REFORM Media Statement - 16th January 2016
Reform is grateful to God that the Primates have voted so overwhelmingly in favour of affirming two important principles: first, that Anglican doctrine is determined by Scripture and secondly, that marriage is between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union.
We join with them, once again, in condemning homophobic prejudice and violence and their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.
We affirm the Statement made by GAFCON yesterday and continue to pray that the Church of England will neither permit the blessing of same-sex unions nor ordain nor licence those in active homosexual relationships.
We continue to pray to our gracious Father for the whole church, "that all they who do confess thy holy Name may agree in the truth of thy holy Word, and live in unity, and godly love." (Book of Common Prayer)
Notes for Editors Reform is a network of clergy and laity within the Church of England who work to identify practical ways of reforming the Church of England to enable the clear proclamation of the gospel that Jesus Christ is Lord.]]>
As the Steering Group of Reform met last week, the events surrounding the blessing of the Gay Pride march in York could not be ignored.
Whilst the Reform Steering Group stands opposed to homophobia, nevertheless they were unanimously of the view that it was an offense to all bible-believing Christians for the Minster to endorse, without qualification, the activities of York Pride with the intention of "affirming the LGBT community".
They appreciated the Archbishop of York's statement affirming the "traditional Christian understanding of human sexuality, orientation, and behavior" and agreed with him that God loves and values all people, whatever their sexual orientation, and that that same love should be shown by Christians. They hope that the Archbishop of York is prepared to stand by the whole of Lambeth Resolution 1.10, which rejects "homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture" and the Dromantine Conference of Anglican Communion Primates Communiqué which affirms this teaching.
Susie Leafe, Director of Reform, said "We long for all churches to model Jesus Christ's welcome to all people - a welcome that loves us enough not only to walk with us in self-sacrificial love but also to warn us of God's judgment and call us to repent of our rejection of God's ways."
They therefore wish to express their unequivocal support for the stand that Rev Melvin Tinker, a founder member of Reform, has taken and they applaud his courage in being prepared to speak graciously and clearly of the Church's responsibility to teach and act according to biblical principles.
ENDS. For Further Info Contact: Susie Leafe, Director of REFORM.
Note. The Steering Group consists of
Rev Angus Macleay: St Nicholas, Sevenoaks, Rochester Diocese
Preb Rod Thomas: St Matthew's, Elburton, Exeter Diocese
Rev Mike Smith: St John's, Hartford, Chester Diocese
Rev Simon Austen: St Leonard's, Exeter, Exeter Diocese
Rev Mark Burkill: Christ Church, Leyton, Chelmsford Diocese
Rev William Taylor: St Helen's, Bishopsgate, London Diocese
Mrs Susie Leafe, Director, details below - but only on email contact until Saturday.]]>
The Episcopal Church in the USA redefined the definition of marriage and approved liturgy for the blessing of same-sex marriages.
Reform shares the Archbishop of Canterbury’s deep concern about the stress this action will cause the Anglican Communion. We echo his call to respond to the Lord Jesus’ prayer for his followers, that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (John 17.21).
Jesus’ prayer for unity was “for those who will believe in me through [the apostles’] message.” (John 17.20). The unity for which Jesus prays is built on the foundation of the teaching he revealed and entrusted to his apostles, recorded for us in the Scriptures. Jesus is not silent on the definition of marriage. “Haven’t you read,” he said to the religious leaders who sought to redefine marriage in his own day, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19.4-5)
In rejecting this definition of marriage, the bishops of the US Episcopal Church have rejected Jesus’ own teaching. As such, they have denied the faith they profess to teach, forfeiting any right to be regarded as true bishops of the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus warned us to “watch out for false prophets” who come in his name (Matthew 7.15, 22)
Their actions will entrench still further the division in the Anglican Communion. We are grieved at their dishonouring of Jesus’ name. We are distressed by their discouragement of faithful believers, especially those who struggle with same-sex attraction and those who live in cultures where pronouncements from liberal Western church leaders endanger their lives and discredit their witness to Jesus Christ.
We stand with faithful Anglicans in the US and around the world, who continue to pray to Almighty God: “grant, that all they who do confess thy holy Name may agree in the truth of thy holy Word, and live in unity, and godly love.” (Book of Common Prayer).
For Further Info Contact: Susie Leafe, Director of REFORM. Email: email@example.com]]>
Reform and Oxford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship
For immediate release.
Evangelicals call for the Church of England to uphold the gospel of Jesus Christ
This week began with Katherine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (TEC) of the USA preaching in Westminster Abbey, it will end, we are told with Canon Michael Smith of York Minster blessing the York Gay Pride March. In between we have seen the Bishop of Buckingham describe doctrine that he swore to teach and pass on as ‘lousy’.
Nowhere in any of this has there been the clear message of the Gospel that despite our rejection of his ways we are all loved by God and can find forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is not surprising then, that the majority of the world’s Anglicans now look to the Primates of Global Anglican Future Conference GAFCON for leadership – the only question is whether after weeks like this one, those in the Church of England who wish to proclaim this Gospel will be forced to follow the same path.
“Christianity is based on revealed doctrine, enabling individuals to live rightly before a Holy God as followers of Jesus Christ. He tells us how to live in all areas of life, including in areas of sexual behaviour. No denomination is at liberty to invent its own doctrine or to sacrifice revealed doctrine on the altars of contemporary fashion. We cannot be authentically Christian whilst simultaneously rejecting the teaching of the one we claim to follow.”
Rev Simon Austen – Rector of St Leonard’s Church, Exeter Diocese
“York Minster’s leading the way in the Gay Pride march is symbolic of what the Church of England’s leadership is doing generally on this issue – leading people away from the clear teaching of the Bible and the Gospel. It exposes the sham of the consultation process for what it is – a means by which the church can validate homosexual activity. One would hope that the Archbishop of York would do his duty and speak clearly, upholding the Bible’s position.”
Rev Melvin Tinker, St John’s Church, Newland, York Diocese
“I am deeply disappointed that Alan Wilson persists in undermining the teaching of the Church by his overt support of those who have gone against the clear rules governing clergy discipline. Describing the Church’s teaching and doctrine as “lousy” is quite breathtakingly arrogant and not language that one would expect from a senior leader in the Church. Were I in secular employment and so at odds with the leadership and core values of the company that employed me, I would resign forthwith as a matter of conscience."
Rev Will Pearson-Gee - Rector of Buckingham, Oxford Diocese
“The Bishop of Buckingham courts publicity for his revisionist agenda and gets it. He has sadly become a figure of disunity in the Oxford Diocese and a cause of grief to many faithful Anglican Christians. The version of marriage he espouses is incompatible with Biblical Christianity.”
Rev Will Stileman – Vicar of St Mary’s Church, Maidenhead and Chair of the Oxford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship
‘Sooner or later everyone in the Church of England will have to decide whether they have confidence in what God says about marriage and human sexuality in the Scriptures. If we are not willing to trust what God says is good for us and for our society then we lose the claim to be authentically Christian. And in the course of time God will make it plain that our claims to be Christian are hollow. Jeremiah 7:28 speaks of truth perishing and being cut off from the lips of God’s people, and the prophet is clear about the disastrous consequences of that’.
Rev Mark Burkill –Vicar of Christ Church, Leyton, Chelmsford Diocese
"The Bishop of Buckingham is a runaway train, and has lost the confidence of many of the clergy in the Diocese of Oxford who would have him nowhere near their churches. There is now a crisis of leadership in Oxford Diocese, shown in the fact that the Diocese was unable to appoint a Diocesan Bishop who can work with Buckingham. The Bishop of Buckingham thinks he can make up doctrine on the hoof to suit his own revisionist agenda. That is not how the Church of England does things.
Rev James Paice, Vicar of St Luke’s Wimbledon Park, Southwark Diocese,
Reform is a large network of conservative evangelical individuals and churches in the Church of England.
Oxford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship is a network of evangelicals in the Oxford Diocese
Susie Leafe, Director of Reform 07753690120 firstname.lastname@example.org]]>
This is an annual Reform prayer meeting to pray for the future of the Church of England. There will also be an opportunity to welcome the Bishop of Maidstone (designate), hear news from Reform, and have an update on issues facing the Church of England.
To get directions please look at the flier. The postcode for the venue is EC1A 4EU]]>
Rod’s predecessor as Chairman of Reform, Rev’d Canon David Banting, said, “Rod’s presence in the College of Bishops will strengthen and enrich the priority of the mission of the gospel to the nation and the centrality of biblical witness in the Church.”
Rev’d Angus Macleay, the Chairman of Trustees of Reform, said, “I am delighted that, through this appointment, Rod will have the opportunity to provide a distinctive and gracious voice for conservative evangelicals within the College of Bishops, whilst also providing effective pastoral support and encouragement in the gospel to many churches up and down the country.”
Mrs Mary Durlacher, a member of General Synod, was very pleased to hear the longawaited news, “Today’s announcement of the appointment of a conservative evangelical as Bishop of Maidstone marks a milestone in Church relations as the commitment to mutual flourishing declared by the Bishops begins to turn from words to action.”
Director of Reform, Susie Leafe said, “The members of Reform are all too aware that this is an immense undertaking and we will be in prayer for Rod as he seeks to establish the necessary working arrangements to allow conservative evangelicals to flourish throughout the country.”
Reform members wish to record publicly their gratitude to Rod for all that he has given as Chairman of Reform and resolve to pray for Rod, his wife Lesley and the church family at St Matthew’s, Elburton, as they look to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for their future.
Note to editors:
Reform is a network of individuals and churches promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ by reforming the Church of England – we are committed to growing a nation of healthy, local, Anglican churches and the principles embodied in the Reform Covenant. Churches in the Reform network are 30% larger than average in the Church of England and a third have planted new congregations or churches in the past ten years. Reform has consistently opposed the legislation introduced to introduce women bishops as being divisive, alienating the very churches that represent the future of the Church of England. This not withstanding, and in the spirit of generosity to which all Christians are called, Reform is willing to explore whatever opportunities exist for Conservative Evangelicals to flourish within the existing structures of the Church of England.
For further information please contact Susie Leafe, Director of Reform Email: email@example.com Phone: 07753 690120]]>
Members of the Reform network will be praying for the Rev Libby Lane and for the Diocese of Chester in the light of the announcement. Whilst not surprised by this appointment we are very concerned about the strain it will put on local diocesan relationships.
Rod Thomas, Chairman of Reform, said, “We have known since July that the Church of England would seek to appoint women to the episcopate – against the biblical model of good church leadership. Though it grieves us, it comes as no surprise. We pray that the Bishop of Chester will uphold the promises made in July and enable the many thriving conservative evangelical churches in his Diocese to continue to serve their communities with theological integrity under the oversight of a male bishop.”
This appointment is an outworking of the decision of the majority of General Synod, which also dedicated itself to enabling evangelicals to flourish and we trust that the House of Bishops will uphold that commitment in the coming months as women are appointed to these senior roles.
Note to editors:
Reform is a network of individuals and churches promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ by reforming the Church of England – we are committed to growing a nation of healthy, local, Anglican churches and believe that the Bible clearly teaches that this is best done when men take self-sacrificial responsibility for the spiritual oversight of the domestic and church family.
Churches in the Reform network are 30% larger than average and a third have planted new congregations or churches in the past ten years. Reform have consistently voted against the approach taken to appoint female bishops as it is divisive and has the potential to alienate the very churches which represent the future viability of the Church of England.
For further information please contact Susie Leafe, Director of Reform email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Director of Reform, Susie Leafe said, "It is nearly eighteen years since the appointment of a bishop who holds a conservative evangelical view on headship. We are grateful to the Archbishops for their personal commitment to changing this, but remain disappointed that it has required their intervention to get to this point. It has, after all, not been for want of highly qualified clergy to select; men with a passion for evangelism, who have overseen growing churches and who long to teach and to uphold sound and wholesome doctrine as Canon C18 demands of bishops."
For over twenty years Reform has affirmed the innate equality of men and women, the unique value of women's ministry in the local congregation and the divine order of male headship, which makes the headship of women as priests in charge, incumbents, dignitaries and bishops inappropriate. We trust that the House of Bishops will stand by their stated commitment to enable those who hold this biblically orthodox view to flourish within the life and structures of the Church. We therefore look forward to further appointments of men who hold a conservative evangelical view on headship to the College and House of Bishops, without delay or further intervention, as only this will avoid the Bishop of Maidstone being seen as a token or a move towards appointing bishops as advocates rather than overseers.
Note to editors:
Reform is a network of individuals and churches promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ by reforming the Church of England - www.reform.org.uk.
For further information please contact the Director, Susie Leafe: email email@example.com]]>
At its most recent meeting on Wednesday, 1st October 2014, the Reform Council expressed its dismay that the objectives of the ‘shared conversations' on Scripture, Sexuality and Mission had been changed and that as a result orthodox Anglicans had been in effect excluded. It called on its members not to participate in the conversations under these conditions.
Speaking after the Council meeting, the chairman, Prebendary Rod Thomas, said ‘It is difficult to see how the process of shared conversations can command credibility if those who are most committed to the Church of England's official teaching are in effect excluded. If this project is not to collapse, then decisive intervention from the House of Bishops is needed now. The shared conversations must acknowledge that Scripture remains authoritative for the Church of England and that the outcome of the conversations is genuinely open-ended. Unless that is clarified and the recently announced new objective is withdrawn, we cannot see a way forward.'
The Council's assessment was made after members heard that the original objectives of the conversations, as reported last July to the General Synod, had been severely narrowed. This emerged after the meeting of the College of Bishops in mid September, which described the second objective as creating ‘space and an environment for the Church of England to live together as a family who disagree with one another...[to] ensure that those with differing views on sexuality continue to share together a place of common baptism and faith".
This new objective requires participants:
In advising its members not to get drawn into what was now a ‘deeply flawed' process, The Council also warned about the steady erosion of the Church's commitment to biblical authority - particularly in the field of sexuality. It noted:
Note to editors:
Reform is a network of individuals and churches promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ by reforming the Church of England - www.reform.org.uk. It is one of the three bodies that sponsor ReNew.
College of Bishops Statement can be found here:
For further information please contact the Director, Susie Leafe on 07753690120 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org]]>
Dear Member of Reform
You will have been saddened, but probably not surprised, by the General Synod’s vote last Monday on women bishops. This was the logical outcome of the decision in 1993 to enable women to be ordained to the presbyterate in the Church of England. That decision prompted the formation of Reform and since then we have actively sought to urge the Church to reform herself under the authority of the Word of God.
