Friday, 22 October 2010

SS Wilfrid and Hilda 111, St Augustine 0

Yesterday’s press release from Reform regarding the new ‘mission society’ of St Augustine contained a telling line. According to chairman Rod Thomas, there is
“a lot of detail to be worked out” as to the exact way such a society would operate, but ... within 6-12 months the framework could be clear.
So that would be some time between April and October 2011, then.
Meanwhile, there is already an up-and-running Facebook group for the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda which has 111 members — even though I doubt that the typical recruit for the Society proper is exactly your Facebook type.
So what is it, I find myself asking, that the St Augustine Society needs to work out that SSWSH doesn’t?
John Richardson
22 October 2010
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  1. Paul Plymouth

    To be fair though John, who actually knows anything about SWISH other than you can join it on a very detail light website? My question is, as you previously noted with Reform, what is it's aims, leadership and structure, before I am asked to join yet another supposed answer to Anglican woes, and would much prefer that is worked out properly first,

    In Christ
    Paul Plymouth
    PS Remember Covenant for the Church of England anyone...

  2. It's a shame that the typical recruit for the Society proper is unlikely to be a 'Facebook type.', although I imagine you're probably right.

    Is this because of a refusal to engage with the the sphere of social networking, an issue with connecting to the technology, or something else?

    Simon Heron

  3. Simon, I think it is just a matter of age!

  4. Paul, I suspect that the nature of FiF and the Anglo-Catholic constituency means that people think they pretty much know what to expect from such a society in terms of aims and structures. They're not signing up to a blank sheet of paper because it emerges out of their own ecclesiology and is designed to meet a distinct and clear need.

    The trouble with the Saint Augustine Society is that there is no such clear ecclesiology being represented in the steering group. Indeed, reading between the lines, I see an agenda which may be too ambitious and which may result in the creation on paper of an over-complex body.

    And you are quite right to remind us of the Covenant for the Church of England. When this was first proposed, I asked at the very meeting what people could do next and how they could sign up. The answer was that is was "not that sort of movement". And here we are ...

  5. I think John is spot on when he says that the agenda for St Augustine Society is too ambitious, and its ecclesiology unclear. At the moment, it doesn’t sound much like the SAS; more like this aircraft carrier we’ll have to share with the French then mothball after three years.

    At the conference there seemed to be considerable uncertainty as to its nature and purpose. In his opening talk, Rod Thomas seemed to imply that StAS would be clearly Evangelical & Reformed. Then the next day, Wallace Benn seemed to say that StAS would form some kind of union with Wilfred & Hilda; and that differences between Anglo-Catholics and Reformed were all over “secondary matters” (like the sacraments…). Then in his second talk Rod seemed to say that StAS would be for Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics. Even the name is ambiguous: does it refer to Hippo or Canterbury? If the latter, then there are unwelcome associations, as Augustine of Canterbury was more than an evangelist: he was an emissary of Rome, come to bring the British church into obedience to the papacy.

    I say “seemed to” all the time because this was all very vague, and I may have misunderstood: Reform’s Inner Party don’t trust the Outer Party enough to let them in on their plans. We’re not even allowed to know who is doing the planning: just Angus McLeay and four others. And of course the proles in the pews will have to do as they are told.

    I think SSWASH has been set up much more quickly because it has a clear nature and purpose. The Anglo-Catholics have set up a clearly Anglo-Catholic society, and good for them: I have too much respect for their integrity and honesty to expect them to do anything else. Although I do agree with Ed Tomlinson and John Broadhurst: the logic of Anglo-Catholicism leads to Rome, and if I was an Anglo-Catholic, I would join the ordinariate. But Reform seems to be dithering about how to include Anglo-Catholics. What they should do is set up, now, a society that is clearly Evangelical and Reformed, call it something like “The George Whitefield Society”, and then from a position of strength negotiate with SSWASH about possible cooperation.

    What StAS needs to work out is its aim. Is it simply to gain for Evangelicals a place under the Anglican umbrella, with the tacit admittance that Anglo-Catholicism has a legitimate place within the Church of England? Or does it want an ecclesia reformata semper reformanda? Will it take its stand on the fact that the Church of England is, in its formularies and history, Reformed, that “mere Anglicanism” is the Reformed Faith? If the latter, then we can accept Anglo-Catholics as our brothers and sisters in Christ, however misguided, we can pray with them, cooperate with them on synod and elsewhere against the vampire of liberalism, and say that the Church of England has treated them appallingly. But we also have to say that Anglo-Catholicism is an aberration, not a legitimate expression of Anglicanism.

    Stephen Walton
    Marbury, Tushingham, & Whitewell

  6. Stephen, "Hear, hear", and I especially like the bit about the aircraft carrier.

  7. If an outsider (neither English nor Anglican) is allowed to comment:

    I think Stephen already touches on why the SSWASH does not need to "work out details" while the StAS does:

    The Anglo-Catholics can be very specific on how they want SSWASH to operate (i.e. as a means of affiliating clergy and congregations with a traditionalist AC bishop, in a church whose episcopate they will no longer recognize as legitimate), and if they are not permitted to operate in that fashion, they have a clear perspective of what to do: leave for the Ordinariate.

    The Evangelicals do not have such a clear perspective; if their plans are thwarted, do they actually have a Plan B? So they need to be more circumspect and wait how Synod actually votes next time round.