Man The Barricades in the Church of England!

News from the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda

See our report of September 2010 about the formation of this organisation.

The organisation now has a redesigned website.

The front page says:

The Society is an ecclesial body, led by a Council of Bishops. The purposes of the Society are:

  • to promote and maintain catholic teaching and practice within the Church of England
  • to provide episcopal oversight to which churches, institutions and individuals will freely submit themselves
  • to guarantee a ministry in the historic apostolic succession in which they can have confidence

The Society is supported by Forward in Faith and administered by its Director.

A letter has been sent to all its supporters, which can be read as a pdf here. The full text is copied below the fold.

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson
Chairman of the Council of Bishops
18 November 2013

Dear Supporter,

This letter comes to you because you have sent in a form or an email to express your support for the Society. To those who did so quite some time ago I apologise that this will be the first communication that you have received.

The Society is intended to address a situation that does not yet exist and, following the failure of the Women Bishops Measure last November, will not exist for two or three years at least. This has given us more time to make preparations, and has made the announcement of detailed plans somewhat less urgent. It also means that the precise context for the Society’s life, and therefore the precise shape that it will need to take, are not yet clear.

The last three years have been years of change and growth. We are delighted that in some dioceses and regions the Society has come to life locally and given a new identity to those are committed to the catholic faith and catholic order as the Church of England received them. The increase in the number of ordination candidates from our tradition is a heartening sign. The consecration of the present Bishops of Richborough, Fulham, Beverley and Ebbsfleet in 2011 and 2013 has also given encouragement – not least to their fellow bishops.

We have been meeting regularly as the Council of Bishops of the Society, consulting with leading representatives of the Catholic Group in General Synod and the Catholic Societies, as well as with our retired brother bishops, and laying plans for the future. I write now to share some of these plans with you. Further news will appear in due course on our re-designed website:

The Council of Bishops is working closely with the Catholic Societies. We look to the Additional Curates Society, for example, to take a lead in vocations work and support for parishes, and to the Church Union to develop resources for education and catechesis.

On the original website we explained that the Society would not itself be ‘yet one more Catholic society’. Instead, the vision was and is that it will become ‘an Ecclesial Body’. We said that, because it costs nothing to join the Church, there would be no subscription fee, but that we would invite those who could afford it to make a small financial contribution to administrative costs.

This would have required the creation of a new organization with charitable status, and a new administrative structure to support it. We have concluded that this is not necessary. Forward in Faith already exists as a charity whose Constitution gives it ‘power to seek an ecclesial structure which will continue the orders of bishop and priest as the Church has received them and which can guarantee a true sacramental life’. The Society will be that ecclesial structure, and once women have been ordained to the episcopate in the Church of England, Forward in Faith’s main purpose will be to support it. Already, the new Director of Forward in Faith, Dr Colin Podmore, is acting as Secretary to the Council of Bishops, and necessary costs (such as the cost of developing the new website) are met by Forward in Faith.

So there is a distinct contrast between Forward in Faith, as a membership organisation, and the Society, which is an ecclesial body. Membership of the Society is not gained by subscription but through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist, and the consequent practice of Christian discipleship. This discipleship is lived out in the conscious decision to identify oneself with the teaching and practice of the bishops of the Society and the priests and people who look to them for sacramental and pastoral provision.

We envisage the Society and Forward in Faith as two sides of the same coin: the same people – structured as an ecclesial body led by bishops for the sake of mission, sacramental ministry and pastoral care; structured also as a democratically-run charitable organization, offering advice, support, advocacy and, where necessary, defence.

When he commissioned Dr Podmore for his new role back in April, the Bishop of Fulham described Forward in Faith as ‘the Marmite among ecclesiastical organisations, loved and loathed in equal measure’. Like the catholic movement as a whole, it too has undergone significant changes. Its Chairman (the Bishop of Fulham), Vice-Chairman (Dr Lindsay Newcombe), Secretary (Fr Ross Northing) and Director have all taken up office in the last three years.

Many of the recipients of this letter have long been members of Forward in Faith – some since its inception. Others have, in the past, stood back from joining what has necessarily been a campaigning organization. The same is true of the members of the Council of Bishops. Some have been members of Forward in Faith for a very long time, while others have joined only in recent months.

All of the bishops of the Society are now members of Forward in Faith, and we encourage all those who see the Society as the context for their future life in the Church of England to help build up and finance the necessary support structure by joining Forward in Faith. A membership form is enclosed with this letter and we would encourage you to consider joining so that we can continue to resource the important work of our part of the Church and make a positive contribution to the Church of England.

Our other immediate request is for your prayers. Please pray for us, your bishops, as we seek to discern the future that God wills for us as a Society within the Church of England. As a focus for your prayers, a prayer card is also enclosed with this letter.

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson
Bishop of Pontefract
Chairman of the Council of Bishops

Posted by Simon Sarmiento  (T.A.) on Saturday, 23 November 2013 


This ‘Council of Bishops’ in the Church of England who are issuing this ultimatum – which contains the threat of a ‘No Women Bishops’ boycott’ – reminds me of the precipitate action of another  ‘Council of Bishops’, of the Gafcon Group in the wider conservative Provinces of the Anglican Communion. Both are dedicated to the avoidance of measures that the wider Communion Churches have taken in support of minority voices in the life and ministry of the Church.