Over the last 10 years we have worked hard both to resist the introduction of women bishops and to offer ways in which appropriate provision could be made if the Church of England insisted on going down this path. Regrettably none of our proposals were accepted and we are now faced with a prolonged period of uncertainty about the ways forward for our congregations.
However, we can continue to minister to each other and our wider communities with confidence because God’s Word hasn’t changed. Article 20 says that it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written and no vote of General Synod can alter the clear teaching of Scripture. We continue to rejoice therefore in the way God has ordered relationships between men and women in the families of both home and church. This reflects the ordering of the Trinity, where The Father and Son love each other, yet this love is expressed asymmetrically. The Son’s love is marked by a willing and joyful submission to his Father’s will, as when Jesus says, “I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14.31). Furthermore, although the Son is fully God, he ultimately submits for eternity to his Father (1 Corinthians 15:28).
Similarly, men and women are equal in God’s eyes (Galatians 3:28) yet have different roles in family life. In our relationships, we model what is true of our loving God. This appears to be Paul’s starting point in 1 Corinthians 11.3: “Now I want you to realise that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” Further, the Divine ordering of men and women was God’s clear intention at the very beginning of human creation (1 Corinthians 11:8). As a result, the responsibility for teaching and leading rests with men (eg 1 Timothy 2:12). Male headship no more demeans women than it demeans Christ under the headship of his Father – which is clearly impossible in the perfect love of the Trinity. So from God’s first purposes in creation to his ultimate salvation, headship and submission are taught and modelled.
It is going to be our privilege to teach and model in the lives of our churches these great truths. How we do that is something we will be discussing over the next few months. The House of Bishops’ Declaration says that it is committed to our flourishing and that our understanding of ministry remains within the spectrum of Anglican teaching and tradition. The Declaration contains five guiding principles, in which the fourth recognises that we will be unable to accept the ministry of women bishops or priests. We will, therefore, need to press these points as we seek appropriate oversight. In this context we note that the Declaration assures us that a conservative evangelical bishop will be consecrated within the Church of England who can provide episcopal ministry that accords with our theological convictions.
So what should we do next?
First, we will be gathering on 22nd September at the ReNew conference to consider our strategy for the future. Our focus will be on growing Gospel ministry through local Anglican churches. Part of our job will be to ensure that in Reform we stand together, especially with those who consider the provision in the House of Bishops’ Declaration inadequate.
Secondly, we will in the next few weeks seek to help PCCs think through both whether they consider themselves able to act on the new provision in the House of Bishops' declaration and, if they do, what might be involved. As you know, the Declaration allows parishes to gain access to appropriate episcopal ministry by passing a formal resolution. The process is supported by a legally established Disputes Procedure with an Independent Reviewer. We will be making preliminary guidance available over the summer. The guidance will be ‘preliminary’ because PCCs will undoubtedly raise issues over time that will need to be covered in a future publication.
So, now that the vote has happened and the Church of England is set on the course of introducing female bishops, let’s once again take courage from the words of Scripture: ‘Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all you do be done in love.’ (1 Cor 16:13-14).
With love in His service,
ReNew networks stand together on women bishops - see Church Society blog]]>
At this point, with just a few weeks to go before the final vote on the new women bishops measure, Reform believes it would be helpful to state unequivocally that its leadership remains committed to the Reform Covenant, which includes the words:
Our understanding of God's way of life for his people includes: The unique value of women's ministry in the local congregation but also the divine order of male headship, which makes the headship of women as priests in charge, incumbents, dignitaries and bishops inappropriate.
Following the failure of the last measure in November 2012, we have worked hard to find a way for those of differing theological convictions on this matter to move forward together. We are grateful that the House of Bishops Declaration makes clear that they are committed to seeing those who hold our theological convictions flourish in the life and structures of the Church, but we are unconvinced that the complex package of Measure, Declaration, Resolution of Disputes Procedure and Guidance Notes offer any real hope of this aim being achieved.
There are outstanding issues of jurisdiction and oaths of canonical obedience (particularly once the canons suggest a woman can be a church’s Chief Pastor, Principal Minister and Father in God), which mean that the package fails to meet the conscientious needs of a significant number of our members. The process may also distract us from gospel ministry. PCCs will have to enter into time-consuming discussions with the diocesan bishop about the nature of their theological convictions and corresponding episcopal requirements without any guarantee they will be respected. The independent review process is based on ‘shame’ and thus, if needed, will require churches to engage in unedifying public disagreements with their bishop, again without any guarantee that the reviewer’s findings will be implemented. Clearly, so much depends on the reality of the desire to allow those with different theological convictions to flourish in the Church of England.
We are grateful to all those who have spoken and voted against this measure as it has passed through the diocesan synods. We are aware that this has not been easy and that many have been bruised by the experience but we give thanks to God for your faithfulness. We will continue to encourage all friends and members of Reform to vote against the measure in July and trust that God will provide all that we need in the future.]]>
Director of Reform Susie Leafe today asked, “What exactly are we celebrating? Women have been ministering in the church for 2000 years, not 20. The very fact that this event is taking place begs some serious questions about how some people view ministry in the Church of England. It seems we have forgotten that we follow Christ, who came to serve and not be served. We have pursued a false view of equality which consequentially belittles the ministry of lay women and all men, whether they are ordained or not. This does not bode well for the future of the Church of England.”
We aren’t celebrating growth in numbers: Since 1992 the Church of England has continued to shrink – the ordination of women has not reversed that trend. There is, however, much to celebrate in the Church of England; there are churches that are full of people, young and old, male and female, congregations that are growing rapidly and are forced to start new congregations. However, the vast majority of these congregations are led by men rather than women. Apparently their contribution is not worth celebrating.
We aren’t celebrating women’s ministry: Every day hundreds of thousands of women serve their church families; they serve the sick, the elderly, the housebound; they teach the bible in numerous settings; they run drop-in centres, youth groups, Sunday schools; foodbanks; they act as church wardens, they ensure the roof stays on and the door stays open. Apparently their contribution is not worth celebrating.
We don’t seem to be celebrating Christ crucified so what are we celebrating?
Note to editors: Reform is an evangelical network within the Church of England. It has 1,700 members of whom one-third are clergy. Reform believes that men and women are equally created, equally sinful and are offered equal salvation by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That equality is inherent to our humanity. We also believe that our gender, male and female, is part of God’s good creation and that we find our fulfilment as men and women when we serve God in accordance with the patterns laid down in Scripture. This requires men to take self-sacrificial responsibility for the domestic and church family and women to help them in that task.
Susie Leafe will be appearing on the Impact programme on BBC World News at 2.30pm 2nd May to discuss these issues further. For further information please contact Susie Leafe, Director of Reform Telephone 07753 690120]]>
Reform stands by Bishop Keith Sinclair’s assertion that our churches need to ‘welcome and accept all, whatever their sexuality, and whether or not they follow the Church’s teaching on sexual behaviour, in the hope that, like all of us who are living outside God’s purposes, they will come in due course to see the need to be transformed and live lives of loving obedience in accordance with biblical revelation and orthodox church teaching.’
In the light of this we have some concerns.
First, we would like more clarity about the basis and purpose of the proposed facilitated conversations. We acknowledge that the Church of England does need to have continuing conversations about sexuality, but we believe that these conversations need to be based on the acceptance of the clear teaching of Scripture and tradition and need to be about how the Church can present that teaching more clearly and persuasively and can develop more effective forms of pastoral care that will enable all people, whatever their sexuality, to live ‘lives of loving obedience’ in accordance with that teaching.
Secondly, we are concerned that the College’s statement says that the Church of England’s pastoral and liturgical practice ‘remains unchanged during this process of facilitated conversation’ We are worried that this opens the way for change along the lines suggested in the Pilling report to take place once the facilitated conversations are over. We believe that such change would be contrary to Scripture and tradition and would welcome an assurance from the bishops that this is not the case and that they reject the Pilling recommendation that clergy should be permitted to ‘mark the recognition of a permanent same sex relationship in a public service.’
Finally we would urge the House of Bishops to give a clear lead to the Church, calling on all members of the Church to bear clear and consistent witness against same sex ‘marriage,’ and making it clear that there can be no form of liturgical recognition of such relationships and that entering into such a relationship would be a bar to ordination and a disciplinary offence for existing clergy. We hope that those responsible for taking forward work in this area will be willing to respond positively to all these points so that the Church of England can have the proper conversation about sexuality that it so desperately needs, a conversation in which Reform is keen to play its part in order to help the Church of England to bear clear witness to biblical teaching and to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (Ephesians 4:3).]]>
At St Botolph’s-without-Aldersgate, 5.00pm to 6.45pm.
To see a map of where St Botolph’s is, and for instructions from the Barbican, click here. If you are coming from the EMA the distance is short but the route involves a labyrinthine route of walkways through the Barbican. To make it as easy as possible we have arranged for guides to be at the Barbican who can bring groups over. Meet at the ground floor lifts by the lakeside terrace. This sounds rather like I’m organising a primary school outing but it is a seriously disorientating route. The distance is short but the complexity high.]]>
The ReNew conference met Nov 26th to 27th, 2013. The conference was predominantly for church leaders and for women in paid positions of ministry in the Church of England. The purpose of the conference was to establish the basis on which Anglican evangelicals can work together and to begin to chart a way ahead.
1. Hugh Palmer expounds 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. Proclaiming the gospel - the urgency of the hour. (Outline: i. the importance of the gospel - the scriptures define the content of the gospel, v. 3 & 4 'according to the scriptures'; the scriptures determine the priorities of the gospel, v.3 'as of first importance'. ii. The urgency of the gospel - it's a saving gospel (v.3); it's an apostolic gospel (v.5-7); it's a not-in-vain gospel (v.2 and cf v.58).
2. Alasdair Paine expounds Romans 16:17-20. Defending and contending for the gospel. (Outline: i. Paul's loving warning - v.17ff. ii. Paul's encouragement - v.20. iii. Paul's letter! In fitting these verses in to the big themes of Romans it comes back to ensuring the gospel is not undermined. Religion and law keeping cannot put me right with God. Could we lose the gospel? There is always the downwards drag of religion and deeds.
3. Vaughan Roberts on JC Ryle and how Ryle provides helpful perspective on current issues and difficulties for Anglican evangelicals. JC Ryle - an Anglican Evangelical role model
4. Richard Coekin on Growing Gospel Churches. He oulines 5 strategies and five realities taken from Acts 20:17-38. You can read the transcript and listen to the audio file.
5. Paul Darlington (chairman of Church Society) gives 6 important things that will help revitalise a local church and 3 things which can get in the way. Audio file available
6. Mike Ovey On Marriage, Creation and Redemption. There is an audio file and also a text of the talk which Mike has added to in order to develop some of the arguments further and to take on board some comments. He explains the trajectory of how we have got into a mess over the understanding of marriage and also demonstrates how a misunderstanding of marriage leads to a misunderstanding of the gospel.
7. William Taylor on Mission and Ministry. The first half of his talk (available here) is on the principles for remaining an Anglican. The heading for this part was 'Why bother?']]>
Reform Chairman Prebendary Rod Thomas said today that he was “deeply ashamed” that the Pilling Report was opening up divisive discussions about the church’s stance on human sexuality.
He said: “Anglican evangelicals want to encourage the best possible provision of pastoral care for everyone involved in parish life. The calling of Christians is to a transformed life. True pastoral care in the case of those experiencing same-sex attraction will be to help them live Christianly. The report does not do this in its recommendations for “pastoral accommodation”. Reform profoundly regrets this insensitivity to real pastoral need.
Speaking at the close of the pan-evangelical ReNew conference, attended by over 250 senior Anglican leaders, Rod Thomas said that the report’s proposals were “very divisive and distressing”. He warmly endorsed the Bishop of Birkenhead’s dissenting statement with its understanding that the trajectory of the report “…undermined the discipleship and pastoral care of many faithful Christians”.
The Reform Council gave initial consideration to the report today. It concluded that the inevitable result of the report’s recommendations would be that pressure will increase for changes to the church’s understanding of marriage and of God’s purposes for human flourishing as outlined in the Bible. The Council reiterated its belief that the Anglican approach to doctrine and ethics can only be based on Scripture and therefore was not open to negotiation in facilitated conversations.
End Note to editors: Reform is an evangelical network within the Church of England. It has 1,700 members of whom one-third are clergy.
For further information please contact the Director, Susie Leafe on 07753690120.]]>
GAFCON 2 blog - day 5. Andrew Symes from Anglican Mainstream is writing a daily blog which updates readers on what is happening in Nairobi.
Dear Friends ..
Jonathan Fletcher's profile on the Reform site used to read '.. has written no books'. However, a collection of his writings have recently been put in to a book called 'Dear Friends' to mark his retirement as minister of Emmanuel Church Wimbledon. To order the book from the Reform online bookshop click here
Administrator's Conference Monday, November 18th, 2013, at Dundonald Church
For information and online booking click here
The Girl Guides Promise
The leaders of the Guide unit at Jesmond Parish Church are not using the new Guide promise. David Holloway provides five reasons why they are right not to do so. Read More.]]>
Speaking at its annual prayer meeting at St Botolph’s Church, London, today (25th June) Prebendary Rod Thomas made the announcement and led the expected 150-strong gathering in prayer as he commissioned Susie Leafe for the work.
Susie Leafe is a member of the General Synod and played a prominent role in the debate on women bishops. Organising a campaign under the banner ‘Proper Provision’, Mrs Leafe gave voice to over 2000 female lay members of the Church of England who believed that the now failed legislative proposals on women bishops did not make adequate provision for those who had theological objections to this development. Prebendary Rod Thomas said ‘This appointment marks a new step forward for Reform. There has never been a greater need for the Church of England to proclaim and explain the gospel, yet in many respects it is ill-equipped to do so. Reform needs to engage many more people in its work to change that situation and I am delighted that Susie is going to be directing our effort to make that possible. She has very considerable theological, organizational and communication gifts from which our network, and the wider church, will benefit hugely.’
Susie Leafe has previously been a head of department at Clifton High School in Bristol and for the last six years has been the Women’s Ministry Facilitator at Fowey Parish Church. From 2008-2010 she was the Family Life and Marriage Education Co-ordinator for the Diocese of Truro. She is a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council and has previously served on the Scripture Union National Council.
