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God's Church in the World: the Gift of Catholic Mission
Posted on the 21st Sep 2018
photo: Edoardo Fanfani
This week over 150 people participated in a conference on catholic mission within the Church of England co-sponsored by Forward in Faith and Anglican Catholic Future. Part of the conference took place at Lambeth Palace at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who welcomed participants and encouraged them to consider what it means to give light and salt to the world.
Keynote speakers included Rowan Williams, Alison Milbank, and Luke Miller. Focussing on mission as gift, Dr Williams spoke of the catholic tradition as offering an 'awareness of the already-happening nature of the kingdom', and reminded delegates that to engage in mission is to extend the invitation to creation to engage in God's very being. Dr Milbank reminded participants that mission does not proceed from lack or scarcity, but from sharing in the inexhaustible riches of God's abundant life; and that in mission we invite everyone to share the Trinitarian exchange of love and self-giving. Archdeacon Miller drew attention to the practical ways in which mission is already being carried out in catholic contexts, highlighted the intrinsic connection between mission and personal holiness, and reminded participants that catholic practice done well is inherently evangelistic and will lead to growth.
Forward in Faith and Anglican Catholic Future co-sponsored the conference to highlight existing excellent catholic practice in mission, and to facilitate discussion on ways in which this outstanding practice may be further enhanced. It was also a way of living out the commitment to the mutual flourishing of the different integrities of the Catholic tradition within the Church of England, as embodied within the the Five Guiding Principles set out in the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests in 2014.
Nomination to the See of Sheffield: Lessons Learned
Posted on the 15th Jun 2018
Forward in Faith welcomes the review by the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye, of ‘lessons learned’ from the various failures in handling the process following the nomination of Bishop Philip North to the See of Sheffield last year.
Mr Nye reports that some of what has been learned was put into practice in respect of the recent nominations of women to the Sees of London and Bristol. The lack of significant expressions of opposition to either nomination underlines the continuing commitment to the Five Guiding Principles on the part of those who will be unable, for theological reasons, to receive the new bishops’ ministry.
The Five Guiding Principles are foundational to the House of Bishops’ Declaration that was, in turn, an integral part of the 2014 settlement that enabled women to be nominated to episcopal sees. The Declaration makes clear that those who uphold the Church’s traditional teaching in respect of the episcopate continue to be eligible for nomination as diocesan bishops. We welcome Mr Nye’s recognition that ‘following the settlement, not enough was done to educate those in dioceses of [this] possibility’.
Like Mr Nye, we look forward to news of the progress of the Implementation and Dialogue Group in carrying out its task of remedying this lack of education about the Five Guiding Principles and the 2014 settlement more generally. We hope that, when the next traditional catholic is nominated to a diocesan see, the fruit of its work will be seen in much more generous responses within and beyond the diocese concerned.
The House of Bishops’ Declaration also said, ‘It will be important that senior leadership roles within dioceses continue to be filled by people from across the range of traditions.’ The non-implementation of this commitment over the last four years suggests that educational work might usefully begin within the House of Bishops itself.
The Diocese of Canterbury and the Seal of the Confessional
Posted on the 31st May 2018
The Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy issued in 2015 by the Convocations of Canterbury and York state (in para. 3.5): ‘If a penitent makes a confession with the intention of receiving absolution the priest is forbidden (by the unrepealed Proviso to Canon 113 of the Code of 1603) to reveal or make known to any person what has been confessed. This requirement of absolute confidentiality applies even after the death of the penitent.’
However, the Bishop of Dover has issued the following instruction to clergy in the Diocese of Canterbury and the Deaneries of Guernsey and Jersey: ‘The Bishop emphasises that… Any priest hearing a confession, regularly or otherwise, must say prior to hearing that confession the following statement of confidentiality and safeguarding: “If you touch on any matter in your confession that raises a concern about the wellbeing or safeguarding of another person or yourself, I am duty bound to pass that information on to the relevant agencies, which means that I am unable to keep such information confidential.” ’ Incredibly, the Diocese of Canterbury has denied that this instruction – which is cast in very wide terms indeed – has effectively 'abolished the Seal of the Confessional'.
