National Assembly 10th & 11th October 2008 - by Fr Trevor Walker

The National Council of Forward In Faith agreed that in the past there was a lack of involvement in National Assembly proceedings by the attending delegates. It was therefore determined that the way the Assembly was structured should be altered. The 2008 Assembly would over the two days hear a number of brief presentations to help delegates understand the present situation and so be informed when debating future action. The presentations would be followed by a period of debate and discussion following which formal resolutions would be moved on behalf of the Council.

The Assembly opened on Friday 10th October at 3pm. with Opening Prayer, Welcome and Notices. This was followed by Fr. David Houlding giving his presentation entitled, ‘Setting the Scene’. This briefing outlined what had happened at the July 2008 meeting of General Synod when the issue of Women in the Episcopate was debated. The main concern for our constituency is that General Synod only offered a code of practice to protect traditionalists. A code of practice has no legal force and the cry from the assembly was, ‘A code of practice will not do!’

The Bishop of Fulham then gave assembly his Keynote Address. The address can be read or listened to on the web site but in essence Bishop John Broadhurst said that the recent Lambeth Conference showed the Anglican Communion to be all but finished. The divisions were increasing between liberals and traditionalists and experience was showing traditionalists would make provision for themselves if required. The Assembly had received letters of support from the Bishops of Whitby, Burnley and Blackburn. A resolution following the President’s Keynote Address then was passed to reaffirm the Mission Statement of Forward In Faith.

The first plenary session was introduced by Fr. Geoffrey Kirk the Secretary of Forward In Faith. Again it was emphasised that a code of practice will not do. This was detailed by ten specific reasons that Fr. Kirk explained to the delegates.  Fr. Alan Rabjohns spoke about the Welsh situation. The Church in Wales no longer has a traditionalist bishop to minister to those who cannot accept women’s ordination. The Assembly pledged support from England to Wales. A debate followed from the floor about GAFCON and delegate Hugh Pratt felt that Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria was more a leader of the Anglican Communion than the Archbishop of Canterbury. A rather good exchange of ideas was beginning to come from the floor of the Assembly but this was silenced from the platform

The Assembly adjourned at 6.30.pm. after a Devotional Address.

On Saturday morning delegates attended Mass at the Church of St. Alban Holborn. The homily to the three hundred strong congregation was preached by the Bishop of Beverley and Bishop John Broadhurst presided at the Mass. Delegates made their way back to the Emmanuel Centre when the Assembly reconvened at 11.30.am. for the second plenary session. An interesting statement was made by the Vice Chairman Anne Williams. She has decided to remain a member of the Manchester Group to help draft legislation required by General Synod for the ordination of women to the Episcopate. This is in spite of the fact that any such legislation will not be acceptable by members of Forward In Faith and that our other member of the Group Fr. Jonathan Baker felt he had to resign!

The third plenary session followed after lunch when the delegates listened to eight different speakers. The themes from these speakers included urging members of Forward In Faith to work together and not take any perceptive action, stay involved with the synods of the Church of England, stay and support the PEVs, educate people about the work of Forward In Faith, remind people we are not against women’s ministry but against women’s ordained ministry, continue to teach the catholic faith and promote vocations amongst men. The length of these speeches precluded any real debate from the floor.  The Bishop of Fulham gave his Final Charge and Blessing and the 15th. National Assembly of Forward In Faith closed at 4.30.pm. on Saturday 11th October. Please do visit the web site to read and listen to the talks and speeches for yourself.

A personal thought from this delegate is that the stated aim for changing the Assembly to promote more debate from the floor was not realised. The Assembly seemed to be dominated by the arranged speakers and all the resolutions put to the Assembly had been prearranged by the executive. It was the most structured assembly I have attended. The one good thing that was suggested was the need for an extraordinary National Assembly to be held on Saturday 14th February 2009 should the February meeting of General Synod not make provision for our position in the Church of England. I would book that date as I doubt very much that this General Synod will make any provision for faithful Christians in the Church of England! When and if we assemble next February I hope there will be more debate from the floor and less talk from the platform. We might then find a way to go Forward In Faith.