Susie is married to Dan, who is a barrister.
Note. Reform has about 1700 members drawn from several hundred churches. The Reform Covenant explains the purpose of Reform being ‘to uphold, defend and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the doctrine of the Church of England’.
With regard to women’s ministry the Covenant states: Our understanding of God's way of life for his people includes: .. The unique value of women's ministry in the local congregation but also the divine order of male headship, which makes the headship of women as priests in charge, incumbents, dignitaries and bishops inappropriate.
The new Director of Reform will seek to promote the unique value of women’s ministry in keeping with the Reform Covenant. Reform is committed to promoting and valuing women’s ministry, and also to communicating the biblical idea of complementarity in ministry.]]>
Reform says Women Bishop Proposals may bar many evangelicals from parish ministry
New proposals for introducing women bishops run counter to the Church’s desire to see those on both sides of the debate flourish in the Church of England, according to Reform, the evangelical Anglican campaigning network.
Speaking after a meeting of the Reform trustees, chairman Prebendary Rod Thomas said today (5th June) that the paper which will be considered by next month’s General Synod, contained some very encouraging sentiments, but these were not reflected in the substance of the proposals.
Preb. Rod Thomas welcomed the vision articulated in the paper for mutual flourishing; the re-iteration of the Lambeth1998 statement that both those in favour of women bishops and those who had theological objections to their introduction were loyal Anglicans; and the recognition that it would be wrong to make such meagre provision for opponents that they would see themselves as being treated on sufferance. He said that Reform members would also be likely to welcome the proposal that provision for opponents should be consistent across all dioceses and that there should be a clear process for dispute resolution.
However, by presenting a motion to next month’s General Synod that committed the future legislative process to the least generous of the options outlined in the paper, the legitimate concerns of many evangelicals were likely to be overlooked. In particular, the proposal for unqualified changes in both legislation and canon would leave many evangelicals in an impossible situation. Clergy who believe the Bible teaches male headship would be unable to take vows of canonical obedience to female bishops and this would effectively prevent them from undertaking much parish ministry.
Other concerns identified by Reform were:
Prebendary Rod Thomas, who took part in the facilitated discussions with the House of Bishops Working Group earlier this year, said that the Church’s synodical process left little room for substantive changes to the proposals. The majority, who favour the introduction of women bishops, are likely to vote the proposals through by simple majority until the time comes for a vote on final approval. Only then, when the majority required in each House of Synod is 2/3, will the views of the minority really count. ‘I have to hope that Synod agrees to amend the motion before it in July’, Preb Thomas said. ‘Failure to do so will make our efforts to find an agreed way forward very much more difficult to achieve.’
Note: To see the report from the Church of England web site on the proposals click here
* An Act of Synod or a Declaration by the House of Bishops does not have the full force of law in the same way a Measure does.]]>
ReNew. Advancing Anglican Evangelical ministries for the salvation of England. This is a new style conference being launched this year.]]>
Thank you very much indeed for all your hard work in the initial stages of your various meetings and consultations. I recognise from my own experience on the Revision Committee that it is not an easy task that you have been set. Please be assured of my prayers for you as you seek the Lord's wisdom on how to enable us as a whole church to move forward.
You have asked for views concerning the four propositions in GS Misc 1042 paragraphs 17 - 29. I agree with the first proposition and also with proposition 3. A complete new package is required which is clearly visible in all its parts beforehand.
I do not agree with proposition 2. I still think that issues relating to jurisdiction go to the very heart of the issue and need at some point to be addressed. I fully recognise that this is not easy but I feel that it is premature for all discussion on this point to be closed down at this stage. Especially given that the majority of Synod members were willing to explore the embryonic proposals brought to the Synod by the two Archbishops relating to co-ordinate jurisdiction, it would seem strange if this or some other such proposal could not be further explored. Legitimate discussions about the extent and nature of mono-episcopacy should at least be left on the table for further discussion.
I support the fourth proposition although only on the basis that the two objectives set out in para 29 are implemented. A shorter and simpler measure is always to be preferred but it should not be at the expense of the second objective which provides the minority with a secure, accepted and valued place within the Church of England.
You have also asked for any initial comments on the spectrum of possibilities sketched out in paragraphs 37-50. It seems to be that these paragraphs seek to explore the tension within proposition 4 but also make one or two subtle changes. In particular I fear that the effect of paragraph 42 would be to close off certain discussions which might be beneficial for the church. I think the vote in November showed that in terms of content the spectrum of possibilities needs to be wider rather than closed down at a particular point.
Finally you asked for any other comments to be passed on to the working group or to the House of Bishops. One matter which I feel is of some significance and which has been raised repeatedly concerns the current membership of the House of Bishops. I totally understand why the House would wish to invite eight senior women priests to be in attendance. However the House will also recognise that this also amplifies the issue of the lack of representation of conservative evangelicals within it. This gives a very poor signal if the House is serious about the minority having a secure, accepted and valued place within the Church of England (para 29). Though of course this is beyond the remit of the Working Party, it is surely possible for the House of Bishops to seek to remedy this lack of representation. Again I recognise the enormous difficulties and frustrations of this process, yet as we all know it is vitally important that we do find greater consensus so that we can all move forward together.
With thanks once again for all the work that you have already done over recent weeks.
With very best wishes,
Yours sincerely in Christ,
As an example of these, the response from Reform chairman, Rod Thomas, can be viewed below.
To view the consultative document GS MISC 1042 see http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1665705/gs%20misc%201042%20-%20wie%20update.pdf
Response from Preb. Rod Thomas (Exeter 120) to GS Misc 1042
1 I very much support the constructive facilitated discussions that took place on 5th - 6th February. They indicated that there is every reason to believe that it is possible to construct a new approach to legislating for women bishops which makes secure provision for opponents. GS Misc 1042 suggests that a way forward might be found by a different combination of legal instruments. This seems potentially a positive way forward. That said, it is important to note that any new concepts that are central to making provision for those who dissent (eg. the concept of permission) must be assured - and therefore be contained in an instrument which makes them mandatory. One of the reasons the previous attempt at legislating failed was because of the varying ways in which provision might have been made in different dioceses. If Diocesan Bishops have discretion over whether or not to give permission for alternative bishops to exercise ministry for petitioning parishes, this problem will re-emerge.
The Purpose of Future Provision
2 In general terms, those who cannot accept the ministry of women bishops seek assurance that their ministries can prosper within the Church of England. To this end they look for a legislative package that:
General Comments on the Paper
3. GS Misc 1042 opens up the issue of the relationship between law and grace in the context of building trust between all parties. Law and grace are not necessarily opposed - the one underpins the other. Thus ‘trust' can be fostered by clear legal requirements (as is the case for PCCs and clergy where legal requirements underpin the relationships within local congregations) and encouraged by tangible action. One of the actions suggested at the facilitated discussions was the inclusion of women priests and conservative evangelicals in discussions of the House of Bishops. Since then, an announcement has been made about the inclusion of women priests; we hope that a similar gesture will be made for conservative evangelicals.
4. The paper says in para 14: ‘Many' ... (believe equality) ... ‘can best be achieved by placing the emphasis on trust rather than enforceable safeguards.' It is not clear that ‘many' do believe this. There has never been any vote in General Synod to lead us to this conclusion. Para 15 then contrasts those who do want to see basic legislative provision as ‘others.' Given the voting patterns in General Synod, particularly over the Archbishops' proposed amendments, there is arguably a ‘majority' in favour of a legislative framework that provides assurance.
5. The paper states in para 8 that ‘the outcome of that day (20th November) has left the Church of England in a profoundly unsatisfactory and unsustainable position.' I would agree with this analysis but would also want to reflect that the proposed legislation was itself profoundly unsatisfactory and unsustainable. There was a clear feeling - expressed many times in Synod - that provision for opponents would only be adequate if it met the needs of those for whom it was intended. The draft Measure failed and left us in this difficult situation because it did not make satisfactory provision.
6. The paper states in para10 that ‘the experience of listening to and engaging with those of differing convictions was essential if a solution that worked for the whole Church of England was to be identified and accepted.' I very much endorse this view. The discussions on 5th and 6th February were very helpful in enabling participants to engage differently with others' views. However, what became apparent on 20th November - and what has been apparent since - is that the engagement of the wider church with objections based on the biblical doctrine of male headship has been wholly inadequate. In part, this is reflected in the fact that the House of Bishops still has no member able to articulate the doctrine from a position of personal conviction.
7. The paper suggests in para 45 that no approach should be adopted which detracts from the fact that many want to welcome a decision to appoint women bishops with joy. I agree that a large number will want to welcome this development, but it is unlikely that the length of a piece of legislation making it possible will in any way diminish this. It needs to be remembered that there will be great joy at having achieved a way forward that keeps us united. There will be joy only for a minority if women bishops are introduced in a way that leaves opponents thoroughly marginalised.
Response to the Four Propositions
8. I would not want to resurrect a faulty and inadequate draft Measure.
9. I would agree that there is probably no point in returning to previously discussed ideas relating to the issue of jurisdiction in any new Measure. While at various times over the past few years there have been positive votes in favour of a limited transfer of jurisdiction it is difficult to see how returning to the same debates will take us forward. However, this is not the same as agreeing that we should not reopen questions around the position of the Diocesan Bishop. We are keen to see Diocesan Bishops stepping back from the exercise of their authority in order to create space for others to operate. This inevitably affects their ‘position'. It is possible to envisage ways of doing this which would avoid both a diminution in their authority as the Ordinary while at the same time also avoiding any suggestion that another bishop is acting in their name as a delegate. One possibility is a requirement that Diocesan Bishops should grant permission for others to operate - thus creating space for the exercise of their ministry without requiring that they be accountable to the Diocesan. It would, of course, be entirely possible also to require consultation in key areas affecting Diocesan finance, but this should not dilute any obligation on a Diocesan Bishop to grant permission in the first place.
10. I agree entirely with this proposition. Since one of our aims is ‘secure' provision, voting in such a way that the entire package is both on view and unalterable at the same time as final approval is given to a Measure is vital. It is also worth making the point at this stage that if legal instruments other than a Measure are part of the whole package (eg a canonical instrument), it is vital that the instruments themselves cannot be changed in the future except by a two thirds majority in each House.
11. As the paper hints, this is probably the most difficult, but also holds the most promise for a resolution of the dilemma the Church of England finds itself in. I am dismayed that the way this proposition is drafted seems to imply that no compromise should be required of those who want to see women bishops. If the House of Bishops holds to the view that ‘those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans' then such a refusal to compromise is very one-sided. The statement of the House of Bishops on 11th December 2012 specifically included this as one of the objectives for finding a new way forward and it is therefore very disappointing to see that it has been omitted in the statement of objectives in GS Misc 1042.
12. A shorter, simpler Measure could be a helpful way forward, provided that it contained a firm legal basis and obligation for other instruments to make fair provision for opponents of women bishops. If much of the detail of any new provision is to appear in a canonical instrument, then the Measure must require that to be the case and that it cannot be altered except by a two thirds majority of each House of Synod. This is both to safeguard the provision and also to ensure that Equality legislation cannot be used to nullify the detail of the provision.
21st February 2013]]>
Video 1: Why did you vote against the Women Bishops Measure as it stands?
Rod Thomas, Lorna Ashworth and Angus MacLeay - 4 mins, 46 secs
Video 2: Why do you believe what you believe about women bishops?
Rod Thomas, Angus MacLeay and Jane Patterson - 2 mins, 40 secs
Video 3: Is it sexist to vote against women bishops?
Susie Leafe - 1min, 12 secs
Video 4: How can we go forward as one Church united?
Rod Thomas - 44 secs
Video 5: The Women Bishops Measure, sex equality and Church unity
Rod Thomas, Lorna Ashworth, Angus MacLeay, Jane Patterson, Susie Leafe - 9 mins, 19 secs. This video contains the four videos above in one film.
Following the announcement of the formation of a House of Bishops Working Group on 19th December, Reform chairman Rod Thomas has written to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. The letter reaffirms Reform's commitment to the process of seeking a new way forward on women bishops legislation, but says that the membership of the working group leaves it feeling ‘apprehensive'.
Prebendary Rod Thomas said he was ‘nonplussed as to why the membership of the working group does not contain anybody who shares our convictions about male headship - despite the fact that this was a key concern underlying the vote on 20th November.
We very much wish to contribute to fresh proposals that will command broader agreement in the General Synod than was achieved last month. Achieving such an outcome depends on hearing clearly the needs of those who were both for and against the draft Measure. Our fear is that the constitution of the working group might make this more difficult. Nevertheless we will seek to contribute positively during the discussions that are planned for next February.'
NOTE TO EDITORS
Reform is an Anglican evangelical network which works for the promotion of the gospel. It believes the Church will be more effective in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ the more it follows the teaching of the Bible.
There are currently 1700 members of Reform, both lay and ordained.
To see the Church of England announcement of the working party, click here.]]>
Rod Thomas writes:
The Vote on the Women Bishops Measure
We knew that the vote on 20th November would be very close and we also knew that whatever the outcome, the mission of the Church would be damaged. However, before the vote, there were a couple of opportunities to state publicly that a vote for final approval of the Women Bishops Measure would be much more damaging for our unity in the long run than a vote against (see http://reform.org.uk/news/src/archive/11-2012/page/3). Through God's mercy, the more disastrous course has been avoided. We must now make every effort to help the Church of England find an agreed way forward that resolves the issue within the lifetime of the present General Synod.
There is a lot of speculation at the moment about what is likely to happen next, but in terms of process, we won't know until the House of Bishops has met on 10th - 11th December. Together with the Chair of the Catholic Group in General Synod, I have written to the two Archbishops as well as the Archbishop-designate and the General Secretary at Church House, to urge them to convene early talks with representatives of all the key groups involved in the debate in order to find a better way forward. We have said that there is no reason that fresh, agreed, proposals could not be put to the General Synod next July. The legislative process could then be fast-tracked to ensure that a new Measure is passed in 2014.
What Must We Do?
The voting result has left us not with less work to do, but more. We in Reform need to be actively engaged and focussed on the issue:
A Last Word
A number of conservative evangelical members of General Synod met together for prayer before the vote on 20th November and read 1 Peter 3. That chapter contains the wonderful challenge in vv 14-15 that is highly appropriate for us now:
‘"Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened." But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.'
