18-20 May 2015
The 151st Annual Convocation of the Free Church of England took place at The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick from 18th to 20th May, with delegates from parishes all over England, and our new Church plant in France represented for the first time.
Also attending were the Most Revd Roy Grote, Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church in North America and a member of the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA); Bishop Gerhard Meyer of the Reformiert Episkopalkirche in Germany; Bishop Ian Gray of the Traditional Anglican Church in Britain; Fr Ottar Myrseth of the Nordic Catholic Church (representing the Union of Scranton) and Canon Geoffrey Neal of the Anglican Association. All of these addressed Convocation during the course of the business.
Our study of the Scriptures focussed on the book of the Prophet Haggai. Primus’ Charge on the first evening looked at God’s warning to the Jews not to divert their focus to building their own homes, but to unite to build God’s Temple, with a challenge to ourselves to look beyond our own congregations and comfort to building God’s spiritual house by evangelism and church planting. Primus also highlighted the need for a united strategy for growth. In his sermon at the Convocation Eucharist on the final day, the Revd David Craven took us through Haggai 2, emphasising God’s call to his people to be strong as they sought to obey Him, and pointing to the promised blessings of obedience.
Final approval was given to the use of the service of the Reformed Episcopal Church’s Prayer Book as an alternative to those of the denomination’s own book.
Two other amendments to the Canons received their first approval. The first allows Primus, the General Secretary, Treasurer and other officers to be elected for a three year period, rather than annually as at present. The second was provision for Overseas Dioceses to help us respond to the increasing number of requests from people around the world who want to be part of the FCE family. As well as allowing the formation of Dioceses outside the United Kingdom, the draft Canons also address the questions of representation and finance. This is a particularly exciting development.
Numerous reports were presented, detailing a wide range of work in many places. The new Church plant in France was warmly received.
The atmosphere was positive and united, with an encouraging commitment to future growth.
20 April 2015
Bishop Primus and Bishop Paul Hunt (General Secretary) had an official meeting with the Most Revd Foley Beach, the new Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America on Monday 20th April at Heathrow. The Most Revd Royal Grote, Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, had come to the UK to take part also. Archbishop Beach had been in England for the meeting of the GAFCON Primates.
The four bishops shared their perspectives and experiences, discovering much common ground. Attention was given to extending the work of the Reformed Episcopal family in Europe. Among the areas in which it is anticipated that there will be collaboration in the future is the formalising of a canonical relationship between the Free Church of England and the Anglican Church in North America, building on the existing link furnished by the overlap of the REC with both.
The meeting was warm and open, and concluded with a time of prayer. We look forward to future developments.
19–21 March 2015
The guest speaker at the Spring Clergy Conference at Morecambe was the Revd Nigel Atkinson who spoke on the Elizabethan theologian, Richard Hooker (about whom he has published a book). Particularly striking was how relevant many of the 16th century themes are to our own situation. There was also a probing discussion about the challenges facing orthodox Christian witness today.
The speaker at the next Clergy Conference in October is due to be the Revd Lee Gatiss, Secretary of Church Society, who will speak on the ministry of George Whitefield.
On Saturday 21st March there was a Eucharist at which Bishop Fenwick spoke about Archbishop Thomas Cranmer who was martyred on this day in 1556. The annual reports for 2014 were presented at Synod and new officers elected. Notice was given that a substantial amount of time at the next meeting would be given over to a discussion as to how Synod can best facilitate the work of the local Churches.
21 February 2015
On Saturday 21st February Bishop John Fenwick ordained Deacon Adam Scholes as a Presbyter in the Church of God in St Stephen’s, Middlesbrough. Clergy from the Diocese and from the Church of England took part in the service. The recently re-ordered Church provided an attractive setting, and the congregation laid on a buffet lunch afterwards. Adam is licensed as Assistant Minister of St Stephen’s.
25 October 2014
On Saturday 25th October Deacon Trevor Hutchinson was ordained Presbyter by Bishop John Fenwick in Christ Church, Liscard, Wallasey. The service was attended by clergy from around the Diocese and the Bishop in his sermon used the fact that the date was the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt to remind the new Presbyter and the congregation that God delights in overcoming seemingly impossible odds.
Trevor’s wife, Ruth, has recently lost most of her sight and we continue to remember both of them in our prayers.
16-18 October 2014
The autumn meeting of the Northern Diocesan Clergy Conference took place at Morecambe from 16th to 18th October. The guest speaker was the Revd Justin Mote of the North West Partnership and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE). The main session looked at how our ministry of preaching can be rooted more faithfully in the biblical text. There was also a lively discussion as to how the Free Church of England and AMiE might collaborate in the task of taking the Gospel to the people of this country.
