A week from now and the next (last?) Assembly of Forward in Faith will be ended. I guess it cannot be over too soon for the Chairman and his committee. The latest issue of New Directions (mine only arrived today) demonstrates the problem. Geoffrey Kirk writes about our Point of Decision; "If there was any doubt about whose side one should be on in the coming life and death struggle between the Catholic Religion and its Cultured Despisers, the matter is now settled". A few pages earlier and Fr Garry Waddington, recently arrived in Harrogate from Portsmouth, takes the opposite "Northern" view. "Proper Provision is still needed. The Society model might well be the way in which it could with enough support be secured".
There must be many in the Church of England deciding which is the right side of the fence for them. Join SSWSH and hope that an honourable solution may be pulled out of the hat? At the Southern Synod it was the Bishop of Plymouth who attempted this conjuring trick - to the obvious embarrassment of the southern PEVs. In the north, it seems it was the PEV himself, Bishop Martyn of Beverley - and at that meeting the Ordinariate was clearly not encouraged.
Fr Waddington asserts that 'whilst the Church of England still holds marks of Catholicity there is a future for us'. I had always assumed the marks of Catholicity were four: that the Church was One, Holy, Universal (catholic) and Apostolic. What marks will be left when there are women bishops? An interchangeable ministry? Only if catholics agree that women bishops are according to the Will of God. 'High Mass' and incense here and there? Nothing but a well dressed corpse. SSWSH is to be a 'corporate body for clergy and laity gathered around faithful bishops'. Fine for this generation; but what after that? We were concerned to provide a catholic solution for our children and grandchildren. Who will give us the faithful bishops we need?
New Directions continues this month with the same Punch and Judy show; one article (Matthew Chinery's "Oh no you can't") balanced against the Statement on behalf of "a group of Catholic Bishops" headed 'To Protect and Preserve Anglican Tradition'. Their concern, it seems is to help Anglicans "who do not accept (the ministry of the Pope) or would want to see that ministry in different ways". They are wanting to help "those who cannot accept the innovations proposed in legislation and who are hurt and frustrated by General Synod..."
Well of course none of us likes what General Synod is doing. But is a Society however large likely to divert Synod from its path? The juggernaut is rolling; better get out of its way. Oh, of course, we have misgivings about the Pope! How much better if he were to be more like Rowan, ready for Synods to over-rule him. They want to see the Papal Office "in different ways"? Then they had better show us just what ways they might be which could still preserve the Church's unity.
Then in New Directions something I never expected to see; an Editorial which reads like something from the Church Times; "on the one hand - and on the other". Clearly the Editor himself finds it difficult to commend SSWSH, just as the Northern Synod found it hard to commend the Ordinariate. He does his best though, and concludes "We wish them well in their task". Maybe that is all we can hope from the Assembly: a gentlemanly agreement to follow our separate ways.
If I had not already paid for the train fare, I might have given Friday and Saturday at the Emmanuel Centre a miss. As it is, I shall grit my teeth and try, at least, to enjoy catching up with a few old friends. I do not have much expectation of learning how the Bishops of Plymouth and Beverley and their colleagues are going to achieve what we all want, a Province with the capacity for providing a succession of bishops and priests to care for Catholics who 'cannot yet accept the Pope's offer'. They have a resonsibility to tell us, for A CODE OF PRACTICE WILL NOT DO!