A Biblical Basis for Male Headship
Key New Testament Texts
Some of the key texts are: 1 Corinthians 11:1-15; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:22-33; Philippians 4:2-3; 1 Timothy 1:11-15. It is from these that we derive the following conclusions:
Key Old Testament Texts
Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:19-24 teach absolute equality between male and female, but also the functional priority (although not superiority) of men: God's image is given to woman through man. This is a pre-Fall difference. Some of those who believe the Bible supports women in leadership say that differences between men and women are part of their sinful decline, not part of their original glory. Paul begs to differ.
Women in the Bible
Some advocates of women bishops quote parts of the Old Testament where particular women are in leadership roles, and parts of the New, where women have key roles. It is quite true that God raised up particular women in the Old Testament for particular times and purposes, but this never flowed through to the institutional arrangements in the priesthood. These remained male. In the New Testament, a number of women did indeed have a crucial role in the development of the early church: they hosted meetings in their homes; provided financial support; were active in evangelism, prophecy and prayer; and were co-workers with Paul. However, their ministries never included leadership of the local congregation. Nevertheless, it is clear that without the ministry of women, the church would never have developed in the first place.
The Reform web site has several helpful articles and videos on this issue - click here to view. In particular there is an article by David Holloway ‘A few thoughts on women bishops' and a question-and-answer format publication on ‘Why are there objections to women bishops'.]]>
EVANGELICALS IN LAST MINUTE PLEA TO BISHOPS TO MOBILISE CHURCH FOR MARRIAGE
The Council of Reform today urged the Church of England's House of Bishops not to concentrate exclusively upon discussing the issue of the Consecration of Women to the Episcopate when it meets next week, but to focus additionally on the much more pressing and significant issue of the threat to marriage.
Following a 24 hour meeting in Sheffield, the Council issued an urgent statement that said:
It is understood that Government proposals for a new law on so called "gay marriage" may be imminent and that the proposals may require consummation for a "gay marriage" to be legally valid. Everybody's marriage will be affected by the result. In law, marriage is a sexual relationship. Incapacity and wilful refusal to consummate a marriage are grounds for annulment, and adultery is one of the five facts which demonstrate irretrievable breakdown. Significantly, it appears that parliament will leave the crucial and delicate task of defining same-sex consummation to the judiciary. However, when consummation is redefined, marriage and marital breakdown are themselves redefined and accordingly the meaning of marriage will be fundamentally altered for all.
Critical as it is to resolve our current difficulties over women bishops, we urge the House of Bishops, during their meeting, additionally to do all that is required to implement immediately a strategy for the preservation of marriage as it has been traditionally understood throughout history and across cultures. We look to them to mobilise the Church in England and specifically the Church of England to defend marriage.
The first priority must be for the Archbishops to invite the leaders of all Christian denominations in this country to ask the millions of Christians in this country to join together in a national day of prayer.
The Council had a fruitful discussion about options for resolving the dilemma over women bishops and continue to pray for a successful outcome to discussions in the New Year.
NOTE TO EDITORS
Reform is a network of evangelical clergy and laity within the Church of England.
The Church of England's House of Bishops meets next Monday and Tuesday.]]>
Women Bishops - The Way Ahead
The Chairmen of the Catholic Group in General Synod and the conservative Evangelical group Reform, who called for talks to break the deadlock over legislation to enable the consecration of women as bishops, have received acknowledgement of their request from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
Canon Simon Killwick (Catholic Group) and Prebendary Rod Thomas (Reform) have today further pledged themselves to do everything they can to ensure the speedy and safe passage of fresh legislation through the General Synod.
They said, "If agreement can be reached at round-table talks on fresh legislation which provides clearly and fairly for all members of the Church of England, there is no reason why fresh legislation should not be fast-tracked through the Synod before the next elections in 2015."
The Synod's Standing Orders only prevent the reconsideration of the same legislation during this period.
"It has never been our intention to prevent the consecration of women as bishops; our concern has always been for legislation which also made clear and fair provision for the substantial minority," the Chairmen concluded.
The legislation which failed last week in the Synod would have had devastating consequences for the diversity and mission of the Church of England, had it been passed. We want the Church of England to continue to be a broad and comprehensive national Church.
Canon Simon Killwick
Prebendary Rod Thomas
(Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod) (Chairman of Reform)
28th November 2012
Issued by Martin Dales on behalf of the Chairmen of both groups]]>
We thank God that the Church of England has avoided making a big mistake which would have led to real division and a less inclusive Church. The synod's decision shows respect for the issues of conscience involved. It has avoided putting significant minorities who, as faithful Anglicans, seek to follow the Bible's teaching, into an impossible position.
We now have a real opportunity to build on the Church's solid biblical foundations, reflecting together on the right way forward. The good news is that we are still together and able to witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ, which is the heart of our gospel, the basis of our unity, and the only hope for the future of church and nation.
We stand ready for any discussions that our future archbishop may wish to initiate and happily commit ourselves to approaching these positively. Our hearts go out to those who will now be disappointed and confused about the difficult position in which the Church of England now finds itself. We assure them of our prayers. We recognise there is now a need for everyone to take stock while working together to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God as Advent approaches.
Rev Rod Thomas
Chair of Reform]]>
The Revd Canon Simon Killwick, Diocese of Manchester
Chairman, Catholic Group in General Synod
and 325 others:
The Revd Stuart Allen, Diocese of Coventry
The Revd Michael Andreyev, Diocese of Derby
The Revd Nigel Atkinson, Diocese of Chester
The Revd Andrew Hartropp, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd Peter Ackroyd, Diocese of St Albans
The Revd Peter Anthony, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd Ben Archibald, Diocese of Peterborough
The Revd Canon Dr Gavin Ashenden, Diocese of Winchester
The Revd David Atallah, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Simon Austen, Diocese of Carlisle
The Venerable George Austin, Diocese of St Albans
The Revd Martin Bailey, Diocese of St Albans
The Revd Iain Baker, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd David Banting, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd Neil Barber, Diocese of Derby
The Revd Philip Barnes, Diocese of London
The Revd David Barnsley, Diocese of Derby
The Revd Michael Bartlett, Diocese of Worcester
The Revd Dane Batley-Gladden, Diocese of London
The Revd Brian Bell, Diocese of Wakefield
The Revd Paul Benfield, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Ian Bentley, Diocese of Winchester
The Revd Jonathan Beswick, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd John Birchall, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Michael Blackman, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Tudor Boddam-Whetham, Diocese of Carlisle
The Revd Ian Booth, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd David Bourne, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Dexter Bracey, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Matthew Brailsford, Diocese of York
The Revd Andy Brewerton, Diocese of Sheffield
The Revd Robert Brewis, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Ian Brooks, Diocese of Liverpool
The Revd Iain Broomfield, Diocese of Rochester
The Venerable Michael Brotherton, Diocese of London
The Revd Paul Bryce, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd James Buchanan, Diocese of London
The Revd Dr Terry Buckingham, Diocese of Bradford
The Revd Canon Allan Buik, Diocese of Rochester
The Revd Mark Burkill, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd Tim Burrell, Diocese of Ripon & Leeds
The Revd Graham Burrows, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Andrew Burton, Diocese of St Albans
The Revd Reg Bushau, Diocese of London
The Revd William Butt, Diocese of Derby
The Revd Paul Bye, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Andy Byfield, Diocese of Peterborough
The Revd Mike Cain, Diocese of Bristol
The Revd Philip Calvert, Diocese of Birmingham
The Revd Ken Campbell, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Leon Carberry, Diocese of Rochester
The Revd Charles Card-Reynolds, Diocese of London
The Revd Paul Cartwright, Diocese of Wakefield
The Revd Victor Cassam, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd John Caster, Diocese of Rochester
The Revd Philip Chadder, Diocese of St Albans
The Revd Carl M Chambers, Diocese of Chichester
The Venerable Ian Chandler, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Tim Chapman, Diocese of Ely
The Revd Jim Charles, Diocese of Canterbury
The Revd Godfrey Kiprotich (Kip) Chelashaw, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd Simon Clark, Diocese of London
The Revd Dr Terry Clark, Diocese of Manchester
The Revd Philip J Coekin, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Richard Coekin, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Prebendary Ian Cook, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd Canon Stephen Cope, Diocese of York
The Revd Philip Corbett, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd David Craven, Diocese of Carlisle
The Revd Tim Crook, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd George Crowder, Diocese of Chester
The Revd Greg Cushing, Diocese of Ely
The Revd Daniel Howard, Diocese of Chester
The Revd Paul Darlington, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd Alan Davies, Diocese of Ely
The Revd Tim Davies, Diocese of Sheffield
The Revd Paul Dawson, Diocese of London
The Revd Andrew Dawswell, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd Nicholas Deane, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd John Dewar, Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham
The Revd Steve Donald, Diocese of Carlisle
The Revd Simon Dowdy, Diocese of London
The Revd Raphael Duckett, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd James Dudley-Smith, Diocese of Bath & Wells
The Revd Canon Kit Dunkley, Diocese of Coventry
The Revd William Eardley, Diocese of Derby
The Revd Robin Eastoe, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Gary Ecclestone, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd Stephen Edmonds, Diocese of Sheffield
The Revd Nigel Elliott, Diocese of Sheffield
The Revd Christopher Epps, Diocese of Truro
The Revd Richard J Espin-Bradley, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd Rupert Evans, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Christopher J C Evans, Diocese of Manchester
The Revd Robert Farmer, Diocese of Peterborough
The Revd Dick Farr, Diocese of Rochester
The Revd Ron Farrell, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd Robert Fayers, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Damian Feeney, Diocese of Oxford
The Rev'd Andy Fenton, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Joe Fielder, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Geoffrey Firth, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd Michael Fish, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd Jonathan Fletcher, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Tony Ford, Diocese of Manchester
The Revd Jonathan Frais, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Karl Freeman, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Jonathan Frith, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Peter Froggatt, Diocese of Chester
The Revd Matt Fuller, Diocese of London
The Revd Dr Adrian Furse, Diocese of Leicester
The Revd Simon Gales, Diocese of Chester
The Revd Canon Stephen Gallagher, Diocese of Norwich
The Revd Francis Gardom, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Ian Garrett, Diocese of Newcastle
The Revd David Gibb, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Mark Gilbert, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Ian Gilmour, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Nick Gowers, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Andy Greenhough, Diocese of Chester
The Revd Stephen Griffiths, Diocese of Carlisle
The Revd Canon Michael Gudgeon, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Stuart Halstead, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd John Hamilton, Diocese of Winchester
The Revd W Graham Hamilton, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Steven Hanna, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd Tim Hanson, Diocese of Chester
The Revd Canon Geoffrey Harbord, Diocese of Sheffield
The Revd Christopher Hardy, Diocese of London
The Revd Canon Jeremy Haselock, Diocese of Norwich
The Revd Canon Andy Hawes, Diocese of Lincoln
The Revd Canon Clive Hawkins, Diocese of Winchester
The Revd David Hawthorn, Diocese of Manchester
The Revd Neil Hibbins, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd Owen Higgs, Diocese of Rochester
The Revd David Hildred, Diocese of Sheffield
The Revd John Hilton, Diocese of Ripon & Leeds
The Revd Nick Hiscocks, Diocese of Salisbury
The Revd Martin Hislop, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Chris Hobbs, Diocese of Birmingham
The Revd Alan Hogarth, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd David Holloway, Diocese of Newcastle
The Revd Martin Howse, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd Richard Hoyal, Diocese of Bristol
The Revd Peter Hudson, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Luke Irvine-Capel, Diocese of London
The Revd Pete Jackson, Diocese of Sheffield
The Revd Charles Jefferson, Diocese of Peterborough
The Revd Clive Jones, Diocese of Rochester
The Revd Gareth Jones, Diocese of Ripon & Leeds
The Revd Glynn Jones, Diocese of Carlisle
The Revd Mark Jones, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Dr Trevor Jones , Diocese of London
The Revd Jonathan Juckes, Diocese of York
The Revd Christian Keane, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Andrew Kearns, Diocese of Rochester
The Revd Prebendary Michael Kinna, Diocese of Hereford
The Revd Clay Knowles, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Dr Andrew Latimer, Diocese of London
The Revd Julian Laurence, Diocese of Bath & Wells
The Revd David Lawson, Diocese of Coventry
The Venerable Michael Lawson, Diocese of London
The Revd Brian Lay, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Richard Leadbeater, Diocese of Birmingham
The Revd David Leaf, Diocese of Manchester
The Revd James Leggett, Diocese of Portsmouth
The Revd Andy Lines, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Marc Lloyd, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Dr Peter Long, Diocese of Truro
The Revd Mark Lucas, Diocese of Peterborough
The Revd John Luff, Diocese of Winchester
The Revd John Lyon, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Rupert Mackay, Diocese of London
The Revd Angus MacLeay, Diocese of Rochester
The Revd Mark Madeley, Diocese of Bristol
The Revd Julian Mann, Diocese of Sheffield
The Revd Dr Tony Marks, Diocese of York
The Revd Bob Marsden, Diocese of Derby
The Revd Canon Rodney Marshall, Diocese of Wakefield
The Revd Richard Marshall, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Edward Martin, Diocese of Lincoln
The Revd John Martin, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd Stephen Masters, Diocese of Winchester
The Revd James Mather, Diocese of Ely
The Revd Peter Matthew, Diocese of Guildford
The Revd Fr Aidan Mayoss CR, Diocese of Wakefield
The Revd Ian McCormack, Diocese of Wakefield
The Revd Canon Peter McCrory, Diocese of Norwich
The Revd Peter McEvitt, Diocese of Manchester
The Revd Terry McFadden, Diocese of Liverpool
The Rev'd Dan McGowan, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Alistair McHaffie, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Canon Robert McTeer, Diocese of Durham
The Revd Dafydd Meirion-Jones, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Suresh Menon, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd Mark Mesley, Diocese of Truro
The Revd Canon Arthur Middleton, Diocese of Durham
The Revd David Middleton, Diocese of Sheffield
The Revd Stephen Midgley, Diocese of Ely
The Revd John Miller, Diocese of Bath & Wells
The Revd Jonathan Milton-Thompson, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Andrew Mitcham, Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich
The Revd Rohinton Mody, Diocese of Winchester
The Revd Prebendary Hugh Moore, Diocese of London
