News - June 2010
June 2010 Newsletter (abridged): Rod Thomas explains what Reform members can be doing to influence the debate on women bishops.
Posted on 1 June 2010
Reform Newsletter, June 2010
Rod Thomas, chairman of Reform, writes:
Thank you to everybody who has engaged with this issue over the past couple of months either by signing the incumbents' letter to the House of Bishops or by writing directly to individual bishops. A considerable number of bishops have written back to me - as I know they have to many in our network - to say they understand our concerns and will do their best for us. Just before the House of Bishops met in May, the General Synod's Revision Committee published its legislative proposals and we immediately sent a commentary on them to the bishops. You can read this on our web site - http://www.reform.org.uk/pages/newsletters/reformresponse.php
What are we achieving with all this effort? The main things are that we are creating a greater awareness of our view that God's Word prevents us from accepting female headship, and we are strengthening the hand of those who argue that our convictions must not simply be swept aside.
So what is going to happen next? The key likely developments are these:
- We and others will put forward amendments to the proposed legislation at the forthcoming July Synod. Despite considerable support among bishops and within Synod generally, we cannot be at all confident about the outcome. We therefore need to write now to the clergy and lay members of the General Synod who have been elected from our dioceses to urge them to back amendments which make ‘a safe space' (the Archbishop of Canterbury's words) for our ministry within the Church. Finding the names and addresses of clergy and lay representatives from your diocese is not particularly straightforward as they are not listed on any web site. They will be listed in the diocesan directory and every parish church has one of these.
- The legislative proposals will then go to Diocesan Synods for consideration. This will provide a further opportunity for action by members who have been elected to those Synods. We must argue that despite a strong desire within the Church not to pass legislation which feels like an ejection to so many people, the General Synod has been unable to come up with a coherent solution. The only way to rescue the situation is to vote against the proposals so that a proper new start can be made. If a majority of Diocesan Synods vote against the legislation, it cannot continue.
- Assuming the draft legislation does continue, once it has completed its way through the General Synod it is finally open to the House of Bishops to introduce amendments. The more we can maintain concern among bishops over the next year, the more likely it is that they will feel compelled to act at that late stage.
- After this, the draft legislation would come back to the General Synod for final approval. Since a two thirds majority is required in all of the three ‘Houses' (i.e.. House of Laity, House of Clergy and House of Bishops), it is obviously vital that we get as many members of Reform elected to General Synod later this year as possible so that the required majority cannot be achieved in one or other of the Houses. At the moment, the best prospect seems to be in the House of Laity - so do please telephone me or Johnny Lockwood in the Reform office if you would be prepared to consider that.
Developments both here and in the USA continue to ring warning bells and encourage us to develop our links with orthodox Anglicans worldwide. The most recent domestic warning bell was when Tom Butler, until recently the Bishop of Southwark, implied in a Radio 4 ‘Thought for the Day' that the time had come for the Church to change its mind on gay partnerships. In the USA, the Episcopal Church (TEC) has confirmed its non-biblical, liberal trajectory by electing Mary Glasspool, a woman in a lesbian relationship, as the Bishop of Los Angeles.Our response to developments such as these has been to play an active part in the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) which came out of the 2008 GAFCON conference in Jerusalem. I sit on the UK Steering Committee as do other members of the Reform Council. At the moment, FCA (UK) is focussing on four things:
- Developing contacts with ACNA (the principal orthodox grouping of USA Anglican churches which separated from TEC). In particular, following the good General Synod debate last February, we are hoping that churches here will invite ACNA clergy to come to preach. If you are interested in this, please contact Chris Sugden, firstname.lastname@example.org or 36 North Hinksey Village, Oxford, OX2 0NA.
- Alerting the GAFCON Primates to what is going on in the UK. This means both exposing the liberalising trend and explaining how many of our churches already need help in getting their men ordained for teaching ministries, since they are either refused recognition by the Church of England or are in impaired communion with their bishops. Most recently Paul Perkin spoke to the Primates at their meeting last April.
- Engaging in talks with a small panel of bishops set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury following FCA requests to meet him. Our purpose is to do everything we can to find an English solution to the problems we increasingly face over obtaining faithful, biblical oversight.
- Formulating a clear picture of how orthodox Anglicans in this country can move forward together in encouraging each other in gospel work, in fellowship with faithful Anglicans worldwide, and with the help and encouragement of the GAFCON Primates.