The following Interregnum newsletter was printed and handed out at both churches in the Parish on 22 January:
PCC progress on finding a middle way for parish unity
The sub-committee of the PCC has been exploring potential ways to resolve the differences expressed at the November 2022 PCC meetings about the future direction of the parish. It has:
** Sought advice from a similar Anglo-Catholic parish
** Drafted a proposal for the PCC
** Drafted a new resolution and Statement of Need
Advice from a similar parish
Initially advice was sought via email from Archdeacon Guy Elsmore. As a result, the sub-committee had a very informative Zoom conversation with Fr Christopher Woods of the Parish of St Barnabas and St Paul, with St Thomas the Martyr in Oxford. This Anglo-Catholic parish was identified by the Archdeacon as one with which we have a lot in common. Their parish has found a ‘middle’ way which, as Fr Christopher says, is unusual and almost unique in the Church of Englandand has been working well for them, though they are now going through a period of discernment though not an interregnum (Fr Christopher is the incumbent vicar). They are an Anglo-Catholic parish with a Resolution and Statement of Need which has enabled them to have oversight from the Diocesan Bishop (Oxford) and a relationship with the Bishop of about their parish and the circumstances leading to their period of discernment via Ebbsfleet (though since he resigned a year ago, their oversight has been from the Bishop of Oxford only). Fr Christopher Woods is not a member of The Society and FiF. You can read more the background document within the folders in both SMSG and All Saints churches.
Subsequently, following thoughtful advice via Zoom and email from Fr Christopher (who read our interregnum news before the Zoom meeting), the sub-committee drafted a Proposal for the PCC plus a new Resolution and Statement of Need based on those of the Parish of St Barnabas and St Paul, with St Thomas the Martyr in Oxford. These documents were sent to the PCC ahead of its 10 January 2023 meeting and were discussed at length during the meeting.
The Sub-Committee Proposal
For the sake of unity of the parish we propose that the existing Resolution and Statement of Need be rescinded and a new Resolution and Statement of Need drafted and voted upon which enables us to recruit from a wider range of Anglo-Catholic priests. This may mean leaving The Society and Forward in Faith.
We propose to ask the Diocesan Bishop and the Bishop of Oswestry to support our parish in this endeavour. The Diocesan Bishop would have oversight, but a full relationship is envisaged with the Bishop of Oswestry.
About the proposal and The House of Bishops’ Declaration
As explained in the 4 December 2022 Interregnum news, when the Church of England decided to introduce women bishops, it also made arrangements to accommodate those who believe that the Bible teaches that while men and women are equal; their roles in the church and the family are different. In our parish, as revealed by the questionnaire, a minority (about 17%) of our congregations hold that view, for various reasons. The questionnaire responses showed that even among the majority who are in favour of the ordination of women and would be happy to have a female priest as Rector of this parish; many thought this parish would need to appoint a male priest this time to accommodate the minority who do not accept the sacraments from a woman priest.
Legally, the parish cannot limit applications to male priests only without having a Resolution and Statement of Need under the arrangements set out in the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests. However, our Resolution and Statement of Need can be rescinded and replaced with revised versions plus the Parish can leave FiF and The Society to enable interregnum cover and recruitment from a wider range of male Anglo-Catholic priests, both non-society and The Society members (this was noted as one of the options available for the PCC in points made by Fr Gary Ecclestone in the Interregnum news of 18 September 2022).
Fr Christopher Woods noted that it is also healthy to periodically review the Resolution and Statement of Need, in consultation with the views of the congregations. He also advised that although the proposed arrangement may look like ‘dual oversight’, this is not legally possible; hence the Diocesan Bishop would have oversight and allow our parish to have a relationship with the Bishop of Oswestry.
PCC action on the proposal
The PCC overwhelmingly decided at the 10 January meeting that the sub-committee should continue its work and carry out the next steps towards investigating how to carry out the proposal in practice, namely:
** Find out if the Diocesan Bishop and the Bishop of Oswestry would work collaboratively to support our parish (the Bishop of Buckingham is soon to retire so oversight might be from the Bishop of Oxford).
** Check the communication and legal implications with the Diocese to ensure the new Statement of Need is coherent, legal and workable.
Once these initial steps have been completed, the PCC would arrange to vote on whether to rescind the existing Resolution and SoN and adopt the new ones, also whether to leave The Society and FiF.
You can find the existing Resolution and Statement of Need, plus the new draft Resolution and Statement of Need within the folders in both churches and attached below.
Sub-committee members: Peter Eales, Anna Page, Mike Parsons, Gwen Yates