By Peter Jennings in Birmingham A PUBLIC commitment to joint evangelisation with clergy and ministers of other traditions was made by delegates at the 14th National Conference of Priests.
Delegates urged that clergy from other traditions should be welcomed to Deanery activities and that priests should accept any similar invitations extended to them. The resolution was passed by 56 votes to 14, with 10 abstentions.
More than 90 elected priestdelegates representing over 5,000 secular priests in England and Wales took part in the Conference at Newman College, Birmingham.
Evangelisation proved a difficult subject. Valuable insights and experiences were shared in the small discussion groups but plenary sessions sometimes lacked flow and direction. Delegates voted on 32 propositions, some rather bland, of which 26 received the required two-thirds majority to make them Conference Resolutions.
One particularly challenging resolution declared: "We can only be effective in the work of evangelisation if we do it with our fellow Christians. Even then we can only be fully effective if we show a practical concern for the unemployed and the poor." It was passed by 64 votes to six with 10 abstentions.
While another resolution asked that urgent consideration be given in the diocese, deanery and parish to the recently published document Local Churches in Covenant.
The priests hoped that this would lead to "local initiatives and action". It was passed by 62 votes to six with 12 abstentions.
Delegates recommended a greater investment in the training of lay-leaders especially youth leaders and catechists. They passed a resolution urging their fellow priests to accept, "as a matter of right the place of the laity in the evangelisation of their parishes."
The priests .deplored the practice of baptising without any previous instruction or preparation and they passed a strong resolution which called on the Conference of Bishops to
insist on a common policy to prevent this happening. It was passed by 63 votes to 10, with seven abstentions.
In the light of Cardinal Hume's thought-provoking address to the Conference on September 7, the priests pleaded for a greater emphasis in Catholic schools on the social teaching of the Church and its implications for Catholic involvement in public life.
Delegates passed a resolution which stated: "There is a grave pastoral need for the increased use of the third form of the Rite of the Sacrament of Reconciliation."
Cardinal Hume had encouraged the greater use of individual confession as opposed to increasing the use of general absolution. He emphasised that the whole question of confession would be fully discussed during the International Synod of Bishops in Rome. The voting was 54 to 15, with 11 abstentions.
The Cardinal also expressed his support for Mrs Victoria Gillick in her campaign for parents rights of consultation before girls below the age of consent were prescribed contraceptives. The priests passed the resolution that "This Conference whole-heartedly supports the efforts of responsible parents to obtain recognition before the law of their over-riding rights to protect their children in those important and sensitive moral areas in which they are threatened." It was passed by 72 votes to four with four abstentions.
The Conference welcomed the official consultative status that it has been given through the reorganisation of the national structure of the Church in England and Wales.
The Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Rev Derek Worlock, told delegates that the agenda would be open for either side to raise questions and he emphasised the great scope for a developing relationship between the Bishops' Conference and the National Conference of Priests.
Delegates indicated that,' Ministry to the Indifferent should be the theme of next year's Conference.