A Message from the Vice-Chairman of the Ebbsfleet Council of Priests
Posted on the 14th May 2013 in the category Announcements
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Once more I find myself writing to you following the departure of a Bishop of Ebbsfleet. It does not seem that long ago that I was writing to you upon the departure of Bishop Andrew, and yet now I write again the day after Bishop Jonathan’s installation as Bishop of Fulham in his stall in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
Following the failure of the Women Bishops Measure last year in the General Synod of the Church of England there has been much concern expressed on all sides of the debate about what the future will hold. There have been all manner of uncharitable statements made along with rather unwise and Erastian tendencies expressed by some who hope that Parliament may force the Church of England’s hand to consecrate women bishops. It perhaps ought to be borne in mind that the Anglo-Catholic Movement, of which we see ourselves a part, started as a direct result of Parliament’s interference in matters to do with Bishops. John Keble’s Assize Sermon on National Apostasy was a direct response to that interference and was the catalyst that changed the way the Church of England saw herself. Those who make appeals to Parliament are treading a dangerous path, for those who are tempted to stress that “the Church of England is by Law Established,” would do well to recall that in reality the Church was established by our Lord Jesus Christ, that it is His Church, and that it is not established to follow the dictates of man, but of God.
During this time there have also been tensions, accusations and threats that are unbecoming any Christian community. While we have from time to time lapsed from wise words and charitable thoughts and actions in the past, it is good that at all times we have sought to be engaged with the debate and of late have played a vital role in seeking to assist the Church of England in finding a solution that recognises and gives that permanent and honoured place we are due by virtue of our Baptism.
Perhaps, for us in the Ebbsfleet Area saying ‘goodbye’ to two bishops in such a relatively short space of time has given rise to parishes and individuals wondering whether there is a future for us. But, this is not a time for despondency – that is the work of the father of lies. Despondency and despair are not fruits of the Holy Spirit and we should resist them firm in the faith, for we have much to be about. There are people in our parishes and beyond that are yearning for meaning and hope and who need to hear the Gospel of Christ and receive the assurance of Sacramental and Pastoral Care from loving and faithful Priests and People.
Bishop John Richard’s used to urge us to make our parishes “centres of excellence” where believers would be taught and nurtured in the truths of the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ and where new believers would be taught, baptised and nurtured. Our parishes are places where we are called to respond in love and service to the needs of others, and where we are prepared to challenge the sins of a nation and society where so many are condemned to suffer due to its own refusal to follow the law of Christ. Our parishes are places where we seek to transform the lives of those degraded by poverty, illness, wickedness and sin; where we seek to bring harmony, justice and peace by challenging violence. And our parishes are called to be places where life in all its fullness is cherished, sustained and nurtured and brought to renewal through Christ. In a time of such need and where the Good News of the Kingdom is crying to be heard amid the cacophony of disparate voices of doom and gloom, of false promise and even false teaching, this is not a time for despondency and despair……rather it is a time to awake, and for renewal in the Catholic Faith.
At such a time it is good to be able to tell you that the process of discernment for a new bishop is in place. ‘Patience is a virtue,’ we are often told – well, I was told that often as a child (and I probably need to be told it more now as an adult!!), and yes, we are going to have to be patient while we await a new bishop. But, waiting does not mean that we cease all activity in the Lord’s vineyard until one is chosen.
So as we wait a little while longer, let us commit ourselves to being faithful in being at the Eucharist every Sunday; to praying for, and working with, our parish priests in serving our parishes and people, for in so doing we are serving Christ and seeking to prepare for our new Bishop a fruitful land.
Fr Ross Northing SSC
Vice-Chairman of the Ebbsfleet Council of Priests