A Paper on The Society at the Forward in Faith National Assembly 2011

Posted on the 22nd November 2011 in the Category - News

Perhaps understandably, I have lost count of the number of times I have either written about The Society or have spoken of it. During a recent conversation it was suggested that I should find a more headline-grabbing name. You can tell that the conversation took place in the North when I tell you that the first suggestion was that we rename it ‘The Co-op’! The subsequent proposal was that we name The Society ‘The Mafia’! That would certainly have produced more interest but there was always the fear that such a title might just be a little too near the truth.


But, let me start in what to some might seem an unlikely place. I want to begin by paying genuine tribute to those who have felt led by God to join the Ordinariate. Some of my oldest friends are among their number. On a personal note, over the past months what Newman famously called “the parting of friends” has literally at times brought me to the point of tears. I begin here because, right from the first suggestion of forming The Society, some immediately responded by saying it was a swift proposal to try and produce an alternative to the Ordinariate. Nothing was further from the founders’ minds. What we recognised was that just as some were driven by conscience to join the Ordinariate so many others were equally driven by conscience, at least for the time being, to remain within the Church of England. Such people surely had the right to explore how best to organise for the future and especially to identify what might be the most likely ecclesial provision that might be not only acceptable to them but also to the Church of England. Our friends who have in conscience joined the Ordinariate must surely now give us space to try and bring this about. Perhaps I should just say at this point just how much I have appreciated the understanding and encouragement for working towards a successful establishment of The Society that I and others have received from some of our Roman Catholic colleagues.


Indeed, I am sure some of you will have heard Bishop Geoffrey Rowell speak of his recent visit to Rome and of his audience with Pope Benedict. Bishop Geoffrey came away confident that Pope Benedict understood why some of us sought to stay within the Church of England to work for the establishment of The Society. The important thing was that we should remain close to each other in our journey towards Christian Unity.


The key question in seeking to establish The Society is how can we produce something which still enshrines a basic understanding of what it means to be a church of priests, deacons and people gathered around its bishops, given that the Church of England, were it to admit women to the episcopate, has steadfastly set itself against permitting separate dioceses for those of us who could not assent to such an act. I doubt I need to set the problem out in full. Most of us here have lived with the dilemma for many years. We want bishops who are truly our fathers in God, who are the font of our sacramental life, and so also have the care of us that flows from such a position. We want priests who are clearly the priests of such a bishop, alternates with him and with one another as, by their ministries, they bind us more and more into the authentic life of the catholic church.


We want to be empowered in mission to make that church flourish as many more are brought into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. We are far from convinced of a view of the episcopate which sees bishops as some kind of quasi-magical characters. The idea that we can answer to any bishop regardless of gender or orthodoxy and then be grateful for someone whom we regard as being genuinely a bishop being parachuted in for us to undertake certain sacramental actions falls far short of a truly catholic understanding of the Episcopate. I might add, in passing, that the present legislation does not even propose that measure of sacramental and pastoral care for us. It is doubtful that any code of practice would make such provision either.


So it is that in this near last ditch situation some of us are trying to persuade the Church of England to let us live within a Society model. What does this mean? It means that the Church of England entrusts the care of traditionalists to that of traditionalist bishops. They might be orthodox diocesans or suffragans. It is hard to see how any meaningful provision could be made without also having at least three provincial bishops based on the present sees of Beverley, Ebbsfleet and Richborough for those diocese and regions that do not make more local provision. Such bishops would necessarily need to be given such jurisdiction (to use the technical term) that enabled them to be the fount of sacrament and pastoral life for their clergy and people. It might just be that this could be brought about even at a late stage by the re-introduction into the General Synod of something like the archbishops’ ill-fated amendment. Such an amendment would be far from perfect but would probably enable much of what we seek to come about.