Gafcon’s Council of Bishops has issued its own (revised) ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ which has intentionally re-defined what they think Anglican ‘Orthodoxy’ ought to represent – in the way of rejecting the ‘Reason’ element of the traditional three-legged stool of Anglicanism, in favour of a ‘sola-Scriptura’ model, which looks back to the Church at the time of the English Reformation to resource its theology and life-style.

The ghostly ‘Society of St. Wilfrid and St. Hilda’ ( note the gender order of its title) seemingly will not actually become fully active – until the ordination of Women Bishops becomes a reality in the Church of England. Here is the evidence:

“The Society is intended to address a situation that does not yet exist and, following the failure of the Women Bishops Measure last November, will not exist for two or three years at least. This has given us more time to make preparations, and has made the announcement of detailed plans somewhat less urgent. It also means that the precise context for the Society’s life, and therefore the precise shape that it will need to take, are not yet clear.”

This obviously ultra-montane ‘Catholic’ Society – which embraces the ideology that women as not ordained by God to exercise the sacerdotal ministries of the Church – as priests or bishops – seems, in this declaration to its membership, to promise some sort of special arrangement to guarantee the degree of ‘Sacramental Assurance’ that its membership needs, in order to facilitate continuation of what the society deems to be the historic catholicity of the Church of England.

It seems that the  special provision of what, after the Ordination of Women Clergy, became known in the Church of England as P.E.V.s (Provisional Episcopal Visitors) has already been provided, and among the signatories above are appended the names of four suffragan bishops, should the Women Bishops Measure be finally passed by General Synod next year. These are their names and their PEV episcopal bases :   


Especially interesting is the fact that the Society of St. Wilfrid and St. Hilda may not be fully functioning until/unless women actually become bishops in the Church of England. Is this a case of what might be called Possible Episcopal Intervention if Needed (PEIIN)

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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6 Responses to Man The Barricades in the Church of England!

  1. Peter Carrell says:

    Hi Ron
    Are you ever perturbed by your own writings? (!!)

    I am amazed that your own Anglo-Catholic position can blithely sit with your characterization above of the position of the Society in respect of ordination of women as an “ideology”.

    Surely Christian and Anglo-Catholic charity requires respect for fellow catholics in the Anglican church? In which case the respectful description would be “theology” not “ideology.”

    I see a picture in this morning’s paper of 8000 (Roman) Catholics at a combined mass in our city yesterday. Are they too following an ideology or a theology?

  2. kiwianglo says:

    Peter. Thanks for your response. However, when one is speaking, or writing, about what I sincerely believe to be the mistaken understanding of male-headship, or male-only priesthood; I cannot now believe that this is ‘pure’ theology.- nor is it especially ‘catholic’. I do not go along with your correlation with the phenomenon of 8,000 Roman Catholics at a conventual Mass at the Christchurch arena yesterday. These were Roman Catholics, bound together by their own specific understanding of male-priesthood, which, though, I believe, is not universally held by all members of the Roman Catholic Church. A similar mis-understanding, I believe, is encountered in the official R.C. view of contraception, which, though held out to be a ‘faith issue’ by the Roman Magisterium, may not be held by the majority of Roman Catholics today.

    Similarly, I believe, most Anglo-Catholics do not believe, theologically (and you must allow that people in the pew are as capable of theologising on such matters as the academics), that women are not qualified to be ordained as sacramental ministers.

    You, yourself, have expressed the belief that their gender does not disqualify women from being ordained priest or bishop. Why then would you suggest that the denial of women’s ordination can seriously, any longer, be treated as legitimate ‘theology’? In terms of the Pauline statement alone that: “In Christ, there is neither male nor female”, there is a Scriptural and theological grounding for the fact that, in our Anglican Churches, with our revised canonical empowerment and theological understanding, we need to encourage every Anglican to get on with the task of accepting the fact that Women can be priests and Bishops in our Church. This is also a matter of human justice towards 50% of the membership of the Church, and therefore a Gospel issue – to be encouraged.

  3. Simon H says:

    Dear Ron,

    One small point: + Peter Edmonton and + Jonathan Fulham are not technically PEVs, although they (along with other suffragans) perform much the same role within certain dioceses. The three PEVs are + Norman Richborough, + Jonathan Ebbsfleet (in the Provice of Canterbury) and + Glyn Beverley (in the Province of York).

    Otherwise, couldn’t agree more.


    • kiwianglo says:

      Thanks, Simon, for this up-date – on who, exactly, have been appointed as official PEVS. My view – from afar, in a diocese which is blessed by the ministry of our Bishop Victoria Matthews (one-time Bishop in the Canadian Anglican Church, and a practising Anglo-Catholic)- is that, if the Church ordains women and clergy and bishops, they should be respected and used as such by the whole Church into which they have been ordained. Thanks for your eirenic response.

  4. Peter Carrell says:

    Hi Ron
    We will not encourage those who do not agree with us theologically if we describe their theology as ‘ideology.’

    I do ascribe to mariology the status of ideology even though I disagree with it vigorously. Why should I ascribe to continuation of a male only priesthood the status of ideology?

    • kiwianglo says:

      Peter, I think you are overlooking the fact that there is a differennce between mariology and mariolatry – a very different kettle of fish. You cannot just blatantly dismiss the mariology of 3/4 of Christendom (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) on their acknowledgement of Mary’s given role in co-producing the Incarnate Word. In her human flesh, she hosted the Son of God. After all, Mary said ‘Yes’ to God in a way that has not been duplicated in the life of any other human being – except of course, Jesus, Himself.

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