By the Right Revd Ross Davies, Bishop of The Murray
Ross Davies was consecrated and enthroned as Bishop of The Murray in the Province of South Australia in March 2002. He is well known in the UK having served on both the Diocesan Committees of FiF in Norwich and Bath and Wells. He has taken a clear stand on the need to provide for our constituency in Australia, which he believes has been ignored and marginalized. Bishop Ross is a member of the National Council of FiFA and seeks to keep traditional Catholic faith and order in his diocese.
Forward in Faith International has three arms, FiFUK, FiF North America and FiF Australia. We are all born of the desire to find an ecclesial future so that we may continue in the Catholic Faith and Order received by the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion. However the local structures and realities of the Anglican Communion differ greatly from place to place and so the responses to the unfolding drama of the Anglican Communion have varied on the three continents. Yet FiF Australia through its National Council and National Conference, has sought to be true to the founding principles of FiF and the Communion Statement. Our attempt at fidelity to the Communion Statement and other policies of FiF have led us to the decisions and actions we have taken.
The letter from James Mills in last months edition of New Directions purports to be a critique of the previous column of Fr Phillip Murphy. In essence it is an attack on the National Council of FiFA Inc and the direction we have taken in recent times. It needs to be challenged!
Contrary to the impression given by Mr Mills, all who belong to the National Council of FiFA Inc are members of the Anglican Church of Australia. A minority (i.e. three bishops) are also members of the TAC; but they are licensed as priests in the Diocese of The Murray, and their consecrators included Anglican Communion bishops. Perhaps it is the notion of 'dual citizenship' which has
excited criticism from Mr Mills. It should be noted that in some Australian dioceses there are priests who are also fully licensed in the Uniting Church of Australia or in 'alternating' pastoral and sacramental relationships. These have been initiated at diocesan level. For this reason I can see nothing unusual in me licensing three bishops as priests in my diocese who can also claim to be members of the TAC. Membership of the Anglican Church of Australia can only be claimed at the level of the diocese according to its own constitution and canons.
Yes, this is untidy; however it is a response to the difficult realities of those who hold to Catholic faith and order in Australia. I am not a great fan of Liberation Theology but one of its worthy tenets is that it important to do your theology in the gutter if you want to understand the perspective of the oppressed. FiFA may not be in the gutter but we have been in the trenches of a long war to get some recognition and provision for our plight. In Australia there are no synodical provisions for our constituency, no flying bishops, and often no willingness even to acknowledge we have a genuine need. Even those supposedly on our side have not been prepared to help us in seeking an ecclesial solution.
The Communion Statement
The essential and critical difference between us in FiFA and the new splinter group, which is wrongly calling itself FiF International, has to do with the FiF Communion Statement. FiFA, through its National Council, is fully committed to the Communion Statement and the consequences of it. The splinter group represented by James Mills seeks to find a solution within the Anglican Church of Australia, but this will mean something far less than the equivalent of the Resolutions A, B, C arrangements in the England. FiFA believes that the equivalent of the ABC arrangements for Australia would be the minimum requirement for those who seek Catholic order and sacramental certainty.
Also most of the members of our former New South Wales (NSW) branch are members of the Sydney diocese. This was never envisaged by our National Council who set up the NSW branch to support beleaguered orthodox Anglicans in the liberal dioceses of NSW. Sydney Diocese has indicated that it will never
ordain women as priests or bishops and holds to a biblical orthodoxy. Although its sacrament theology is far from FiF it has never failed to be warmly supportive of us in FiFA.
The upset caused by members of the former NSW branch has led us to believe that it is a group of folk in Sydney who want to use the banner of FiF, but are not prepared to pay the price of witness and struggle which the FiF Communion Statement requires. Following the Statement of the FiFUK National Council supporting FiFA National Council I hope that the group in Sydney will do the right thing and find another name for their organization. They will then be able to have different standards from those required of the Communion Statement and be free to 'paddle their own canoe'. I wish them every blessing as they seek their own future! These are difficult times and not every person claiming to be catholic in the Anglican Church needs be a member of FiF and follow its principles.