There would still be, of course, some anomaly in all of this as we try to work out the basis on which priests of The Society are then, with their Society bishops’ permission, licensed and employed in the various dioceses of the Church of England. Perhaps we might be thinking of something rather like, in the Roman Catholic Church, where the monks of Ampleforth, for example, are firstly monks of that community and then parish priests active within a local diocese; or when, for example, an Ordinariate priest is released for work in a local diocese while, of course, remaining a member of the Ordinariate and answerable to his Ordinary.


Clearly, the parallels are not exact. I admit I am doing some kite flying in an area where much more detail would need to be worked out in the future. Who knows? Addressing such practical implications could even make the code of practice relevant and useful to us.


Is this tidy? No. Is this perfectly reflecting of Catholic order as we have known it? Probably not. But is it a bearable anomaly such as Catholic Anglicans have had to live with since the Reformation and, more precisely, that we have had to live with since the first women bishops appeared within the Anglican Communion, or the first women priests were created within the Church of England? Coping with bearable anomaly is an essential ingredient of being an Anglican in a divided church. If we cannot accept the truth of that then I guess we would not wish to remain members of the Church of England whatever the outcome of our current dilemmas.


What we can do now is to formalise the life we have in fact already been living for the past seventeen years or so into a proper ecclesial body. The Society can, here and now, be our way of living out what it means to be the Church. And up and down the country, in places as diverse as Chichester or Blackburn, Wakefield or the West Country, this is beginning to happen. We have our constitution in place and Catholic bishops are overseeing our journey forwards. We have thousands of people signed up to the idea and need thousands more as we send out a signal to the Church of England that this is not only what we want. It is, rather, the very basic bottom line of what we need if we are to be enabled in good conscience both to stay and to flourish within the Church of England.


Be sure there will still be a need for Forward in Faith. The Society is not a rival society. It is our way of being the Church. We can be sure that, at some time, we will still need a strong and uncompromising campaigning body to help maintain ground won and to help achieving with more in the future.


And finally, a note of caution. We have to be realistic. The evidence so far is that every olive branch we have held out has been refused. Every time we have explained what are the bare essentials for us to stay within the Church of England we have been told instead that we do not understand our own position and that others know what is better for us. I do not know what odds I might put on succeeding in our endeavour. I suspect they would be disappointingly low. The history of the past few years gives little ground for hope.


I do know that God has put me and, I trust, you here at this time to persevere in the attempt and to do our best to make it succeed. If there be only a thirty percent chance or even only a ten percent chance of bringing The Society permanently into being, and I would put the odds a little higher than that, we have no choice but to go for it, being equally realistic and determined.


So, please, support, join, encourage The Society and let us see where God takes us with it.

Resolutions A and B

Category - Resolutions

The following resolutions form part of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure and should be read in the context of that legislation.


Resolution A
That this parochial church council would not accept a woman as the minister who presides at or celebrates the Holy Communion or pronounces the Absolution in the parish.


Resolution B
That this parochial church council would not accept a woman as the incumbent or priest-in-charge of the benefice or as a team vicar for the benefice.

PEV's Statement on Marriage

Category - Resolutions

The following statement was issued at the Sacred Synod AD2002 by the Provincial Episcopal Visitors and the Bishop of Fulham.

1. The importance and given-ness of our historical and legal context:
(a) The Church of England is part of the Western Church, the larger part of which understands marriage between Christians to be a sacramental bond;
(b) According to Canon B30, the teaching of our Lord as affirmed by the Church of England is expressed in the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony contained in The Book of Common Prayer;
(c) The Church of England is by law established. Some of the necessary implications of these provinces' understanding of marriage are also found in the present civil law of England and Wales.


2. We DECLARE Holy Matrimony to be:
(a) The voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others;
(b) An 'honourable estate', creating a status, while also being a covenant and arising from a contract;
(c) A union entered into by mutual and free consent, without reservation or condition, the promises made being completely independent of each other;
(d) A calling from God for many, but not all, the calling to the single state for others being equally honourable;
(e) A gift of God in creation, instituted 'in the time of man's innocency', and in the guardianship of which the Church has a share;
(f) A sign to us of the 'mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church';
(g) For the purposes of: the procreation and nurture of children (save where age or condition preclude it); the hallowing and right direction of natural instincts and affections; and the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity;
(h) A union in which the parties marry each other, each being a minister of God's grace to the other;
(i) Both private (a commitment between the parties) and public (within the community).