The Revd Michael Morris, Diocese of Canterbury
The Revd Simon Morris, Diocese of London
The Revd Shaun Morris, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd Peter Moss, Diocese of Salisbury
The Revd Justin Mote, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd James Mowbray, Diocese of Rochester
The Revd Dr Rob Munro, Diocese of Chester
The Revd Canon Lawson Nagel, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd James D G Nash, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Canon Geoffrey Neal, Diocese of St Albans
The Revd Martyn Neale, Diocese of Guildford
The Revd Peter Needham, Diocese of Wakefield
The Revd Gordon Newton, Diocese of Ripon & Leeds
The Revd Stephen Nichols, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Paul Noble, Diocese of Lincoln
The Revd Marcus Nodder, Diocese of London
The Revd Mark North, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd Ross Northing, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd Kevin Northover, Diocese of Winchester
The Revd Michael Oades, Diocese of Truro
The Revd James Oakley, Diocese of Rochester
The Revd Canon Philip O'Reilly, Diocese of Leicester
The Revd James Paice, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Alasdair Paine, Diocese of Ely
The Revd Phil Parker, Diocese of Guildford
The Revd Prebendary Clive Pearce, Diocese of London
The Revd Fergus Pearson, Diocese of Carlisle
The Revd Paul Perkin, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Richard Perkins, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Malcolm Peters, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd Andrei Petrine, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd David Phillips, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Ben Phillips, Diocese of Carlisle
The Revd Prebendary Sam Philpott, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Al Pickering, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Mark Pickles, Diocese of Derby
The Revd James Poole, Diocese of Ely
The Revd Martin Poolton, Diocese of Winchester
The Revd Stephen Pratt, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd Frank Price, Diocese of Ely
The Revd Greg Prior, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Jonathan Pryke, Diocese of Newcastle
The Revd Alan Purser, Diocese of London
The Revd Adam Pymble, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Stephen Rae, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Andrew Raynes, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Charles Razzall, Diocese of Chester
The Revd Martin Reakes-William, Diocese of Europe
The Revd Mike Reith, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd John Richardson, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd Vaughan Roberts, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd John Roberts, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Francis Rodriguez-Veglio, Diocese of Peterborough
The Revd Daniel Roe, Diocese of York
The Revd Canon Andrew Sage, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Dr Andy Saville, Diocese of London
The Revd Simon Sayer, Diocese of Manchester
The Revd Carl Schaefer, Diocese of Sheffield
The Revd Simon Scott, Diocese of Ely
The Revd Stephen Seamer, Diocese of Europe
The Revd Dr Jeremy Sheehy, Diocese of Manchester
The Revd Rupert Shelley, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd John Shepherd, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd David Sherratt, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd David Sherwood, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd John Simmons, Diocese of Manchester
The Revd Mark Simpson, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Simon Smallwood, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd Darren Smith, Diocese of Birmingham
The Revd Kevin Smith, Diocese of Durham
The Revd Christopher Smith, Diocese of London
The Revd Mike Smith, Diocese of Chester
The Revd Nicolas Spicer, Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham
The Revd Chris Spinks, Diocese of Chichester
The Revd Russell Stagg, Diocese of London
The Revd John Stather, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd Andrew Stevens, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Jeffrey Stokoe, Diocese of Sheffield
The Revd Reginald Stretton, Diocese of Leicester
The Revd Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd Clifford Swartz, Diocese of Carlisle
The Revd Simon Talbot, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd William Taylor, Diocese of London
The Revd James Terry, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Melvin Tinker, Diocese of York
The Revd Peter Tizzard, Diocese of Canterbury
The Revd Alistair Tresidder, Diocese of London
The Revd Stephen Trott, Diocese of Peterborough
The Revd Prebendary Brian Tubbs, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd Canon Nicholas Turner, Diocese of Bradford
The Revd Philip Venables, Diocese of Chester
The Revd Gary Waddington, Diocese of Ripon & Leeds
The Revd Simon Walker, Diocese of Carlisle
The Revd Stephen Walton, Diocese of Chester
The Revd Canon Dr Robin Ward, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd Philip Warner, Diocese of London
The Revd Gordon Warren, Diocese of London
The Revd Dr Stephen Watkinson, Diocese of Blackburn
The Revd Tom Watts, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd Andrew Waude, Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham
The Revd Dominic Webb, Diocese of Chelmsford
The Revd Robin Weekes, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Nicholas Weir, Diocese of Winchester
The Revd Nick Weldon, Diocese of Exeter
The Revd David Whitehouse, Diocese of Liverpool
The Revd Mark Whiting, Diocese of Portsmouth
The Revd Peter Wilkinson, Diocese of Oxford
The Revd Paul Williams, Diocese of Sheffield
The Revd Prebendary David Wills, Diocese of Truro
The Revd Stephen Wilson, Diocese of Canterbury
The Revd Bill Wilson, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Roger Woods, Diocese of Lichfield
The Revd Stephen Wookey, Diocese of Gloucester
The Revd Ian Wright, Diocese of Ripon & Leeds
The Revd Nick Wynne-Jones, Diocese of Rochester
The Revd Iain Young, Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Martin Young, Diocese of Norwich
The Revd Daniel Young, Diocese of Chester]]>
Rod Thomas, the chairman of Reform, an evangelical body within the Church of England, today welcomed the announcement that the new Archbishop of Canterbury is to be the Rt Rev'd Justin Welby. Prebendary Rod Thomas has written to Bishop Justin congratulating him on behalf of the whole Council of Reform.
"Bishop Justin's appointment will open a new and encouraging chapter for the Church of England's gospel ministry," Rod Thomas said.
"Bishop Justin is an enthusiast for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and we look forward to the way in which he will embrace the opportunities he will now have for communicating that. He also has great credibility as a mediator and a friend of Africa, so we will be praying that as a result he is able to heal some of the rifts that have opened up in the Anglican Communion over the issue of sexuality.
Bishop Justin's appointment comes at a time when the Church of England finds itself divided over the issue of women bishops. The vote later this month could well fail to provide a sufficient majority for the draft Measure on Women Bishops. We hope that the new Archbishop will be able to promote a more realistic dialogue between all those involved, so that an agreed way forward is found."
The Reform Council has assured Bishop Justin of their prayers as he prepares for his new role.
Note to Editors
Reform is a network of evangelicals within the Church of England. It has some 1500 members, a third of which are clergy. Its Council consists of clergy and lay members.
Prebendary Rod Thomas has been chairman of Reform since 2007. He is the vicar of St Matthew's Church in Plymouth and is a member of the General Synod.]]>
This web site has been set up to provide articles, links and information that will be helpful in demonstrating that the Women Bishops Measure, to be debated on November 20th, is not fit for purpose.]]>
As the Church of England's General Synod prepares for an historic vote on women bishops later this month, a new booklet, sent to all Synod members this weekend, warns that the draft legislation is ‘fatally flawed.'
The booklet, entitled ‘Not fit for purpose', has been published by the chairs of the Catholic Group in General Synod - Canon Simon Killwick - and of Reform - Prebendary Rod Thomas. It says the legislation is fatally flawed because:
Elsewhere, the booklet says the draft legislation does not reflect what the Bible teaches about the equality of men and women and how differences between them are to be reflected in their church roles.
In a letter to all Synod members, the two chairmen say that if General Synod approves the draft Women Bishops Measure, so far from bringing the current controversy to an end, approval would only exacerbate it and lead to growing disunity. ‘The damage done by passing the Measure will be much greater than any temporary discomfort caused by delaying,' say the two.
The two chairs pledge that if Synod declines to approve the draft Measure, they will commit themselves to seeking agreement about a better way forward.
Note for Editors
The Catholic Group on General Synod exists to witness to the Catholic nature of the Church of England, and to wider Catholic unity.
Reform is a network of evangelicals within the Church of England committed to the evangelisation of the nation and adherence to the Word of God as revealed in the Bible.]]>
As the Church of England's General Synod prepares for an historic vote on women bishops later this month, a new booklet, sent to all Synod members this weekend, warns that the draft legislation is ‘fatally flawed.'
The booklet, entitled ‘Not fit for purpose', has been published by the chairs of the Catholic Group in General Synod - Canon Simon Killwick - and of Reform - Prebendary Rod Thomas. It says the legislation is fatally flawed because:
Elsewhere, the booklet says the draft legislation does not reflect what the Bible teaches about the equality of men and women and how differences between them are to be reflected in their church roles.
In a letter to all Synod members, the two chairmen say that if General Synod approves the draft Women Bishops Measure, so far from bringing the current controversy to an end, approval would only exacerbate it and lead to growing disunity. ‘The damage done by passing the Measure will be much greater than any temporary discomfort caused by delaying,' say the two.
The two chairs pledge that if Synod declines to approve the draft Measure, they will commit themselves to seeking agreement about a better way forward.
Note for Editors
The Catholic Group on General Synod exists to witness to the Catholic nature of the Church of England, and to wider Catholic unity.
Reform is a network of evangelicals within the Church of England committed to the evangelisation of the nation and adherence to the Word of God as revealed in the Bible.]]>
Click here to view the letter.]]>
A crisis moment for conservative evangelical ministry in the Church of England
We face a crisis as a result of the forthcoming vote on the draft Women Bishops Measure. While it is true that the draft Measure does require diocesan bishops to set up schemes to provide for episcopal ministry to be delegated to serving male bishops, the specifics of how they are to do it are all left to a future Code of Practice and the goodwill of dioceses. In the last few months, the inadequacy of this has become clear as our opponents have revealed more and more of their thinking:
There is no doubt that if the draft Measure becomes law, groups of people will be actively campaigning over the next few years to make any Code as weak as possible and our position increasingly difficult to sustain. Exactly the same type of arguments are then likely to be mounted to introduce acceptance of same-sex blessings and consecrations.
We have no option but to oppose the draft Measure outright.
At September's Reform Conference two resolutions were passed. These read:
1. Same-Sex Marriage
This conference, recalling that Her Majesty the Queen vowed at her coronation to ‘maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the gospel' and that her Government therefore has a duty to put this into effect:
i) Affirms that marriage is a creation ordinance and a gift of God for the good of all. It cannot be redefined to include same-sex couples nor subjected to a distinction between ‘marriage' and ‘christian marriage'.
ii) Calls on members of Reform to maintain pressure on Ministers, MPs and Peers to uphold marriage and resist proposals for same-sex marriage.
2. Women Bishops
This conference believes the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure represents a step in an unbiblical and therefore wrong direction for the Church of England. Its provision is entirely inadequate for those who believe the Bible's teaching of male headship in the family and the church. Recent amendments by the House of Bishops will make no material difference. It therefore urges the Reform Council to continue to campaign vigorously against the Draft Measure and calls on General Synod members to vote against it in November 2012.
We will be opposing the draft Measure jointly with Anglo-Catholic members of the General Synod. We will be issuing joint briefings and seeking to help our allies on the General Synod to hold firm in the face of considerable pressure to ‘abstain'.
Some Further Points
Lessons from America, by Martyn Minns
Culture in Crisis: secularism, secularisation, and society, by Melvin Tinker
The St Antholin Lecture. Gospel Trials in 1662: to stay or to go. Peter Adam shows the relevance of the events of 1662 for our own day. The extended text of the lecture can be found in the Latimer booklet - Latimer Press.
Bible talk from Jude. Mike Smith expounds Jude and emphasises the importance of contending with compassion.
Bible talk from Jeremiah 7. Angus MacLeay identifies the relevance of the issues that Jeremiah addresses and the importance of his message]]>
Speaking at the conference Reform chairman, Rev'd Rod Thomas, a member of the General Synod House of Clergy, said: "After all the tweaking and tinkering with amendments we have sadly been left with a draft Measure which in the long term is likely to have very detrimental effects on our ministries, however benign it may appear in its first few years.
"We are therefore going to oppose this measure and urge those who want to see a strong evangelical presence continuing in the Church of England to join us in doing so."
Reform members voted unanimously on two resolutions put to the conference, as follows:
1. Same-Sex Marriage
This conference, recalling that Her Majesty the Queen vowed at her coronation to ‘maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the gospel' and that her Government therefore has a duty to put this into effect:
2. Women Bishops
This conference believes the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure represents a step in an unbiblical and therefore wrong direction for the Church of England. Its provision is entirely inadequate for those who believe the Bible's teaching of male headship in the family and the church. Recent amendments by the House of Bishops will make no material difference. It therefore urges the Reform Council to continue to campaign vigorously against the Draft Measure and calls on General Synod members to vote against it in November 2012.
Rev'd Rod Thomas, Reform chairman, said today: "We are deeply disappointed that Clause 5 (1) c has been weakened to the point where any additional provision it may have offered for conservative evangelicals has been removed. We will consult and carefully consider our next step at our national conference next week."]]>
Mordecai's rousing challenge to Esther (Esther 4v14) to use her position of responsibility for the sake of the salvation of others but at great personal risk resounds for us today. How can we best use the positions God has given us to help meet the very real challenges of our time? This year's Reform conference gives us an opportunity to take counsel on the best way ahead following the General Synod's decision on women bishops in July and the ongoing debate both within and outside the church on human sexuality. Contributors include Jonathan Fletcher and Melvin Tinker, and from the USA, Bishop Martyn Minns, while Peter Adam will give a historical perspective on lessons we can learn from the ‘Great Ejection' of 1662. It has never been more important for Reform members to consult over how best to work together for the evangelization of this country - I hope to see you there.
Rev'd Rod Thomas, Chairman
To book online now click here.
For more details use following links:
Details of presentations and speakers
Cost and Accommodation
Postal Booking Form
High Leigh Conference Centre]]>
RESPONSE BY REFORM TO SECRETARY GENERAL ON GS MISC 1033
In GS Misc 1033, you sought views on Clause 5(1)c of the draft Women Bishops Measure prior to the formulation of proposals for the September meeting of the House of Bishops. My purpose in writing is to let you know how members of the Reform network have responded to your request and to the situation in which the General Synod now finds itself.
As you will know, conservative evangelicals have always been assured that their theological outlook relating to male headship in both church and family life will have a respected position. We have argued that to achieve this, any legislation for women bishops should introduce appropriate safeguards - and these should be mainly on the face of the Measure, rather than in a Code of Practice. The latter should be seen as elucidating the basic provision of legislation.