The sad reality in Australia now is that there are a diminishing number of churches in which we can be guaranteed sacramental certainty. In many dioceses there is not one single Catholic parish of our integrity. No off-shore Primate has felt able to cross the boundaries and offer our constituency here any protection. All we have is the FiF Concordat with the TAC.
As I reminded members of FiFUK at the National Assembly last October in London, we in Australia have tried to be faithful to what has been established by FiF internationally. This includes the Concordat with the TAC, which states that FiF is in communion with the TAC as far as law permits. This concordat is like a 'fellowship of the Ring' making common cause and to create a community of those who are trying to find an ecclesial future for our constituency.
Bishops David Chislett, David Robarts and Harry Entwistle have been consecrated in order to minister to faithful Anglicans wherever they may be in this vast country. As far as many Anglicans in Australia are concerned this is the only way they can find sacramental certainty in liberal dioceses. The General Synod and the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia have steadfastly refused any kind of provision for us, let alone one that resembles the provisions of the Church of England.
Please pray for FiFAustralia as we try to keep faith with FiF and in a hostile environment.
KRoss The Murray
/1iberals,' said Geoffrey Kirk to David tVirtue, 'are like vegetarians. You invite them to your house for dinner and they expect you to provide their kind of food, but when you go to their house you won't find them serving yours.' The trenchant cyber journalist probably was not in the habit of entertaining vegetarians, but he got the point and a good one it was too. We are seeing the principle played out now across the Anglican Communion, with the vital difference that the hosts are breaking the rules by insisting that the guests desist from picky eating and accept the fare on offer. This, as everyone with a modem knows, is simply the Church's teaching on human sexuality as affirmed by the Anglican Communion at Lambeth '98. Sexual relations, we are told, are to be within the context of marriage between a man and a woman.
This meaty dish has proved unpalatable to the weaker stomachs of the North American liberals and their allies. All they want is a 'local option,' the permission to go about things their way, conducting SSBs where and when they like, whilst other Anglicans go about their business according to context. It seems reasonable, after all. What's good for San Francisco, Greenwich Village and downtown Toronto might well be wrong for Lagos, St Stephen's, Lewisham, or St John's, Calgary. In the end, can't we just agree to disagree and concentrate on the things that really matter, like the UN charter of civil rights, the environment, or ending poverty? It's all rather as though we have entered a bizarre Anglican version of the Miss World contest, with the TEC Alliance contestant coming up with the laughably predictable, All I want is world peace, no more poverty, to stop AIDS and to end the destruction of the rainforest.'
We're all glad to see that our liberal contender for the title of most beautiful person in the world is aiming high, albeit running long on stock in trades. And, notwithstanding the strange similarity between the vaunted MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and the MSGs (Mono Sodium Glutimates) that make such a glutinous mess of certain oriental cuisine, we have to admit an apparent churlishness in opposing such a well-meaning programme.
The problem with our beauty pageant contestant is that she does not really want a local option at all; on the contrary, TEC Alliance is like our vegetarian friends
who want to impose their culinary will on everyone else. This is understandable, and even praiseworthy because at least TECA has the courage of its convictions to stand up for what it believes to be right. SSBs are, for them, a crucial matter of justice, of inclusion for all in the Body of Christ. This means that the local option is not really local at all, but universal, as truth is bound to be. In the end, 'you eat your way and I'll eat mine,' is little better than subterfuge. Anything less is, for TECA, immoral, and it is ironic that the ageing proponents of the permissive generation should have turned into the staunch puritans of today.
A set back
At present, the liberals have been dealt a set back, with Anglican moral consensus, as enunciated in Tanzania, nothing less than that of the Church throughout the ages. No wonder, then, that the TECAns are mad, for instead of the customary tofu burger they have been offered the proverbial chicken dinner along with everyone else. The question is now, quite literally,
what's on the menu, Christianity, or some other thing? Bishop Ingham states it well at a recent conference in Ottawa:
'Today we have a better understanding of homosexuality as a basic and natural orientation experienced by some members of the human community (he then goes on to talk about animals)...and in Christian terms we must come to think of this as not only natural but also God-given and good. But these developments in social sciences...are still relatively new... they have not penetrated the church's understanding except on the edges... and greatly against its will'
Quite. One hesitates to wonder where +Ingham gets his data. Dr Kinsey, perhaps? Be that as it may, the issue's clear, on the one hand we have the teaching of the Church and her Scriptures, and on the other, 'social sciences' For Ingham et al, nothing could be simpler; social science wins every time. Immanence trumps transcendence?