3. Flowing from this understanding of Marriage, we RECOGNISE that, as a consequence, there are several categories of unions which, while purporting to be marriages, do not fulfil this understanding:
(a) First, there are those unions which have been non-marriages from the beginning (so-called 'void marriages'). Such unions occur when:
(i) the parties lack capacity (that is: the parties are within the prohibited degrees; either is under the age of 16; either is already married; or the parties are not respectively male and female);
(ii) both parties knowingly and wilfully intermarry in the face of certain other defective matters relating to the marriage ceremony required by civil law.

(b) Secondly, there are those unions which can be declared to be no longer marriages (termed 'voidable marriages'). Such unions may be declared a nullity when:
(i) either is impotent (save where this is known to both);
(ii) either did not consent through duress, mistake as to identity of the other party or misapprehension as to the nature of the ceremony, unsoundness of mind or through the effect of drink or drugs;
(iii) either party was suffering from a mental disorder despite valid consent given at the time;

(iv) either, unknown to the other, was suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form;

(v) the wife, unknown to the husband, at the time of the marriage was pregnant by another;

(vi) there has been a wilful refusal by one of the parties to consummate the marriage.

In these cases, whether a decree absolute of nullity or of divorce has been obtained, we recognise that it would accord with the above understanding of marriage if either of the parties to the union, although the other of them is still living, were to be married in church to another party.


(c) Thirdly, there are those unions which, while incapable of being annulled at civil law, may nonetheless be treated by the Church as being no longer marriages. Unions in this category may occur when:

(i) the marriage has been contracted for a reason other than those for which marriage exists (as set out in clause 2(g) above);

(ii) either or both of the parties to the union were insufficiently able to evaluate critically the decision to marry in the light of the consequent obligations and responsibilities;

(iii) evidence of behaviour before, at or after the marriage, demonstrates that at the time of the marriage either of the parties did not accept the marriage to be an exclusive and indissoluble union;

(iv) either party had an undisclosed intention not to have children;

(v) the existence of a pre-nuptial contract between the parties, providing for division of property upon civil divorce, indicates that the union was intended to be conditional only;

(vi) both parties to the union were not baptised, but one party subsequently receives the Christian Faith and is baptised, and the other party, without cause being given by the baptised party, then departs.

In these cases, following a divorce at civil law, we recognise that it would accord with the above understanding of marriage if the appropriate parties (and in the case of category (vi) the baptised party), although the other of them is still living, were to be married in church to another party.


4. On the basis of this understanding of marriage, and the possible instances when it is not fulfilled, we OFFER to priests from parishes who look to us for pastoral care and sacramental ministry the means of seeking our advice which individual parish priests are under no obligation to heed. Such advice, which we shall give in writing, is intended to help them in their decision as to whether to proceed with the marriage of parties in church where either or both has a former spouse still living.


5. This advice is offered to the parish priests who must ultimately make up their own minds as to what decision should be taken. The bishops are not free to enter into discussion with the relevant couples nor to receive any form of appeal. The decision remains in law that of the parish priest. Parish priests should pay particular attention to the legal guidance given to them in the material issued by the House of Bishops.


6. None of this precludes using what in short hand is called The Service of Blessing. None of us, ultimately, knows the true status in God's eyes of many of the unions to which we minister. Where couples act as their own tribunal of conscience and bring their union to God in prayer, the use of the rite for praying with a couple following a civil marriage may well be appropriate.




Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993

Category - Resolutions

The Act of Synod provides for what is commonly known as 'Resolution C'. Where the parochial church council of a parish has passed one or both of the resolutions set out in the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure (Resolutions A and B), a decision may be taken jointly by the minister and the PCC to petition the diocesan bishop concerned to the effect that appropriate episcopal duties in the parish should be carried out in accordance with this Act of Synod.




