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



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