Therein lies the rub; either we put our faith in God and his Son, in which case we adhere for dear life to what he has given
us, or we put our trust in something else. TEC Alliance has opted for the second course, rolling the dice for the current fad of a faithless age. Anglicanism, in contradistinction, seems to have sided with the first, with the revelation given us by Christ. Given that we stand or fall by such fidelity, it takes little imagination to gauge the future success of TEC and its friends. The Anglican Church of Canada alone is losing 13,000 members annually and can boast a handsome Sunday attendance of around 630,000 souls, TEC garners a little more - by all means have a local option but be sure that it will be very local indeed.
Fr Michael Heidt
A failure in faith
The magazine New Directions claims to be serving Catholics to renew the historic faith of the Church. Instead, it has become, in part, little more than a refuge for those in the Australian Church who want to lock themselves away in the frills and fights of the past. You read there the vitriol and bitterness of people like Philip Murphy, David Chislett and co and the amazing politics and intrigue of groups like Forward in Faith Australia and wonder just where the Gospel comes into the picture. I though that Jesus called us and commissioned us to take the Good News of God's love and mercy to the world in which we are living. It is no wonder that the so called Catholic wing has lost its prestige and place in our Australian Province.
I have been searching for two years for a catholic to take up the challenges of starting up a mission and renewal project in the City of Ballarat but my brother Bishops all agree that such characters are few and far between and are held onto fiercely
when they are found. I will now be looking for an evangelical priest (or lay person) to lead the mission because the mission is far more important than the politics that is too often played out.
Forward in Faith Australia has so compromised its ecclesiological integrity by its involvement with the TAC that it no longer has credibility with reasonable men and women of faith in the church here and is itself splitting up. It is just incomprehensible to think that such an organization that claims to have a traditional Catholic heritage can act in such a non-traditional way. We now have non-Anglicans running the FiF in Australia! How can that be Anglican? How can that be a representation of our 'historic faith?
And further, we have a former Anglican, wanting to sue those members of FiF Australia who have had enough of the political nonsense and want to get back to FiF s original charter by starting up a new group. That is a wonderful testimony to where their focus is to be found. We are not able to debate with you, or reason with you, so we will bully you, threaten you and sue you! I bet the Lord loves that method of pastoral care.
All around us the society is screaming out for a message of hope, of God's love, of mercy and in desperate need of the sacraments and solace of the Church; governments are passing laws that will allow therapeutic cloning, make abortions easier and which are eroding more and more the sanctity of human life and where are those who claim to be our Catholic leaders? They are more in making even more 'bishops' and prancing around threatening and abusing those who want to focus on what is essential and who are truly interested in renewing the Church in its historic faith.
Renewing the Church in its historic faith does not mean taking the Church back a thousand years. It means taking the Gospel message and proclaiming it to the people of today, in a way that will enable them to hear God speaking and to respond to the divine call. The task involves going out into the world, not sitting back saying that the world is welcome to come to us. It involves loving the world, being one with the world (as the Son humbled himself to be one with us) and engaging the world where it is. Renewing the historic faith is about reconciliation, it is based on communion (not running off staring up a new church every time you do not like something that is going on) and working at our relationships in Christ. We should remind the TAC and FiF Australia and those who want to create a museum Church that renewal beings with repentance. It is not about power it is about powerlessness.
I wholeheartedly endorse, encourage and will actively support any genuinely catholic attempt to renew our Church that is based on Gospel faithfulness and which is true to our traditions. That is why I have put my name down as a member (and paid up) of the new FiF in New South Wales. They are not tainted with the TAC nonsense, have a charter that is much wider than just the ordination of women and are willing to engage in a loving and Gospel way with men and women of faith and in a loving way with the wider world. They talk God. They are mission focused and know quite well that Catholics have lost their influence in the Australian Church because they have lost their Gospel orientation. Simple as that.* Michael Ballarat <www.ballaratanglkan. org. au/?id=bishopsblog>
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