Passed by the General Synod to make provision for the continuing diversity of opinion in the Church of England as to the ordination and ministry of women as priests, and for related matters.





(1)     The Church of England through its synodical processes has given final approval to a Measure to make provision by Canon for enabling women to be ordained to the priesthood;


(2)     The bishop of each diocese continues as the ordinary of his diocese;


(3)     The General Synod regards it as desirable that –


          (a)     all concerned should endeavour to ensure that –


                   (i)      discernment in the wider Church of the rightness or otherwise of the Church of England’s decision to ordain women to the priesthood should be as open a process as possible;


                   (ii)     the highest possible degree of communion should be maintained within each diocese; and


                   (iii)    the integrity of differing beliefs and positions concerning the ordination of women to the priesthood should be mutually recognised and respected;


                   (b)     the practical pastoral arrangements contained in this Act of Synod should have effect in each diocese.



Now it is hereby declared as follows: -

Ordinations and Appointments

1.       Except as provided by the Measure and this Act no person or body shall discriminate against candidates either for ordination or for appointment to senior office in the Church of England on the grounds of their view or positions about the ordination of women to the priesthood.


Appropriate Arrangements


2.       Three types of arrangements may be made in order to provide an appropriate ministry for those who are opposed, namely –


          (a)     diocesan arrangements to be made by the diocesan bishop in accordance with section 3 below;


          (b)     regional arrangements to be made by the diocesan bishops of each region in accordance with section 4 below;


          (c)     provincial arrangements to be made by the archbishop of the province in accordance with section 5 below.


Diocesan Arrangements

3.       The diocesan bishop shall make arrangements so far as possible within his own diocese for appropriate care and oversight of the clergy and parishes in the diocese.


Regional Arrangements

4.       (1)     Whenever possible the diocesan bishops of each region acting jointly shall from time to time nominate from within their region for the purpose of this Act of Synod one or more bishops who are opposed.


          (2)     Each bishop so nominated shall, in addition to his other duties, be approved by the archbishop of the province to carry out for any parish in the region such episcopal duties as the diocesan bishop concerned may request.


          (3)     In subsection (1) above, except where the context otherwise requires, “bishop” means a diocesan bishop, suffragan bishop or a full-time stipendiary assistant bishop serving in the region in question.


Provincial Arrangements

5.       (1)     The Archbishop of Canterbury shall from time to time take steps to secure the appointment of up to two additional suffragan bishops for his diocese to act as provincial episcopal visitors for the purposes of this Act of Synod in the province of Canterbury.


          (2)     The Archbishop of York shall from time to time take steps to secure the appointment of one additional suffragan bishop for his diocese to act as a provincial episcopal visitor for the purposes of this Act of Synod in the province of York.


          (3)     Each provincial episcopal visitor shall be commissioned by the archbishop of the province to carry out, or cause to be carried out, for any parish in the province such episcopal duties, in addition to his other duties, as the diocesan bishop concerned may request. The provincial episcopal visitor shall work with the diocesan bishop concerned in enabling extended pastoral care and sacramental ministry to be provided.


          (4)     Each provincial episcopal visitor shall act as spokesman and adviser for those who are opposed and shall assist the archbishops in monitoring the operation of this Act of Synod.


6.       Where a vacancy occurs in the office of provincial episcopal visitor, the archbishop of the province concerned shall, before taking the steps referred to in section 5 above to secure the appointment of an additional suffragan bishop, consult the other provincial episcopal visitor or visitors and all other bishops who are directly concerned.


Parochial church council petition

7.       (1)     Subject to subsection (2) below where a resolution set out in Schedule 1 to the Measure is in force, a decision may be taken by the parochial church council of the parish concerned to petition the diocesan bishop concerned to the effect that appropriate episcopal duties in the parish should be carried out in accordance with this Act of Synod.


          (2)     Subsection (1) shall not apply in relation to a parish in which there is a parish church cathedral.