To this end, we have sought over the years to put the case for legislative provision which would achieve four safeguards:
The Options in GS Misc 1033 *
It will, I hope, be apparent from what I have said above that any diminution in the effect of Clause 5(1)c would further undermine our confidence in the draft Measure. Thus while we appreciate all the work that has been done in formulating the options in GS Misc 1033, we cannot support options 2-7 as they stand. Each would materially undermine what little Clause 5(1)c originally gave.
Option 2 would be wholly out of keeping with the effort the House of Bishops has made to make the protective provision for traditional evangelicals and catholics more acceptable to them.
Option 3 would remove from Clause 5(1)c a key element that is of significance to evangelicals - namely an implication that bishops who believe in male headship will continue to serve within the Church of England. The phrase ‘consistent with' implies that some ‘Scheme' bishops will need to share the theological outlook of petitioning parishes. The suggested alternatives - ‘respect' or ‘take account of' - have no such implication. Furthermore, by prefacing the clause with the words ‘the manner in which', the impact of the clause moves from ‘outcome' to ‘process' in a way which will have widely varying and uncertain results.
Option 4 not only removes the implication that serving conservative evangelical bishops will be available, but also deletes all reference to theological conviction. This means that the process of selection will be open to accusations of sex discrimination and that the theological convictions underpinning the letters of request will not be properly recognized.
Option 5 has attractions because it envisages dialogue, but ultimately cannot be supported because it will give rise to varying outcomes across dioceses and fails to rely on the appointment of any conservative evangelical bishops.
Option 6 introduces the interesting possibility of substituting the ‘position' of the PCC for the term ‘theological conviction'. This would, in practice, appear to provide for the same possibilities as does the current Clause 5(1)c - but would only do so if the words ‘consistent with' were re-introduced. Just to ‘respect' or ‘take account of' a PCC position adds virtually nothing to the original legislation. As it stands, therefore, we cannot support option 6.
Option 7 suggests that all it does is to add mention of a process to option 6. In fact it completely removes the potential significance of option 6 by substituting a process for an outcome. It therefore significantly diminishes the effect of the Clause and would lead to varying outcomes between dioceses.
Having opposed options 2-7 as they stand, we do nevertheless appreciate that the House of Bishops may wish to introduce changes to Clause 5(1)c in order to address some of the concerns voiced at the General Synod last July. We therefore welcome the proposal that has been made by Clive Scowen for retaining Clause 5(1)c but refining the reference to theological conviction and removing the words ‘ as to the consecration and ordination of women' are removed. As an alternative, an amended option 6, including the words ‘consistent with' might be appropriate.
Finally, I would like to put on record my gratitude to the House for the work it has done in seeking to address the many concerns that have been expressed over the draft Measure. Reform members met nationally for prayer last June and we will continue to hold you and all the members of the House in our prayers over the next few weeks.
Rev'd Preb Rod Thomas
* For the background to the options follow this link to the Church of England web site.]]>
It is reported today that the Prime Minister David Cameron has compared the advance of the cause of gay marriage within the Conservative party to the same cause within the Church of England, saying that opponents of the redefinition of marriage within the church are "locking out people who are gay, or are bisexual or are transgender from being full members of that Church."
In response, the Rev'd Rod Thomas, the Chairman of Reform, the conservative evangelical network within the Church of England, said: "it is very regrettable that the Prime Minister has spoken in such terms. To suggest that the church is ‘locking out' any section in the community is a misinterpretation of the church's position.
"As Christians we advocate and show pastoral care and love to all in the community, following Christ's command to love our neighbour as ourselves. However the church's mission is to bring God's word to God's world. God designed marriage to be the union of one man and one woman, reflecting the union of Christ as bridegroom and his church his bride. That purpose will never change.
"God is not a person with whom even UK prime ministers can negotiate a more congenial set of commands.
"We utterly deny that by supporting the Biblical definition of marriage anyone is being ‘locked out' from meeting God through Jesus Christ and experiencing his transforming love."
Further information contact the Reform media officer:
Rev'd Paul Dawson, tel 07791 495824
Petitioning is a bit of a bore really, and perhaps more so when it concerns theological propositions. If the gospel were to be decided by petition it would undoubtedly be wrong.
Nevertheless, when an organization like WATCH puts up a petition to remove the House of Bishop's very modest amendment to the women bishops legislation, and when that House seems potentially vulnerable to pressure, it probably doesn't hurt to provide a bit of 'ballast' the other way.
Hence, entirely on my own initiative, I have put a petition online to 'Keep Clause 5 (1) c'.
To sign to the petition follow this link.]]>
There follows a guide to what has taken place over the last month at General Synod, amongst other things.
Rod Thomas writes:
What is being proposed on women bishops?
The draft Measure repeals the legislation introduced in 1993 which permitted the ordination of women and itself provides for their ordination as priests as well as for their consecration as bishops. It makes provision for opponents of women bishops by enabling parishes to present "letters of request" to their diocesan bishops stating that on grounds of theological conviction they request episcopal ministry and pastoral care to be provided by a male bishop. They can further request that only a male priest be appointed as incumbent or priest in charge.
Diocesan bishops are required to set up schemes to delegate this special episcopal ministry to a serving male bishop. In doing so they must "have regard" to a Code of Practice. The draft Code of Practice has not yet been published, but an "illustrative" text says that Scheme Bishops should have a full role in making appointments to the parishes for which they provide ministry, but not in decisions about selection for training. It does, however, provide for non-discrimination in such decisions.
What has caused the present delay?
At its meeting in York earlier this month, the General Synod decided to adjourn the vote on final approval to allow the House of Bishops an opportunity to revise an amendment it had introduced at the last minute. The amendment in question required that the Code of Practice should cover:
"the selection of male bishops or male priests the exercise of ministry by whom is consistent with the theological convictions as to the consecration and ordination of women on grounds of which parochial church councils have issued Letters of Request under section 3". clause 5(1)c
The amendment had been introduced to try to provide some reassurance that conservative evangelical and traditional catholic bishops would be appointed in the future. However, the lobby group WATCH felt that it permanently enshrined in law the idea that there was something wrong with women bishops.
The General Synod, very much guided by the Archbishop of Canterbury, decided to adjourn a final decision to enable a revision to take place. It was felt that without such a revision, the necessary majorities required for final approval might not be achieved. On the one hand opponents of the Measure (such as us) still intended to vote against the Measure because of its heavy reliance on a Code of Practice. On the other hand, some supporters of women bishops felt that the House of Bishops had given too much away in its new amendment and that as a result they might have to vote against the draft Measure alongside us.
We have always felt that a Code of Practice provides an insecure basis for going forward, since dioceses will not necessarily do what the Code says (they only have to take it into account); furthermore, a Code can be changed at any time by the General Synod and all it would require for that to happen would be a majority vote - not the two thirds majority in each House that legislation requires.
What happens next?
The House of Bishops will be meeting in mid-September to agree changes to its amendment and then the draft Measure will go to a specially convened meeting of the General Synod in the third week of November. In preparation for these events, I am keeping in close touch with other members of General Synod who are keen to make suggestions to the House of Bishops for revisions that will be helpful to us, and I am also liaising closely with leaders of the Catholic group in General Synod. We will be seeking to work together in order to oppose the draft Measure when it finally comes to the General Synod next November.
The House of Bishops has set up a working group under the chairmanship of Sir Joseph Pilling to examine the outcome of the "listening process" on matters of human sexuality - first started at the 1998 Lambeth Conference. The terms of reference of this group are wide-ranging and its recommendations could set the course the Church follows for the next decade or more.
This exercise is being undertaken against the background of some reasonably firm statements by the Church of England. The formal response to the Government's consultations on same-sex marriage was very clear in opposing the various proposals. However, we are very conscious of the considerable pressures being applied both to and within the House of Bishops to liberalise the Church's position on matters of sexuality. We must, therefore, take nothing for granted.
Our written evidence to Sir Joseph Pilling was put together by Simon Vibert, the acting principal of Wycliffe Hall. A copy of this can be viewed on the Reform website. This was followed up on 4th July by a team of Reform members giving oral evidence to the working group in London. Members of the team were Simon Vibert (author), Rod Thomas (Chairman), David Banting (former Chairman) and Mark Burkill (member of Council). The thrust of our evidence was to say that the listening process was no longer neutral. Where the Bible was clear, we needed to obey it faithfully rather than to engage in argument, although there was a continuing need to respond sensitively in terms of pastoral care. "Listening" was a discipline required of all Christians all the time, but as a process it had become a means for seeking to undermine the Church's doctrinal position. We also argued strongly against any liturgical innovations to celebrate gay unions.
A report will now be made to the House of Bishops by the Working Group and no doubt something will be presented to the General Synod in due course. Please continue to pray that the Church's biblical witness in this area would be preserved.
Reform National Conference
More details can now be added to the original programme outline. Mike Smith and Angus MacLeay are giving the Bible readings. Presentations on ‘The Way Forward' are by Simon Austen and Richard Coekin. The seminar for ordinands will be led by Mark Burkill, Alistair Tresidder, Jonathan Fletcher; the seminar for curates by Paul Dawson and James Nash; Jonathan Berry from the True Freedom Trust will speak about welcoming those with same-sex attraction in our churches; John Simmons and Jonathan Pryke will lead on Common Tenure and its implications; David Banting and Paul Perkin on what impaired communion looks like; and Carrie Sandom will lead a seminar for women which reflects on and discusses a vision for women's ministry in gospel hearted churches.
Two Excellent Books on Complementarianism
Different By Design- by Carrie Sandom.Carrie's book provides a Bible overview of how men and women are ‘different by design' so that they complement one another in the family and in the Church. (There is also a very helpful chapter on gender roles in the workplace). Carrie makes the case for ‘complementarianism' being a way of modelling the gospel. It should be attractive to those who observe it. She is also clear on the alternatives and how unattractive a liberal or ultra-conservative position on gender roles can be. The book covers topics such as: equality of status and diversity of role; unity and diversity within the Trinity; what rebelling against God's design looks like; Jesus - the true man; the perspective of eternity; God's priorities in the Church and in the family. The book has a strong Bible content; it is strong on illustrations and application; it comes out of a long and varied ministry experience.
God's Good Design - by Claire Smith. Claire tackles the often perceived 'too hard' passages in the Bible about the identity and roles of men and women. She is convincing in her conclusion that the creation of men and women as opposite sexes is exactly God's good design. She clearly addresses the controversial issues in 1 Tim. 2; 1 Cor. 11, 14; Eph. 5; 1 Pet. 3; Gen. 1-3 and Proverbs 31. The book concentrates on the biblical texts and goes into significant depth without shying away from controversies over certain concepts or words, such as, 'submission' or the authority of men in the church and the family. This book helps us to sharpen our tools in response to the multitude of arguments against God's good design for men and women. It could be a good book to read through one-to-one, in a reading group, or a bible study group. Claire is an experienced writer and Bible teacher and this book is a compilation of her talks she gave at women's conventions. However, this book is highly recommended to everyone, both men and women, as it confronts current trends that threaten this foundational teaching which has led to current church and societal crises.
Both books are available on the Reform online bookshop - go to http://www.10ofthose.com/partners/reform
Organising events - ‘Sex culture and christian faith'
Dr. Lisa Nolland has organised a number of conferences on issues of sexuality and contemporary society and she has also spoken at a Reform National Conference. If you would like to organise an event at your church or for your area on the urgent issues being thrown up by our sex-obsessed society then contact Lisa (use the contact page on the Reform web site). To see an example of an event organised for next year click here.]]>
REFORM SAYS ‘FURORE' OVER WOMEN BISHOPS SHOWS NEED FOR BETTER PROVISION
Reform Chairman Rev'd Rod Thomas said today that "Reform deeply regrets that we have reached such an impasse on women bishops" with the current House of Bishops' amendments not satisfying the conservative evangelical network's concerns over their future in the Church of England.
Speaking at a prayer meeting attended by almost 200 Reform members in central London, Mr Thomas said: "We thank the House of Bishops for their work. They have tried to find a way through. But their amendments have not succeeded in persuading our members that there is a secure future for those who cannot in conscience accept the oversight of women as bishops. In light of that we will be encouraging our members on General Synod to vote against the legislation as it stands."
Mr Thomas added: "The furore created by some in response to these small amendments reveals most clearly the reason why those who hold to our biblical position need legislative clarity, not just a code of practice if we are to continue to encourage young people to come forward for ordination.
"There is clearly a desire on the part of some to see any provision for us as strictly temporary, despite the fact that we're simply seeking to follow the Bible's teaching about how God wants his Church to be organised. They hope we'll just leave. However, we believe the majority of Anglicans want to honour the promises made to us over the last two decades to preserve a place for us in the Church of England. As it stands, the draft Measure doesn't do this - and we'll be asking General Synod to withhold approval of the draft Measure so that some proper compromises can be agreed.
"We face a very difficult situation, so we are urging our members to pray for the House of Bishops, the General Synod and for the Church's witness in this country to the saving grace of Jesus Christ."
Reform members have been actively engaged in all the debates and discussions on this issue since the Rochester Commission was established in 2001. During these 11 years Reform has done three things:
First, Reform has engaged fully in the formal processes established by the Church of England, making representations to each of the various Commissions. Reform has put forward or supported a number of possible compromise scenarios which would enable Reform members to continue to see a secure future for our position within the Church of England. These have included Transferred Episcopal Arrangements, transferred jurisdictions, establishment of religious societies and creation of a third province. At General Synod 2010 Reform members backed the co-ordinate jurisdiction proposal put forward by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York - a proposal which was less than ideal for us but which we nevertheless supported. Sadly this proposal was narrowly defeated.
Second, Reform has engaged in more informal dialogue with bishops, with those from the Catholic group in General Synod, with other evangelical organizations such as the Church of England Evangelical Council and with those evangelicals who differ from us on this issue, such as the Awesome ordained evangelical women's network, to ensure that there is mutual understanding and respect of positions even where we continue to disagree.
Third, Reform has continued to encourage young men forward for ordination in the Church of England, on the understanding that their ministry was valued and welcomed within the denomination. Since 2001 Reform member churches have sent 300 men into ordained ministry, of whom around 50% were under the age of 30.
Despite this willingness to engage in and encourage others into ministry in the Church of England, Reform members are now left with the prospect of nothing more substantial than a code of practice to guarantee them a future place within the Church of England.
