Obviously I've been blogging away on the Anglican Communion Covenant, and that's been my public focus while this has come to a climax and to its rejection that, to be honest, I didn't think we'd see. But, as this has been happening, privately I have been in negotiation with some interesting folks in the Liberal Catholic field and I can announce that I am going to be ordained. The process will be accelerated through some minor orders and then rapidly through the major orders.
As many people interested might be aware, some of the Liberal Catholic groups have been going through some trauma of bishops suddenly leaving and clergy not being as loyal to their ecclesiastical groupings as they perhaps should be. We live and learn, and indeed must learn.
So a group of us in online contact got together, including meeting physically, and decided to extract and rearrange some of the best parts of these independent Churches to make them attractive to liberals who enjoy symbolism but not creeds. So long as we could attract friendly bishops, all with well-attested ordinations, we will be able to claim full apostolic integration with broader Catholicism on the Old Catholic/ Liberal Catholic model. Yes, so the announcement is that I will be one of its bishops, indeed the initial bishop directly concerned with the development of our new specific movement. Others either are ordained or will be, and we look forward to friendly relationships throughout the Liberal Catholic, Old Catholic and Unitarian movements.
Given the English Presbyterian background of the Unitarians, the kind of Catholicism we seek, and the important difference between unity and uniformity, we are going to form the Free Union of the Catholic Kirk where I will be that initial bishop in situ and then subsequently I could stand down (still a bishop, though, by proper ordination!) and we will elect bishops to be ordained and to actually meet as an active college. The college will be joined by an ordained ministerial College (priests and deacons) and a Lay College too - and these will make the decisions. There will be a maximum of nine places in each college.
Surely recent Anglican experience of being out of touch demands that bishops are elected, but we want all the tricameral Colleges elected.
We are going to create a society for overt educational purposes - our Seminary, in other words. We will call this the Apostolic Reformed Society for Education Services. We really must promote the importance of theology and the social sciences in developing our Church movement. We will have continuous religious education at all levels. We are going to base this on the discussion model we used in the embryonic South Humberside Institute for Theology (before I moved north of the Humber).
Let's be clear, This will be Unitarian in precisely the sense of having an open, evolving, creedless basis of belief. Our liturgies will be creative and changing. We will be wanting a worldwide element of informal fellowship for bishops, priests, deacons and lay leaders beyond the colleges, and including outside our movement (in association), and they will be gathered in a fellowship called the Reformed Unitarian Ministries Project where matters confidential and pressing for all can be exchanged. This will be a little like a Grand Presbytery but informal, and we will use the Indaba idea ourselves in this structure. The Grand Presbytery will make recommendations to the Colleges that take decisions.
The experience of small Churches has been to register themselves in several different island nations. We won't do that except for necessary institutional and financial arrangements, and so there will be various Catholic Unitarian National Trusts and these funds will be co-ordinated by and through the educational society - its other principal activity.
For the purposes of protecting the core institution, the Free Union of the Catholic Kirk, there will be specific privately owned and necessarily ideologically identified bodies across different these legal territories, as in a dispersed trustee, called collectively the Broad Association of Societies of the Transparent Apostolic and Reformed Deist Socinians, also with co-ordination functions via the Apostolic Reformed Society for Education Services. Above that will be a Presidium of the Institute for Socinian Societies, which is the office (the bureaucracy) based in the UK and will be a non-profit company itself.
There will be a kind of evangelistic arm in terms of those having difficulty in the mainstream Churches: I suggested we start with an Ordinariate that would be liberal and welcoming: a Trinity Ordinariate of the Socinian Societies Ecclesia Reformed (Sectional). This would be liturgically conservative; the naming conflict in the title deliberate.
For a spiritual society, leading to a badge that we can all wear, and robes for special gatherings, we will establish the Brethren Oratory of the Liberal Lay and Ordained in the Catholic Kirk Societies.
Last but definitely not least is the charity arm. No Church should exist for itself. To keep things as open and general as possible, with hopefully many participants, we decided to set up the ecumenically intended Charity Organisation of the Catholic Kirk. We are sure that it will develop a number of interests, but starting at a managable level we are going to concentrate on some of our own interests, and following one of our group member's own concerns we will begin with a focus on and ministry for people with Tourette Syndrome.
Do look out for the website that will go up after today: URL details soon.
Richard Ashby’s reflections: Canterbury, Chichester & Rochester 27-29th Oct 2015 - The shared (originally facilitated) conversations were one of the recommendations of the ‘Pilling Report’ on Human Sexuality published in November 2013. Th...