News - December 2010
Posted on 1 December 2010
Rod Thomas, Chairman of Reform, writes:
General Synod Elections
This newsletter comes with great thanks to everybody who made special efforts to get members elected to General Synod last month. Our thanks should also go to those who spent a lot of time and effort on their candidacy but didn't in the end get elected. It was a great encouragement to see a good number putting their shoulders to this particular wheel. In the event, we think that over 31 members of Reform were elected - a big increase over the number at the last General Synod - and therefore a real cause for rejoicing. Overall, the new Synod seems to have become more conservative. Initial analysis of the results showed that the total number of those who are likely to oppose the legislative proposals on women bishops unless there is better provision for opponents, would be sufficient to block their eventual approval.
Despite this success, there is no room for complacency. In 1993, when the vote was taken on the ordination of women to the presbyterate, a few changed their minds at the last minute and the Measure was approved. The same could happen in 2012 when the vote on women bishops is taken. This means that we must continue to press for the draft legislation to be altered before that time. The only route left for this to happen is for the House of Bishops to amend the proposals before they go back to the General Synod. If this is to be achieved, we need to take action in our own Dioceses. It is very important that our representatives attend diocesan and deanery synods when the draft Measure comes to be discussed. Although nearly all such Synods will approve the draft legislation, we need to press for a ‘Following Motion' to be passed by our Diocesan Synods, which expresses concern over the inadequacy of the present proposals. If enough Dioceses pass a following motion, then the House of Bishops will be under great pressure to amend the legislative proposals before they go for final approval to the General Synod in 2012.
The Church of England Evangelical Council has devised a form of words for such a following motion. It reads:
- Desires that all faithful Anglicans remain and thrive together in the Church of England; and therefore
- Calls upon the House of Bishops to bring forward amendments to the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure to ensure that those unable on theological grounds to accept the ministry of women bishops are able to receive episcopal oversight from a bishop with authority (ie ordinary jurisdiction) conferred by the Measure rather than by delegation from a Diocesan Bishop.
Formation of a Society
Those of you who attended our National Conference last month will know that the idea of forming a religious ‘Society' within the Church of England is occupying a lot of our attention at the moment. Normally such a thought would scarcely even occur to us. However, we face such a challenge to our evangelical ministry both at home (over women bishops and commitment to the authority of the Bible) and more widely within the Communion (over issues of sexuality) that, as I said at the conference, we may need to find new ways of organising ourselves if the ministry of our churches is to flourish in the future. The idea itself has emerged in several different ways:
- As a way of providing Episcopal support and encouragement for orthodox Anglicans in this country whose communion within the Church of England is either impaired or non-existent. It may also provide a clear way of identifying those who wish to distance themselves from TEC in the USA and declare their communion with those provinces which are clearly orthodox (eg such as those represented at GAFCON). This is being pursued by the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.
- As a way of presenting the House of Bishops with a solution to the dilemma over women bishops. The proposal is that the draft Measure be amended to give the bishops of a Society the jurisdictional power to operate in key areas of concern (eg selection for ordination and appointments). Parishes covered by such a Society would be under male Episcopal oversight, but still remain within the Church of England.
- As a response by traditional catholics to their declared need for ‘sacramental assurance' when women bishops are introduced (ie. the assurance that what they believe happens during the performance of a sacrament is genuinely happening because those presiding are properly ordained).
- As a proposal from the Bishop of London as part of his response to the needs of those who hitherto came under the oversight of the Bishop of Fulham. The Bishop of Fulham has recently announced his intention of joining the Roman Catholic ‘Ordinariate'. The Bishop of London said that such a Society might serve "those already identified as 'Fulham Clergy and Parishes' and ... others, whatever their position on the churchmanship spectrum, who are loyal to the Church of England and share similar concerns about its theological direction alongside a commitment to growth in co-operation with the majority in the Church who support the consecration of women to the episcopate."
Clearly there is a lot of scope for confusion here, but there does seem to be a gathering consensus that the formation of a Society or Societies might provide a solution to some of the problems we currently face. At the end of the Reform Conference, a vote was taken to check that members felt that it was right to engage positively with the ideas. Although there was some hesitation because the ideas themselves have not been fully developed, and we didn't have a formal resolution, there was clear support for pursuing them. As a result, I am actively seeking to discuss all these proposals with the different groups involved. When the Reform Council has its residential meeting at Whirlow in December, we shall spend some of that time meeting the Council of the Church Society to examine the emerging proposals.
In conversation with Rod Thomas about the recent General Synod, Rod said:
'the vote on the Anglican Covenant might be a straw in the wind indicating that this GS not only has more Reform members than before but that the General Synod as a whole may take a more orthodox position than the previous one. Even with little confidence in the Anglican Covenant dealing with splits in the Anglican Communion over sexuality issues, nevertheless the fact that liberals spoke so strongly against it and yet were so comprehensively defeated is an encouraging sign.'