LEAD STORY

Better Together introduction

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet on the origins and goals of the Better Together campaign, and the four core principles that lie at its heart

‘May they be one that the world might believe.’

For us as Anglo-Catholics, those words of Jesus spoken at the Last Supper are extremely precious. As Jesus gathered the disciples for the last time before he went to the cross, he didn’t bombard them with complex doctrinal teaching or clever evangelistic strategies. He simply told them to stay together, to be one, to love each other.

Today those words should challenge us deeply in a fragmented church and world. The mission of the church is dependent upon our unity. Unless we can speak with one voice the name of Christ, our efforts to share the Gospel are going to be fatally weakened. Unless we can model strong mutual love and belonging, no one will be interested in anything we have to say.

Passion for unity

It is that passion for the unity of the church that lies behind the Better Together campaign that was launched earlier this Summer. Better Together is an initiative of the Catholic Bishops working closely with the Catholic Group in Synod. It has been funded by a wide-ranging partnership of Catholic societies and one measure of the support that the campaign has received is the short time it took to raise the necessary funds.

The heart of the campaign is a number of bold and positive statements that, as AngloCatholics, we want to make about the Church. These are summarized in the Campaign Charter which calls for religious freedom as a fundamental indication of human dignity.

It calls for mutual respect between Christians who take different views on the some of the major issues that confront us. It invites us to celebrate the diversity of the Church of England and reminds us of the fundamental principle of unity that must lie at the heart of our Christian life.

Keeping its pledge

And as an implication of these four core principles, part of the campaign is to restate our belief that the Church of England will keep to its pledge to recognize as loyal Anglicans those who cannot in conscience accept the Consecration of women. This means making fair and generous provision for those Anglo-Catholics and  conservative Evangelicals who have severe worries about what this development will do to the unity of the church.

The Better Together campaign was launched in a gentle way in late June in time for the July sessions of the General Synod and you can find out more by visiting the website at

<www.bettertogethercampaign.co.uk>.

There will be a larger, public launch later in the year and in the meantime some of the leaders of the campaign will be trying to put its principles into practice by, for example, arranging conversations between people on different sides of the debate on women bishops.

Impact on the debate

The impact of the campaign at Synod was marked. It is a sad truth that people have become unused to Anglo-Catholics making positive statements. For whatever reasons, we have allowed ourselves to be portrayed as those who merely oppose and vote ‘no’. The Better Together campaign literature had a marked impact on the tone and substance of the debate because it allowed people to come to a deeper understanding of why we find ourselves in our current position.

We take our stand because of positive and important things we want to say about the Catholic nature of the church and our calling within it. We are not the awkward squad making inconvenient demands. We believe that it is our vocation to remind the Church of England of its true identity and we long for the space that will enable us to go on doing just that.
 

Diversity and breadth

There are many in the media and in the wider world who wonder why, as Anglo-Catholics, we bother. Why don’t we just accept that we hold views that run counter to the prevailing mood in the Church of England and go off to find ourselves some other ecclesial home? But we stay because we genuinely believe in the diversity and breadth of the Church of England.

We believe that this is where God has called us to live out the Catholic life and we will go on doing so for as long as that is possible. For the sake of a nation that so much needs to hear the Good News of the Gospel, we really are Better Together. ND
 

 

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