recently by the Bishops of the Church of England to draw up a statement on doctrine and belief in their Church. it is expected to be ready early next year for discussion by the Bishops and eventually for debate in the Church of England Synod.
Introducing Archbishop McNamara's lecture he said how right the Society was to hold this conference and stressed that the Virginal Conception was the touchstone of our belief in Christ and consequently also of the true understanding of the Resurrection.
The Archbishop's lecture was preceded by one on the Virginal Conception given by Canon John McHugh. For many years on the staff of Ushaw College, the Catholic Seminary in the North East, he is Senior Lecturcr in Theology at Durham University and a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
During his lecture it was a leading Methodist, the Rev John Newton, who acted as chairman. A former President of the Methodist Conference (the top national assembly), like other Methodist members of the Ecumenical Society he has moved from the traditional "anti-marian" attitude of Methodists to discover new theological and devotional insights.
One Methodist member has written an inspiring book on the Rosary. John Newton himself addressing the Methodist national assembly once warned them that what he was going to tell them would send shivers down their spines but that it was time that Methodists took a new look to see the place of Mary in Christian belief.
Introducing Canon McHugh's lecture he referred to the unrest sparked off by the Bishop of Durham's statements and added: "Christianity has nothing so much to fear as misunderstanding and if you take away an essential doctrine all the rest collapses".
Both the Archbishop and Canon McHugh in a thorough examination of the relevant Scriptural texts dealt with and discredited theories that have been put forward in an attempt to water down the objective facts regarding the Virginal Conception and the Bodily Resurrection stated in the Gospels and firmly held by the first Christians themselves. The Ecumenical Society plans to publish the Iwo lectures.
The Conference was attended by 200 people, including Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists, who converged on the Maria Assumpta Pastoral Centre in Kensington.
The day ended with the recitation of the Office of our Lady, compiled by the Ecumenical Society, and meditation by Bishop Leonard on the role of our Lady in God's plan of Redemption and as our model of true response to the grace of Christ, On the evening before the Conference a reception had been held in honour of Archbishop McNamara in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster Abbey. Bishop Edward KnappFisher was host. Former Bishop of Pretoria he is now a member of the Abbey staff and is chairman of the London branch of the Ecumenical Society. The Jerusalem Chamber, in preReformation days part of the Abbot's quarters, is the setting of many historical events.