Forward in Faith, What's in a Name?

By Keith Ackerman

“Forward in Faith North America” is a relatively new name given to generations of Catholic Witness in the United States. Even with the various name changes, most of which were conditioned by the circumstances of our vocation at that time, one thing remains clear: 

Forward in Faith is the unified Catholic Witness for those who call themselves Anglicans. Over the years we have been called to particular emphases. As the American Church Union we regularly called Episcopalians who were not immersed in the Catholic nature of Anglicanism to an awareness of our unbroken heritage as Catholics in England, pre-dating the arrival of St. Augustine in 597 A.D. Indeed, Bishops from York were present at the Council of Arles in 314 A.D. and also the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. - well before the 6th century endeavors of Pope St. Gregory in sending St. Augustine of Canterbury. 

Our unbroken heritage includes monastic evangelization, conversions, Marian appearances, restorations, reformations, and movements, all a part of our heritage without one overpowering the other - a tapestry of Faith that eventually, even before the formation of a new nation, established and nourished countless leaders in the New World. 

Forward in Faith exists, in part, to recall the Church to her heritage - with a unique history, spirituality and liturgical expression: Eastern in her earliest theological roots and Western in her unique relationships in the Western world. Clearly those who do not know their history, or who define their history in terms of brief periods in time are unable to see the spirit-filled Movements of God’s grace in this remarkable expression of the Catholic Faith. 

Forward in Faith does not see its role as defensive, for what we proclaim is Jesus Christ in whom all that the Father has willed is Revealed. We seek to remind the Church that her Truth is Revealed and is not Evolutionary. Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry did not deliver an incomplete revelation that required revision by later generations, somehow wiser than Him. 

The Church is known as the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, and she embodies the “Vincentian Canon”- the three-fold test of Catholicity as articulated by St. Vincent of Lerins, (400-450 A.D.) namely “what has been believed everywhere, always and by all.” This is one of the tests that is utilized to evaluate truth versus error. Thus, we oppose innovations and revisions to the Faith of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as impossibilities. Simply put, we do not believe that we have the authority to change that Faith. Moreover, we believe that the burden of proof is placed on those who seek to alter the Faith. We defend the Faith, but we are not defensive. 

As heirs of an unbroken Apostolic Tradition given by Christ Himself, we recognize that in a rapidly changing, majority rules world, many may well see groups and movements such as Forward in Faith to be irrelevant. Indeed, for some we are reminders of what the Church has been. For some we exist to educate by introducing people to the Faith that has always been. For others we exist to recall them to what they have known and believed. 

But in all things we exist to be used by the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, who “is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). In an ever-changing world, people are looking for stability, truth, hope and meaning and it is the Catholic Faith which provides it. Forward in Faith exists to proclaim this Faith by all means open to us, conferences, tracts, books, magazines and personal witness. 

We are Catholic as we see ourselves as a part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church grounded in Word and Sacrament - proclaiming Christ truly present in the Eucharist, this is my body, this is my blood. We are Orthodox as we proclaim the Creeds and the doctrine of the undivided Church. We are Traditional as we preserve and proclaim the truth passed down from Jesus our Savior. We are Conservative as we conserve without alteration the gifts passed down to us from Apostolic times. We are Evangelical as we fervently proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ who has called all of us to repentance and won for us that Salvation which He freely offers to all who turn to Him. 

We are Forward in Faith: grounded in an unbroken apostolic heritage and moving forward in the strength of the 2000 year old Faith for generations to come. That is what is in a name.

The Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman is the eighth Bishop of Quincy, retired. He serves on the ACNA College of Bishops and is on the Prayer Book Liturgy Committee. He serves as a Trustee on the Board of Nashotah House Seminary and he is the Chaplain for many devotional organizations including the Franciscan Order of Divine Compassion. He is the Vicar of St. Timothy’s Anglican Church in Fort Worth, living in Keller, TX.

Forward in Christ

Proclaiming the Faith and Order of the Church, given to us by Christ.