News - October 2010
Posted on 21 October 2010
Reform members have voted to back the creation of a religious society within the Church of England for conservative evangelicals who want to promote the church's mission but are opposed to the consecration of women as bishops.
Speaking at the network's annual conference yesterday, attended by over 170 members, Revd Rod Thomas, the Reform chairman, said: "This is a very positive move not just for us, but for the wider church. The creation of a society can both provide a model of how the church can change to become more focused on mission, not maintenance, and a way forward through the dilemma it faces over women bishops.
"Reform members are involved in innovative ways of reaching into local communities with the good news of Jesus Christ. Many are in churches with a good number of younger men and women being trained for future gospel work. We have a mission-focus which brings health and life that is good for the wider church, and a religious society would enable us to continue that focus.
"In light of the recent results of elections to General Synod, our proposal takes on even greater weight," he added.
Revd Thomas revealed to the conference that analysis of the election results showed that over one third of the house of laity and just one member short of a third of the house of clergy would now vote against women bishops unless changes were made to the draft legislation. These figures are critical, as the legislation requires a two-thirds majority across all three voting houses (bishops, clergy, laity). If such a majority is not achieved in just one of the three houses, then the whole legislation would fail and have to be re-visited.
Revd Thomas said: "The recent elections provided the first real opportunity for grass-roots members of the Church of England to have their say on women bishops. There are many who remain firmly opposed to the idea, because the Bible says that there should be different roles for men and women both in the family and the church. For them the current proposals provide no firm guarantees, and therefore are completely inadequate. So there is now a real incentive to find a way of making appropriate provision, otherwise the whole legislation could fail. A religious society with a clear statutory role has not been fully considered, and could provide a way through."
Although some senior figures within the church are known to be broadly supportive of the creation of a religious society, Revd Thomas said that there is "a lot of detail to be worked out" as to the exact way such a society would operate, but reckoned that within 6-12 months the framework could be clear.
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Evangelical and Catholic groups on General Synod have swapped lists of candidates and analysed the results. The analysis shows that in the House of Clergy, 66 Clergy would block the current legislation being sent down to the diocese, (i.e.32.10%) and 77 laity would block the current legislation being sent down to the diocese (35.46%). Only 34% is needed to block the legislation when it returns from the dioceses. So in the house of laity a blocking minority already exists and in the house of clergy only a further 1.81% is needed, just one person.
Reform has over 1,700 members, of whom more than 350 are ordained clergy.