For further information, contact:
Rev'd Paul Dawson, Reform media officer, 07791 495824, email@example.com
Revd Paul Dawson
St Andrew's, Chelsea
T: 020 7352 1675
The Rev'd Rod Thomas, Chairman of Reform, said:
"We are grateful to those in the House of Bishops who have sought to protect the unity of the Church of England by seeking better provision for those Anglicans who cannot accept the oversight of female bishops.
"However we are disappointed that none of the very many compromise options that we and others suggested has been acted upon.
"While we recognise that these small amendments could be helpful, we are dismayed that the assurance for our future ministry within the Church of England will rest on what a Code of Practice says. Not only have the provisions of this Code yet to be agreed, but also, as we all know, Codes of Practice are frequently changed over time. This means that we are being asked to base our futures on a shifting foundation. In particular we are concerned that those considering ordination in the future could be discriminated against because of their views on the difference between men's and women's ministries.
"We will now take further counsel as we consider the exact wording of the revisions."
For further information:
Rev'd Paul Dawson, 07791 495824]]>
A petition signed by more than 2,200 Anglican women who oppose women bishops will be presented today to the House of Bishops at the start of their meeting in York.
General Synod member Susie Leafe, who organised the petition, said: "Not all the women in the Church of England think having women bishops is a great idea - our petition proves that, and we ask our bishops to recognise that and make proper provision for us. We believe that God created men and women equal but different, and that those differences are seen in the God-given roles that men and women have within the family and within God's household, the church."
Mrs Leafe continued: "This is not an outdated view held by a few ‘diehard traditionalists'. Our survey of those who signed the petition shows that they come from churches that are growing, youthful and very female friendly."
A survey of 185 churches whose clergy supported this petition found that:
Mrs Leafe added: "It is little short of extraordinary that the Church of England would even consider losing such a vibrant and growing group of people by not providing for our views."
Further information on the photo. The Archbishop of York welcomes the group of women who are delivering the petition signed by 2200 women requesting proper provision. In the photo are three women members of General Synod and three women involved in paid ministry in Church of England churches.
From left to right: Susie Leafe (General Synod member for Truro), Sarah Finch (General Synod member for London), Alison Wynne (General Synod member for Blackburn), The Archbishop of York, Rt Rev'd John Sentamu, Sophie Cornes (International Students Worker, All Saints Preston), Hannah Fox (Women's Worker, All Saints Preston), Ellie Maffett (Ministry Assistant, Emmanuel Church Bristol).
Click here to download the full resolution photo.
For further details contact: Susie Leafe (Proper Provision Coordinator & General Synod Member for Truro Diocese)
Tel: 07753690120. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The petition which was signed by more than 2,200 women reads:
As loyal Anglican women, we, the undersigned,
In offering this petition we trust that the Bishops will recognise:
1) That this is not an issue of equality but theology. All sides of the debate agree that men and women are equal - we believe the Bible teaches that in the family and the church (which is God's family), men and women are equal and different and therefore not in every way interchangeable.
2) That the desire for a male bishop is not sexist - rather it reflects a Biblical desire to see men take ultimate responsibility in the church family as well as the domestic family, just as some other vital roles in both church and family are reserved for women. It is not an issue of competence but complementarity and thus retaining structures that best allow men and women to flourish alongside one another.
3) That the current legislation does not provide secure or sufficient provision for those who are concerned about these matters. As it stands:
In recognition of these points we ask the Bishops to amend the legislation, so that those churches which cannot accept the ministry of a female bishop will have the legal right to an alternate bishop, one who shares their theological viewpoint on this issue and whose authority is not delegated to him by the female bishop.]]>
REFORM WELCOMES FCA COMMITMENT
Rev'd Rod Thomas, Chairman of Reform, the conservative evangelical network in the Church of England, has welcomed the recent statement of commitment at the conclusion of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) conference in London. (to see the FCA statement click here)
He said: "Archbishop Wabukala of Kenya hit the nail on the head when he said the crisis at the heart of the Anglican Communion is ‘not only institutional but spiritual'.
"We see a prime example of this here in the UK. Recent statements from some church leaders in England on issues of human sexuality indicate the full-scale departure from traditional Biblical teaching that a tiny minority are seeking to impose on the Church of England. Their gospel of radical ‘inclusion' is undermining the Biblical gospel of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. God welcomes those who come to him knowing they need forgiveness. Those who simply want God to affirm their lifestyles have not understood the gospel.
"It is very encouraging therefore to know that the leaders who represent the vast majority of the world's Anglicans are willing to stand with and support those who wish to hold to the Biblical gospel as being good news from God for a world in desperate need.
"We also agree with Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali's assessment that the Anglican ‘Instruments of Unity' have failed dramatically, and encourage the FCA to model an alternative way forward of working together within our Communion across the globe to fulfill Christ's command to make disciples for Him.
"Here in the UK the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) has been established to do just that - model a new way of working within an Anglican framework and fellowship, with a panel of orthodox Bishops providing oversight to those churches who need it. This solution will not suit all, but it is a much-needed encouragement for some to know that their ministry is recognized and affirmed by a worldwide fellowship of Anglicans."
For further information contact Rev'd Paul Dawson, 07791 495824, email@example.com]]>
April 26th 2012
Presented by Bishop John Ellison, Chairman FCA UK Panel of Bishops and Rev Paul Perkin, Chairman FCA (UK and Ireland)
The next few months will increasingly reveal the direction being taken by the Church of England regarding two matters:
We have established, and this week confirmed the principle that orthodox Anglicans who despite repeated efforts cannot receive oversight in the Church of England can continue to belong together with other orthodox Anglicans and minister with recognition within the global Anglican communion.
The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in this region is a fellowship of those anywhere in the UK and Ireland, including the Diocese of Europe, who can affirm the Jerusalem Declaration. Within it the Anglican Mission in England is not an institution, but a framework that is taking shape as it responds to those needing to receive help in their own dioceses. AMiE has two particular features:
The Primates of the FCA have assured us that, through instruments now available in this country, including the panel of bishops of the Anglican Mission in England and the FCA UK, those who might otherwise have been under pressure to leave the Church of England can remain within the family of global Anglicanism and be recognized by that body as faithful to the Church of England itself.
At the FCA Leadership Conference this Monday, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala reported in his Chairman's keynote address: ‘Last year, it became clear that provision needs to be made for England too. The Anglican Mission in England was formed last June after four years of discussion with senior Anglican leaders in England had failed to find a way in which those genuinely in need of effective orthodox oversight in the Church of England could receive it'.
The AMiE has already acted to provide oversight to churches, including arranging the ordination of some ministers. For the future it is ready to extend this ministry, and to expand its panel of bishops accordingly. Parish Incumbents who affirm the Jerusalem Declaration are invited to meet on Wednesday 27th June to pray and make progress together.
So we pledge our support for all those who are orthodox in faith, who are experiencing pressure, and who wish to continue as Anglicans with international affirmation from the worldwide Anglican church. You have a clear identity as Anglicans through our common commitment to the faith contained in the Jerusalem Declaration.
See Anglican Mission in England website
1. Thursday April 26th in Central London 5.00pm to 8.30pm.
This event is organised by The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (UK and Ireland). Amongst other things, it will provide:
Bring colleagues, church wardens, members of the PCC, etc. To find out more details, including how to book, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Wednesday June 27th, at St Helen’s Bishopsgate, 4.45pm to 6.30pm.
This is a Reform event held immediately after the first day of the EMA. The purpose is to gather Reform clergy, ordinands, and apprentices; to pray; to hear what action is being taken; to take counsel together.
3. September 25 / 26 Reform National Conference at High Leigh Conference Centre.
This conference is the first opportunity after the July General Synod to take stock. The Reform Council will have had an opportunity to consider the views and ideas from the June 27 meeting. They will also have met immediately after the July General Synod. At the conference there will be plenty of opportunity to reflect and discuss, but members of the Council will also be asked to present options as well as recommendations for the way forward.The content of the conference will also include Bible readings on the theme of contending and compromising, conscience and communion. Presentations are also planned on the wider issue of the cultural crisis facing us and the continuing significance of the Reform Covenant twenty years on.
"Many people will have appreciated Rowan's great courtesy in dealing with people of different views within both the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion. But his departure opens up the potential for a new leader to heal the deep divisions within the Anglican Communion. What is needed is someone who will hold firm to biblical truth in areas such as human sexuality in order to promote the gospel and unite the church in the face of militant secularism."
For further comment please contact Rev'd Paul Dawson on email@example.com]]>
As many will now be aware, a Coalition for Marriage has been launched in order to defend marriage in the light of the forthcoming Government proposals to introduce homosexual ‘marriage’. Although at the time of writing these proposals have not yet been published, there seems every likelihood that they will seek views on how such ‘marriages’ should be introduced, not on whether they should. It is very important therefore that as many of us as possible (and as many of our non-Reform friends as we can engage) take action to defend marriage.
I believe this should involve:
Quite separately, the House of Bishops has set up a working group under Sir Joseph Pilling to ‘consider the outcomes of the listening process on human sexuality and to develop proposals for how the continuing discussion in the Church of England might be taken forward’. Reform has been invited to submit evidence, as have many other bodies. Please pray that our evidence will be well prepared and presented and that it will be persuasive. Please also pray that this exercise would not lead to any further deterioration in the official position of the House of Bishops, but rather a clearer commitment to the position the Primates took in the Lambeth Statement of 1998.
Reform Panel of Reference
The Panel of Reference is due to meet in May. For further details contact the Reform office.
The changing nature of the Anglican episcopate in mainland Britain
Click here to read about a book by Reform member Mike Keulemans on the history of bishops in Britain.]]>
This book, one of only two major studies on the subject for over sixty years and certainly the first ever written from an Evangelical standpoint, looks at the New Testament and Early Church evidence for the episcopate and traces its development in Britain from Roman times. It discovers that it became increasingly politicised almost from the start, a process which was not halted by the English Reformation, even though, at least on paper, Cranmer returned it to its original teaching function.
Particular attention is paid to how Queen Victoria and her Prime Ministers sought to balance the bench between the Latitudinarians, the Evangelicals and the new Catholic party, while the backgrounds and careers of all diocesan bishops between 1905 and 2005 are examined in detail. Developments within the Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church are also given a chapter each. The results of a major statistical survey of clergy and churchwardens in the dioceses of Leicester, Bradford, Monmouth and Edinburgh are probed to see how these two groups view the modern functions of a bishop, compared with the opinions of recently retired bishops.
In the final chapter suggestions are made for the reform of the episcopate to make it more Spirit-filled and attuned to the pastoral needs of the parishes. A practical proposal is also presented to solve the impasse over women bishops in a way that is scrupulously fair and provides opportunities to both sides of the debate.
An invaluable resource for understanding the Anglican episcopate and a mine of useful statistics to help rebuild its usefulness to parish, Church and nation.
About the author:
The Revd. Mike Keulemans is currently Associate Priest in the Llanfyllin Group of parishes with responsibility for Llanwddyn, a village in the Berwyn Mountains of Mid Wales that supplies the city of Liverpool with its drinking water. He was ordained priest in 1993 and holdsMaster of Theology and Doctor of Ministry degrees from the University of Wales. He was awarded the Merchant Navy Medal in 2005.
He worked for just under a quarter of a century as Warden of the M.V. Loach Project, which gave childen and young people the opportunity to crew a cargo vessel from the Thames Estuary to London and latterly educated inner-city lads in Liverpool for deck and engineer traineeships in the Merchant Navy.
Previously he worked as a research assistant with an international oil journal, spent some time as an operational fireman in the London Fire Brigade and taught in primary and secondary schools in London and Kent. He served for seven years on the Church of England's Church Assembly and General Synod.
Available from bookshops. ISBN 978-1-4653-5394-8 paperback £13.99
978-1-4653-5393-1 e-book £3.99
The book may also be purchased direct from the author at The Poplars, Porthywaen, Oswestry, SY10 8LR. Tel: 01691 830010 at £12.99 inclusive of postage and packing.
Click here to view cover]]>
Reform chairman Rev'd Rod Thomas today called on fellow General Synod members to take a "generous approach" to those opposed to women bishops or risk seeing the legislation being voted down.
"When we come to vote on the Manchester Diocese Motion on Wednesday 8th, we will each have to choose. Do Synod members wish to see the ministry of those who are opposed to women bishops on theological grounds progressively removed from the Church of England, or can we, even at this late stage, encourage a more generous and inclusive approach?" he said.
"If the draft legislation comes back to General Synod for final approval next July unchanged, then we will have the unsavoury dilemma of either having to vote for a Measure which will lead to disunity and division, or of voting against it and thus prolonging the debate for another five years. Yet there is still an opportunity, through the amendments previously put forward by the Archbishops, to reach an agreed way forward."
The Manchester Diocese Motion, which will be debated next Wednesday, recognises that the only body which now has legal authority to amend the draft legislation is the House of Bishops. The motion asks the House of Bishops to use their power to amend the draft legislation in line with the amendment put forward by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in 2010. That amendment provided that where arrangements are made for another bishop to exercise oversight over parishes which cannot accept the ministry of women bishops, such bishops could do so by exercising ‘co-ordinate' rather than ‘delegated' jurisdiction.
For further information contact Revd Paul Dawson, 07791 495824 or Revd Rod Thomas 07906 331110]]>
The following papers were presented. The A in a title refers to it being an Awesome paper and the R refers to it being a Reform paper.
"I am so glad the papers which were at the core of our discussion and dialogue are able to be read more widely now. I would like to thank those from Reform and Awesome who took part and made our meetings possible. The conversations show one way in which we in the Church can "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" as we submit to scripture, we listen, we robustly engage and we love, as Ephesians goes on to say "we are members of one another". My prayer is that this publication will spur us to go on seeking to "speak the truth in love" and build up the body of Christ, especially in these days."
Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead
1_1A An Exploration of Evangelical Exegetical and Hermeneutical Differences Over Gender Hierarchy
1_1R Does Scripture teach some form of gender-hierarchy/”male headship” as God’s purpose in creation?
1_2A Commissioning of Women in the Gospels, Acts and Paul
1_2R Interpreting the Bible
1_3A Exegesis of 1 Timothy 2: 8-15
1_3R Discussion Paper on 1 Tim 2:8-15
2_1A What does 1 Corinthians 11 tell us about gender and church order?
2_1iiA What do the Trinity and marriage have to do with male headship in the church?
2_1R 1 Corinthians 11:3: Headship, Trinity and Gender
2_3A Does biblical teaching about husbands and wives shed light on the roles of men and women in the church?
