Interregnum news: 18 September 2022

The following Interregnum newsletter was printed and handed out at both churches in the Parish on 18 September:

Now The Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton is in an interregnum period between Parish priests, the Parochial Church Council (PCC) is compiling the parish profile and the person specification for applicants. Part of this process includes considering whether this Parish wishes to retain or rescind the Resolution under the House of Bishops Declaration relating to the ordination of women priests and the consecration of women bishops. This includes deciding whether to remain members of The Society and Forward in Faith, as The Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton is currently a Forward in Faith and The Society parish.

In 1992 Forward in Faith was formed in response to the General Synod of the Church of England resolving to ordain women into the priesthood. In 2010 The Society under the patronage of
St Wilfred and St Hilda was formed in preparation for the anticipated consecration of women bishops (The Society is supported by Forward in Faith).

The decision to pass the Resolutions A & B under the Ordination of Priests (Women) Measure was made by Fr Cavell Cavell-Northam and the PCC only in the early 1990s, and the Parish established a relationship with Forward in Faith. After Fr Cavell’s retirement, a Forward in Faith priest Fr Ross Northing SSC was appointed by the PCC as incumbent Rector of All Saints Calverton and Vicar of St Mary & St Giles Stony Stratford (the two parishes merged to become The Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton on 1 January 2012). In 2015 the PCC passed a resolution under the provisions of the House of Bishops Declaration when the first women bishops were consecrated.

In this interregnum, although by church law ultimately it is the decision of the PCC of the Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton, it has been decided by the PCC that the views of the congregations of this parish shall inform its decision-making regarding the appointment of a new parish priest. For this reason the PCC has arranged a meeting at 5:00pm on 8 October 2022 in
St Mary & St Giles church in which you can learn more about the respective perspectives of Forward in Faith and The Society as well as Anglo-Catholic priests who are in favour of the ordination of women.

The meeting will be chaired by Area Dean Rev. Tim Norwood with four speakers:

You can ask questions, hear comments from others and reflect on your perspective before telling the PCC your views via a questionnaire which will be handed out at the end of the meeting for return by 16 October 2022. If you are unable to attend the meeting, you will be able to obtain a copy of the questionnaire on Sunday 9 October in both churches.

Your responses to the questionnaire are anonymous unless you choose to write your name and contact details at the end. Only members of the PCC will see the raw data collected by the questionnaire. The PCC may or may not choose to publish the analysis of the data when it announces its decision. It will not publish anything which identifies and connects your name with your views on this topic.

Written by Anna Page, PCC member (September 2022)

The following history of the PCC decisions has been written by Fr Gary Ecclestone.

The PCC has made four separate and discrete choices over the years:

  1. Back in the early 1990s under Fr Cavell it passed Resolutions A & B under the Ordination of Priests (Women) Measure and then petitioned the Bishop of Oxford for extended episcopal care under the terms of the Act of Synod. The Act of Synod created new Episcopal Sees to ensure there were enough bishops to care for traditional Anglo-Catholics, which were Richborough, Ebbsfleet and Beverley referred to as the Provincial Episcopal Visitors, as their work crossed the boundaries of the various individual dioceses; they worked under the direction of the Archbishops at the invitation of Diocesan Bishops. The Diocese of London revived the See of Fulham to provide local arrangements in London. At this point the Bishop of Oxford invited the Bishop of Ebbsfleet (whom the legislation had nominated for the purpose) to have pastoral and sacramental care of the parish.
  2. Once the Parish had done that it was eligible to affiliate to Forward in Faith, which it chose to do. Membership of FinF is purely optional but FinF resources the work of traditionalist parishes and bishops, it has a full time director, part time researcher and produces a monthly magazine ‘New Directions’ it acts to represent the movement to the wider church and as an umbrella organisation coordinating events and activities alongside other organisations such as ACS, the Church Union etc. Forward in Faith has individual members and corporate (i.e. parish) members.
  3. In 2015 that legislation was superseded upon the CofE’s decision to consecrate women to the episcopate. All parishes that were cared for under the previous provisions needed to pass a new Resolution under the provisions of what is called the House of Bishops Declaration. This was done by the PCC once again. The See of Ebbsfleet remained available for the Bishop of Oxford to call upon, which he did.
  4. As part of the new arrangements it was necessary to form a new body (The Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda – referred to usually as simply The Society) which would gather together those Bishops to whom the Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops could look to provide pastoral and sacramental care for Declaration Parishes. These bishops included the Provincial Episcopal Visitors. The Bishop of Fulham, and those bishops serving in dioceses who are traditional Anglo-Catholics i.e. Chichester, Lewes, Burnley and Wakefield. The Archbishops invite these bishops to consecrate new bishops to serve the Declaration Parishes. This ensures that our bishops continue in the unbroken apostolic succession and therefore ensures sacramental assurance for traditional Anglo-Catholic Anglicans. The CofE also makes provision for traditional Evangelicals, currently by way of the Bishop of Maidstone.
  5. Having passed a Resolution under the House of Bishops Declaration (and only then) PCCs then have the opportunity of formally affiliating with The Society. Affiliation is not obligatory.

The PCC is now faced with ONE legal decision and TWO pastoral decisions:

The legal decision is as to whether the PCC wishes to retain the current Resolution under the House of Bishops Declaration or not. If it does the Parish will continue to be cared for by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet (or in fact his successor the new Bishop of Oswestry). If it does retain the current Resolution, then the PCC can subsequently review the TWO pastoral decisions, whether it wishes to remain affiliated formally to Forward in Faith and to The Society both of which are optional. It could even decide to suspend membership of those organisations pending the appointment of a new Parish Priest for further discussion with them once they are in post.

If the PCCs votes to rescind the Resolution previously passed under the House of Bishops Declaration, then affiliation to FinF and The Society would automatically lapse and the episcopal care of the parish would revert to the Bishop of Buckingham.