Yesterday evening I went to Chelmsford for a meeting organised by the Chelmsford Branch of Forward in Faith. After prayers led by Father Martin Howse, Chairperson of the Chelmsford Branch the Lay Chairperson introduced the two speakers Father Jonathan Baker Bishop of Ebbsfleet elect and Steven Parkinson, National Director of Forward in Faith on the subject of “Where we are now”.
Both speakers acknowledged that Catholics in the Church of England were in grave danger of being totally marginalised but one hopeful sign was the appointment of the new Bishop of Richborough and the new Bishop of Ebbsfleet. We were given news of what was happening at various Deanery and Diocesan Synods who were in the process of debating the motion to proceed with the Consecration of Women as Bishops. Both speakers felt that the society model as exemplified by the Society of St. Wilfrid and St Hilda offered Catholics hope for a secure future with sacramental assurance(provided, of course, that this is eventually approved by General Synod). It was suggested that should General Synod not approve it the Society could still go ahead.
After the talks, comments and questions were invited from the packed audience. I pointed out that should the Society come into existence without approval and the Catholic Bishops decide to declare UDI this was no better than forming a schism or, at the best I likened it to the non jurors. Either way, it would have a very limited lifetime and not provide the sacramental assurance needed for future generations. The point was made from the floor that more Catholic vocations to the Sacred Priesthood were urgently needed and we were encouraged by the platform to look to see what suitable candidates might be within our congregations
The Revd. David Banting of Reform was present and gave a short talk during the questions and comments. He pointed out that there were many points on which conservative Evangelicals and Catholics could agree and that we must work together.
It was a good meeting and interesting but at the conclusion I felt that Catholics in the Church of England are in the situation described by Steven Parkinson at the beginning of the meeting as being between a “rock and a hard place”.