for the past twelve months as Forward in Faith’s national Elections Officer, introduced new and returning members of the Catholic Group, which enters the new Synod larger in each of the three Houses and also re-invigorated, more than half of its members having been elected for the first time. The fact that many non-catholic electors had given high preferences to catholic candidates was a positive sign – attributable to the quality of their addresses and the range of their interests. It was announced that grant funding had enabled Forward in Faith to appoint Mrs Gray to the new role of Projects Officer for the Council of Bishops of The Society.


Addressing the Assembly, one of the Group’s newly-elected members, Fr Damian Feeney, Catholic Missioner in the Diocese of Lichfield, spoke of his longing ‘for our churches to grow, in number, in depth of discipleship, and in mutual love’. He called for prayer, training, building afresh of ‘relationships… damaged by the difficulties of the past’, repentance, positive engagement, and, most importantly, ‘a fundamental rethink about attitude and about our own response to the love of Jesus Christ shown to us supremely on the cross, proclaimed and made known in every mass’.


In other business, the Assembly unanimously passed a resolution, moved on behalf of the Council of Forward in Faith by Prebendary David Houlding, welcoming the Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to call a meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion and his invitation to the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, and assuring the Archbishop his fellow Primates of best wishes and prayers.


The Assembly concluded with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, given by the Rt Revd Glyn Webster, Bishop of Beverley, with a meditation by Fr Nicolas Stebbing CR.


Texts and sound files from the Assembly are available here.


Forward in Faith defends the Seal of the Confessional

Posted on the 26th Oct 2015


Forward in Faith has published its submission to the Working Party on the Seal of the Confessional, which is charged with assisting the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops in considering whether to recommend amendment of the Canon that says that priests should not reveal what has been disclosed in Confession by a penitent.


Forward in Faith's submission points out that the sacraments belong to the whole Church, of which the Church of England is only part, and that the General Synod therefore does not have the authority to alter them. The obligation of non-disclosure is part of the nature of the Sacrament: it was not created by the Canon. Amending or repealing the Canon would therefore not remove it. We are confident that priests will continue to regard themselves as bound by the Seal of the Confessional, even if this canonical provision is amended or repealed.


We question whether, in any case, the necessity for such a change has been or can be made out.


Such a change would be undesirable and counterproductive. It would discourage people who have committed criminal offences from making their confession, reducing the likelihood of a priest being in a position to counsel them to report themselves to the Police. The time and energy expended in promoting such a controversial piece of legislation could be deployed more profitably in other ways.


Forward in Faith is concerned that many priests receive little or no training for the important ministry of reconciliation, which both the 1662 and Common Worship Ordinals identify as a fundamental aspect of priestly ministry. Such training should emphasize that, where a serious crime is confessed, absolution should be withheld until the penitent has reported him- or herself to the Police.


Forward in Faith understands the defence of the sacraments as part of its purpose, and we shall resist as strongly as we can any attack on the integrity of sacramental Confession.


The submission may be read here.


Catholic presence in the General Synod strengthened

Posted on the 19th Oct 2015

The Catholic Group in General Synod has issued the following statement.

The recent General Synod elections have strengthened the Catholic presence in the General Synod. It will also be re-invigorated. Half of the members of the new, larger, Catholic Group have never been members of the General Synod before. We are particularly pleased to have increased our representation in each of the three Houses. 

We are committed to playing a full part in the work of the General Synod, as part of our response to the invitation to flourish in the Church of England’s life and structures. We wish to express our thanks to all those electors who have made this possible by according us high preferences.


We also pay tribute to the many former members of the Catholic Group who did not stand for re-election, many of them retiring after many years’ service. They will share our delight that so many younger members have been elected to carry on their work in the new quinquennium.







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