8.       (1)     Subject to section 10 below, on receiving any such petition the diocesan bishop shall, either personally or through his representative, consult with the minister and the parochial church council of the parish concerned; and having done so he shall make appropriate arrangements for episcopal duties to be carried out in the parish in accordance with this Act of Synod.


          (2)     Where any such arrangements are made or proposed, the minister and the parochial church council of the parish concerned may seek the advice of the provincial episcopal visitor in connection with the matter.


9.       (1)     Where a parochial church council has presented a petition in accordance with section 7 above, the council may at any time take a further decision for the withdrawal of the petition; and, subject to section 10 below, upon the withdrawal of the petition the diocesan bishop concerned shall ensure that any arrangements made in pursuance thereof are cancelled.


          (2)     Where a parochial church council has presented such a petition, the council shall review the working of any arrangements in force in pursuance thereof at least once in every period of five years.


10.     Where a parochial church council has presented or withdrawn a petition in accordance with section 7 or 9 above and the diocesan bishop concerned is not satisfied that –


          (a)     except where notice of a vacancy has been sent to the secretary of the council under section 7(4) of the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986, the secretary of the council gave to the members of the council at least four weeks’ notice of the time and place of the meeting at which the motion proposing the resolution in question was to be considered;


          (b)     the meeting was attended by at least one half of the members of the council entitled to attend;


          (c)     at least two thirds of the members of the council present and voting were in favour of the resolution in question; and


          (d)     the minister was in favour of the resolution in question, whether or not he was present and voted;


          he shall not be obliged to make arrangements of the kind mentioned in section 8 above or to cancel any such arrangements, but he may do so if he thinks fit.


Ordination etc. by archbishop or his commissary

11.     (1)     Subject to subsection (2) and (3) below, where the bishop of a diocese has indicated that he is opposed and, in the case of a bishop in office at the relevant date, that he is unwilling to make a declaration under section 2 of the Measure, the ordination to the priesthood of women from the diocese and their licensing and institution shall be carried out by the archbishop concerned, either personally or through a bishop acting as his commissary;  and the archbishop shall cause the archiepiscopal seal to be affixed to any documents that are needed for that purpose.


          (2)     The archbishop that act under subsection (1) above either at the request of the diocesan bishop concerned or in pursuance of his metropolitical jurisdiction, but shall not so act unless he is satisfied that the diocesan bishop concerned has no objection.


          (3)     Subsection (1) above shall not apply where the bishop of a diocese has made arrangements for the ordination of women to the priesthood and their licensing and institution to be carried out by another bishop.



12.     (1)     In this Act of Synod –


                   “the Measure” means the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993;


                   “minister” has the same meaning as in the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991;


                   “opposed” means opposed to the promulgation of the relevant Canon;


                   “parish church cathedral” has the same meaning as in Part II of the Measure;


                   “provincial episcopal visitor” means a suffragan bishop appointed as such in pursuance of section 5 above;


                   “region” means an area, comprising two or more dioceses in a province, which is designated by the archbishop of the province as a region for the purposes of this Act of Synod;


                   “relevant Canon” means the Canon of the Church of England enabling a woman to be ordained to the office of priest;


                   “relevant date” means the date on which the relevant Canon is promulged;


                   “senior office” means any of the following offices, that is to say, archbishop, diocesan bishop, suffragan bishop, dean or provost of a cathedral church, archdeacon and residentiary canon in a cathedral church


          (2)     This Act of Synod shall apply in relation to a guild church designated and established under section 4 of the City of London (Guild Churches) Act 1952 as it applies in relation to a parish, but as if the references to the parochial church council of the parish were references to the guild church council of the guild church and the references to the minister were references to the vicar of the guild church.


          (3)     Any arrangements made under sections 2 to 5 above and any action taken under section 11 above by an archbishop in connection with the ordination of women to the priesthood, shall be without prejudice to the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop concerned.


Citation and commencement

13.     This Act of Synod may be cited as the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 and shall come into force on the coming into force of the Measure.




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