Forward in Faith’s position remains as set out in 2015 in our submission to the working party on the seal of the confessional: we will resist as strongly as we can any attack on the integrity of sacramental Confession.
For a diocese to pre-empt synodical discussion of whether any aspect of ecclesiastical law should be changed is unacceptable. Forward in Faith calls for urgent action to bring the Diocese of Canterbury and the Channel Islands deaneries back into conformity with canon law and with the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy so recently issued by the members of the Houses of Bishops and Clergy in the provincial Convocations. If the Diocese of Canterbury is allowed to continue publicly to incite the clergy to breach canon law, that will set a very worrying precedent.
The Five Guiding Principles
Posted on the 8th Feb 2018
Forward in Faith is grateful for the announcement of the House of Bishops’ acceptance of the recommendations made by the Independent Reviewer in his review of the nomination to the See of Sheffield.
We welcome the publication by the Faith and Order Commission of The Five Guiding Principles: A Resource for Study. We hope that widespread study of this booklet will prevent recurrence of the misrepresentation of the Five Guiding Principles that occurred in 2017.
We welcome the appointment of a group, chaired by the Bishop of Rochester, to review what has been done to inform and educate clergy and laity about the 2014 settlement, distil examples of good practice, and provide further resources. We trust that all who have accepted membership of this group are now committed to upholding the House of Bishops’ Declaration, including the Five Guiding Principles.
We also welcome the appointment of Sir William Fittall to succeed Sir Philip Mawer as the Independent Reviewer, and wish to express our thanks to Sir Philip for his work. Having played an important part in the process that resulted in the 2014 settlement, Sir William is well qualified to take over the role of defending it.
† TONY WAKEFIELD LINDSAY NEWCOMBE
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson Dr Lindsay Newcombe
Chairman Lay Vice-Chairman
The Anglican-Methodist Proposals
Posted on the 1st Feb 2018
Anglo-Catholics are among those who are most committed to the full visible unity of Christ’s Church. We are therefore grateful to those who have worked to produce the present proposals for a development in Anglican-Methodist relations, which the Forward in Faith Executive Committee considered at its meeting on 31 January. It is a matter of regret that we must oppose them in their current form.
As the report Mission and Ministry in Covenant (GS 2086) makes clear, significant questions and concerns have been raised, not least in the House of Bishops. Will these proposals bring us closer to unity, or might they, by creating two related but distinct episcopates within England, merely serve to entrench separation? Given the Methodist Church’s model of corporate oversight, can the office of ‘President-bishop’, to be held for one year only, be recognized as a ‘local adaptation’ of the historic episcopate upheld in the Catholic Church in East and West through the ages? We note that further work is to be done on these questions, but are concerned at the suggestion that work on such substantial issues could be completed by July.
Of even greater concern are the consequences of these proposals for catholic order in the Church of England. To permit those who have not been ordained by a bishop to minister as Church of England priests, even for a ‘temporary’ period (which might last for sixty or seventy years) is for us not a ‘bearable anomaly’ but a fundamental breach of catholic order. We deeply regret that the report rules out further consideration of this issue. As loyal Anglicans, we uphold the doctrine and discipline regarding Holy Orders that is enshrined in the historic formularies of the Church of England, and in the 1662 Ordinal in particular. We shall oppose any proposals that would effectively set that doctrine and discipline aside. We note that it is to the inheritance of faith embodied in these formularies that all who minister in the Church of England must affirm their loyalty by making the Declaration of Assent.
We remain fully committed to the search for the full visible unity of Christ’s Church, but we do not believe that it can be advanced by sacrificing catholic order and Anglican integrity.