All the parishes were represented at the 219th Diocesan Synod which was held in Emmanuel Church, Morecambe on 18th October. The Treasurer’s report showed the financial situation to be improving, for which we thank God. Several of the Churches shared news about their recent activities and initiatives. In his report Bishop Fenwick set the work of the Diocese in the wider national context, arguing that only a strong Christian Church can hold back the tide of Islam and aggressive secularism.
28th September 2014
At Convocation in May 2014, Primus reported that, following three years of negotiations, a number of congregations in Brazil had been admitted as Churches of the Free Church of England under the appropriate canons and procedures. The congregations were under the oversight of Bishop Josep Rossello. Bishop Josep’s episcopal ordination had been in a Church whose Orders have not been formally recognised by the Free Church of England (as required by Article VI of our Constitution). Our ecumenical partners (primarily the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Polish National Catholic Church) were consulted and the consensus of advice was to proceed by conditional consecration. This does not call into question the efficacy of Bishop Josep’s ministry, which has clearly been blessed by God, but remedies any deficiency and ensures the acceptability of his ministry within the Free Church of England and our sister Churches.
Accordingly, at St Andrew’s Church, Bentley, Bishop Primus, Bishop Paul Hunt and Bishop Gerhard Meyer of the Reformierte Episkopalkirche in Germany conditionally consecrated Josep a Bishop in the Church of God. The service was attended by clergy from both the English Dioceses and from Germany. The certificate of election and testimonial of good life and learning were read by Bishop Paul in his capacity as General Secretary. The candidate was presented, on behalf of the Churches in Brazil, by the Revd Mark Spiers. Bishop Primus preached.
Following the service there was a generous buffet meal in the Church hall, hosted by St Andrew’s. A number of donations towards the work of the Church in Brazil were received.
The Constitution and Canons committee is making recommendations to Convocation to enable the erection of Overseas Dioceses. Until these are implemented, Bishop Josep is Primus’ Commissary for the congregations in Brazil. Primus hopes to visit them in person in 2015.
From 6th to 22nd September 2014
Bishop Primus was in India. He was accompanied by Deacon Adam Scholes of St Stephen’s, Middlesbrough.
The primary purpose of Primus’ visit was to attend and present a paper at the 8th World Syriac Conference at the St Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute (SEERI) at Kottyam, Kerala State. While they were in India news reached them of the sudden death of the Most Revd Joseph Mar Koorilose, Valiya Metropolitan of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church (one of the seven recognised Churches into which the St Thomas Christians are now divided). Mar Koorilose was one of the bishops who participated in the consecrations in 2006. Bishop Fenwick and Deacon Scholes took part in the funeral at St George’s Cathedral, Thozhiyur, which lasted eight and a half hours, as the end of which the body, fully vested and seated in a chair, was lowered into the grave, as is traditional with the Syrians in India.
Bishop Primus also met the Most Revd Joseph Mar Thoma, Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, and his predecessor, the 97 year old Philipos Mar Chrysostom.
For part of the visit Primus and Deacon Scholes were hosted by the Right Revd Joseph Mar Barnabas of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church. They accompanied him to a baptism and to a celebration of the Qurbana (Eucharist) at which several young candidates made their first Communion.
The visit further strengthened the Free Church of England’s long-standing links with the Church in India.
(Photographs from the visit to India can be found on the Free Church of England Facebook page.)
16th July 2014
The Free Church of England appreciates the wide range of relationships, both institutional and personal, that she has with the Church of England. Sadly, however, the recent decision by the General Synod to admit women to the episcopate places a significant obstacle in the path of our growing rapprochement.
This decision by the General Synod of the Church of England, means that the Free Church of England is the only recognized Anglican Church in the British Isles not to have accepted women bishops and, therefore, to maintain Catholic Order and Scriptural teaching on headship.
For over 150 years the Free Church of England has offered a warm welcome to those who, for reasons of conscience, believe that they can no longer remain as members of the Established Church. We continue to do so.
At the same time, we will endeavour, for the sake of the Gospel, to continue to make common cause with the Church of England, where that is possible with integrity, both locally and nationally, within the framework of the Ecumenical Instruments and statute law.
One of the recent signs of God’s blessing has been an increase in the number of men responding to His call to ordained ministry. In the last few weeks three deacons and one presbyter have been ordained.
On 1st June at St Andrew’s, Bentley, Bishop Paul Hunt ordained Mark Spiers and Paul Reynolds to the Diaconate. Both men will be ministering at St Andrew’s and assisting at the other Churches in the West Midlands.
At St Stephen’s, Middlesbrough, Adam Scholes was ordained deacon by Bishop John Fenwick on 29th June. Adam had been serving there as a Reader and will continue to minister at St Stephen’s as well as being Diocesan Youth Advisor.
The Revd Robert Leone was ordained presbyter by Bishop Paul on 6th July at St Andrew’s, Bentley, in preparation for his move to France where he hopes to begin an FCE Church plant.
All four ordinations were conducted using the new Ordination Services approved by Convocation in May.