Church of the Annunciation, Marble Arch, London

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Annunciation Group

In 1951 the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London planned ecumenical church services as part of the Festival of Britain. Fr Bennett, then Vicar of the Annunciation objected strongly to worshipping with Non-Conformists and thought that the gains made by the catholic movement within the Church of England were under threat. He launched the Annunciation Group which became a pressure group for upholding the catholic ethos. 2000 people signed the initial manifesto not to take part in united services.

Four years later the Church of South India formally came into being. This united Anglicans, Methodists, Congregationalist and other Protestant churches into a single entity in South India. The Annunciation Group denied that the Church of South India should be in  communion with the Church of England because the unity scheme threatened the integrity of its ordained ministry. Fr Bennett put a notice on the door of the Annunciation saying that members of the Church of South India should not receive communion.

The Annunciation Group was short-lived and was eventually absorbed into the Church Union. In later life it is said that Fr Bennett looked back on the Group with amusement and regretted his stance. The Annunciation Group however offers a warning to catholics within the Church of England: it is easy to look small-minded in opposing the tide of history.

(For further information on the context of the Annunciation Group see Michael Yelton Anglican Papalism: An Illustrated history 1900-1960 Canterbury Press 2005)

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