2_3R Ephesians 5.21-33 (with Colossians 3.18 & 1 Peter 3.1-7)
2_4A Evangelical opponents of women bishops: What is sought and required?
2_4R Women bishops: Q and A
3_1A The Pastoral Epistles: Ministry, ordination and women
3_1R The Pastoral Epistles
3_2A The Bible and today’s debates – Issues in Human Sexuality and the Ministry of Women
3_3A Hermeneutics and the evangelical debate about women’s ministry
3_3R Power, Equality, Humility and Suspicion
3_4A AWESOME Summary Document
3_4R The need for secure and adequate provision for conservatives
A final statement was agreed between the two groups, January 2011.
There have been two earlier statements. The first was in January 2010. The other was in July 2010.
The Reform Council commented on the final statement:
"We are thankful for the dialogue that has taken place and welcome the honest but gracious expression of difference that is reflected in the final statement. As the concluding paragraphs state, we continue to respect those who disagree with our view of Scripture. We wish to stress, however, that the security of our respective positions depends on faithfulness to Scripture, rather than on any political need to accommodate one another within the structures of the institutional Church".]]>
The Renewed Pastor - essays in honour of Philip Hacking
A festschrift (literally a "feast of writing") is a book honoring a respected person and presented during his or her lifetime. Recent years have seen these presented to John Piper, Dick Lucas, Don Carson and others.
Could a festschrift contribute to the dilemma of the "celebrity pastor"? That's a real danger, but in this case, the truth is that the focus is firmly centred on the gospel. These writings are not about Philip but about the role of the pastor that he so valued and to which he gave himself unstintingly.
However, the purpose of this review is not to contribute to the festschrift but to encourage you to read these essays. Personally, this is a form of writing I really enjoy. Too many books have a good idea at heart but run out of steam well before the last page. However, the contributors here use their skill and knowledge to concisely and clearly address "all the major aspects of pastoral ministry".
Each of the contributors knows Philip personally and wisely use the various contexts of his ministry to introduce their subject. There are 12 essays in total, preceded by a four-page foreword by Hugh Palmer that sets the scene well.
This book might well be "a major resource for all pastors" but I think it is far more valuable than that. This is a book for all of us. Here we have an insight into the role and ministry of the pastor that will help us, not just as those who are "pastored", but also as those who must pastor "one another".
It is not just pastors who need to learn valuable lessons on renewal, prayer, worship and the church. We can all learn from this helpful book so that we might be hearers of the word, doers of the word and messengers of the word, "a people that are God's very own, eager to do what is good".
In this newsletter -
Rod Thomas writes:
At our conference in October, I spoke about the real challenge presented by the present Government's desire to legitimise homosexual marriage. If this were to come into law, marriage would be undermined because society's understanding of what marriage is all about would be eroded. Marriage isn't solely a matter of commitment - as though it were just another form of contract, binding two parties. It creates a special bond between a man and a woman which is vital for the health of family life and the raising of children.
Getting Ready to Campaign
The Government plans to start a consultative process in the spring, so we need to be ready to make our views known, and to help others see the issues. In preparation for this we are actively discussing the way forward with a wide range of other Christian organisations - and Paul Dawson, our media officer, is representing us at meetings in London. Soon after the start of the New Year we hope to write to all members with:
We expect to follow this up with further briefing for members once the Government consultations have started.
Defending the Biblical Position in the Church
I recognise that issues of this sort are normally the territory of bodies like the Christian Institute, with whom we are keeping in close touch. However, we know that in 2013 the House of Bishops will itself be starting consultations over issues related to human sexuality. It will be much harder at that stage to hold the Church to a biblically faithful position if the Government has managed to introduce homosexual marriage.
There's a fair amount to report, much of it to do with what is going on at synods. This isn't because we're obsessed with synodical affairs. I hope that what really excites us is the prospect of more and more people accepting the salvation and lordship of Christ as local churches proclaim the gospel. However, until this issue has been resolved, we're inevitably having to focus on what is, to many of us, an unfamiliar and unattractive area of Church life.
Finding a Fresh Way Forward
It was a great encouragement to see so many members engaging with deanery and diocesan synods over the last few months. For some time our hopes were pinned on diocesan synods passing ‘following motions' calling on the House of Bishops to change the draft legislation to make better provision for those who cannot accept women bishops on grounds of theological conviction. However, as the various debates took place, a fresh initiative was taken which we immediately got behind - as did members of the Catholic Group. This initiative recognised that even if a good number of dioceses passed the following motion, the House of Bishops might still decline to amend the legislation. So an alternative ‘following motion' was devised which was directed at the General Synod rather than the House of Bishops. This promised to have more impact because the Standing Orders of General Synod require its Business Committee to give any motion from a diocesan synod special consideration for inclusion in the agenda.
The alternative ‘following motion' effectively asked the General Synod to put pressure on the House of Bishops to incorporate the amendments the two Archbishops proposed back in 2010 (which at the time were narrowly defeated). Five dioceses passed this motion, quite enough to persuade the Business Committee to put it on the agenda of General Synod next February - although at the time of writing news is still awaited. Since the present General Synod has a different make-up to the one which rejected the Archbishop's 2010 amendment, there seems to be a good chance that the General Synod will vote for this. The House of Bishops would then have every reason to change the draft Measure before the vote on final approval in July 2012.
The Results of the Diocesan Synod Debates
The final results of the diocesan consultations were that two of the forty-four dioceses voted against the draft Measure (London and Chichester). Five dioceses passed the original ‘following motion' (Sheffield, Blackburn, Chichester, Winchester and Bradford). Five dioceses passed the alternative ‘following motion' (Manchester, Exeter, Chichester, York and Wakefield). This means that ten dioceses - nearly a quarter of the total - have registered serious disquiet over the draft Measure one way or the other. There is therefore a strong case for further amendment.
A Reform Proposal
Since there seems every likelihood that the House of Bishops will be privately considering whether, and if so what, specific changes should be made to the draft legislation, we have been keen to feed in some fresh thoughts. To this end we have drafted a modest amendment which has been passed to the two Archbishops. The amendment would remove any reference to a female bishop ‘delegating' her oversight to an alternative bishop and introduce an arrangement whereby diocesan schemes provide for the bishops of a ‘recognised' society to provide alternative oversight. We were particularly keen to register this suggestion before the House of Bishops meets later this month.
On December 14th, Sarah Finch and I will be attending a consultation in Coventry Cathedral attended by members of WATCH (the pro-women bishops campaigning group), the Catholic Group in General Synod and members of the Cathedral staff. This is a Coventry initiative, designed to find out whether there is any possibility, even at this late stage, of agreeing a way forward for the Church of England and thus avoid what has been described as an impending ‘train crash' next July. We are very willing to play our part and would be grateful for your prayers as we do so.
As you'll gather, there's a fair amount of work going on behind the scenes. We've been keen to get the best outcome at diocesan synods, to encourage others to stand with us, and to try to win the ear of bishops. We hope that all this will bear fruit at the next General Synod in February.
Women in Ministry, 23 -26 January 2012. A conference for women involved in local church, Bible teaching ministries. The women who come are a mix of full-time and part-time workers, paid and unpaid, married and single, mums with young children and mums with grown up children. For further details and online booking go to http://www.proctrust.org.uk/conferences
Sex-Proof your Kids: Lisa Nolland equips and empowers parents and others who are concerned by how kids are being physically and psychologically damaged by their sexual experiences. She believes that kids deserve better and will listen when offered good reasons to be 'good', or sexually smart. Topics covered include: present youth sex culture; the real dangers of pornography; the oxymoron of 'safe sex'; the innate differences between females and males; the sexual trajectory - what is next on the horizon; and how to be sex-positive with kids. Lisa is available for day or evening seminars or events which could suit Christian or secular groups. Please contact Ls.firstname.lastname@example.org; 0117 924 4896 for details.
The Lepers Among Us. Homosexuality and the Life of the Church with Dr Jim Reynolds. Coming to Belfast (Jan 20 &21, 2012) and London (Friday Jan 27th, 2012). Jim Reynolds - pastor, teacher, author and attorney at law considers compassionate ways of ministering to same-sex-attracted believers and seekers. He also explores neo-paganism, the religious underpinning of 21st century culture and how pastors and their churches can respond in clarity. (See the Core issues web site - http://www.core-issues.org/ or contact Lisa above. For the programme and brochure click here)]]>
Writings in Honour of Philip Hacking
Edited by Melvin Tinker
Philip Hacking celebrated his 80th birthdayin 2011 and this book is a demonstration of our appreciation of his ministry. Philip was presented with the book on Sunday December 11th at Christ Church Fulwood. The Reform Council was very much behind the creation of this book.
Each of the chapters deals with an aspect of the the pastor's ministry: the pastor renewed, the pastor at prayer, the pastor as theologian, preacher and evangelist; the pastor and worship, the pastor and baptism, the pastor and church planting, the pastor and church growth, the pastor and student ministry, the pastor and gospel partnership, the pastor as evangelical and Anglican.
Contributors: Hugh Palmer, Melvin Tinker, Peter Lewis, Tim Chester, Steve Timmis, Peter Adam, Paul Williams, D. A. Carson, J. I. Packer, Frank Retief, David Holloway, John Risbridger, John Stevens, Gerald Bray.
"Here then is a book which I believe touches on so many issues that have been close to Philip's heart throughout his ministry, and which need to be close to the hearts of any pastor today."
Hugh Palmer, Rector, All Souls Langham Place, London
The recommended retail price is £14.99. Reform are able to sell them for £10 plus £1.50 postage and packing. If you wish to order multiple copies please contact the Reform office to discuss the price - email@example.com . At the moment we do not have the means of taking payment online but please place an order via email and I can send the invoice with the book.
To read a review click here]]>
REFORM CALLS ON CHURCH LEADERS PUBLICLY TO BACK MARRIAGE
Church of England clergy need to take "urgent and significant steps" publicly to speak out in support of marriage as being between one man and one woman, said Reform chairman Rev'd Rod Thomas at the network's annual conference this week.
Mr Thomas encouraged church leaders to do "everything within their power" to oppose Government attempts to "redefine marriage" to include relationships between homosexuals. "This is a generation-defining moment," he said. "When the history books are written we will want to be known as those who spoke up publicly for Jesus's teaching on marriage and against any Government attempts to redefine this God-given institution."
"Our churches, our communities and especially our children need us to provide both clarity and compassion in this age of confusion surrounding sexual identity and relationships."
Mr Thomas praised Roman Catholic bishops who have spoken so clearly in support of marriage, and encouraged their Anglican counterparts to be as bold: "Many of our bishops support the Bible's teaching on marriage. Well now we want to hear them say so publicly, loud and clear."
Acknowledging that Reform's own clergy may not have always publicly promoted marriage as clearly as they should, Mr Thomas urged the network's 1,600-strong membership to act now in advance of the Government's consultation on homosexual marriage in March 2012.
He outlined a five point action plan that Reform will be engaged in during the coming months:
1. Reform will provide a briefing paper explaining the Bible's teaching on marriage as being between one man and one woman, and why redefining marriage to be between homosexuals would be disastrous
2. Reform clergy to preach publicly on the Biblical view of marriage
3. Reform members on General Synod to put forward a Private Members Motion calling on diocesean bishops to commence diocese-wide discussions on this issue
4. Reform clergy to discuss this matter with their church councils, and encourage them and their church members to communicate their concerns to their bishops and local MPs, and to encourage other clergy in the Church of England to do the same, in order to demonstrate the widespread grass-roots opposition to redefining marriage
5. Reform churches to provide financial support to one of the Christian public affairs groups engaged in this debate
Reform members were encouraged to receive support for their position in a message to the conference from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Anglican Primate of Kenya,who said: "I thank God for the witness of Reform. It grieves us deeply to observe many Anglican churches in the west yielding to secular pressure to allow unacceptable practices in the name of human rights and equality."
Photographs from the conference and the full text of Archbishop Eliud Wabukala's message are available on request from Rev'd Paul Dawson, 07791 495824, firstname.lastname@example.org
Church Society also issued a press release in October on this issue. See http://www.evangelicals.org/news.asp?id=1367]]>
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Reform,
Greetings in the Name of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
The world wide Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is a cause of great joy to me because it is bringing together Anglicans around the globe in a common love for each other and the Lord Jesus Christ. This love is the work of the Holy Spirit who is gathering us for clear and confident gospel witness at a time when there is growing confusion and disorder in our beloved Anglican Communion.
I thank God for the witness of Reform as you hold unswervingly to the faith once for all delivered to the saints despite the severe erosion of orthodoxy taking place around you. As the Global South Primates acknowledged at our recent meeting in China ‘it grieves us deeply to observe many Anglican churches in the west yielding to secular pressure to allow unacceptable practices in the name of human rights and equality'.
So I would like to assure you of my prayers and necessary support. We are building a truly global fellowship in a partnership inspired by the Holy Spirit, marked by prayer, generosity, sacrifice and genuine love. I long to see the day when faithful Anglicans can feel at home in any part of the world and share the joy of true fellowship in the Holy Spirit.
May the favour of the Lord our God be upon us and establish the work of our hands.
The Most Revd Dr Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop, the Anglican Church of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council]]>
Clarity in an age of Confusion
Reform Conference 2011 Update
In addition to our keynote speakers, Philip Hacking and Dan Strange, we are delighted to confirm the following speakers for this year's conference:
Ministry in rural areas: The particular challenges of this ministry will be examined by Steve Wookey in the Cotswolds, John Hamilton in Hampshire and Dick Farr, latterly of Henham, East Anglia.
Ministry in urban areas: Mike Cain and Steve Donald will give insights from their ministry in contrasting urban environments. Mike leads an Anglican church plant in a Bristol suburb which meets in a school while Steve has worked in urban settings on a council estate in Barnsley and urban parishes in Oldham and Carlisle.
We also have a full programme of seminar options for Wednesday:
Ordinands can consider matters of conscience in the C of E with Jonathan Fletcher, Mark Burkill and Alistair Tresidder
Curates will be discussing the challenge of re-vitalising an existing church with Mike Neville and Vaughan Roberts
Those in rural areas will be delighted to hear of the launch of Reform's rural network, chaired by David Craven
The Reform women's network is also launched this year, led by Denise Gilmour and Jane Leggett
Those who want to understand how best to plan for succession will appreciate the wisdom and experience of David Phillips
The Christian Institute will bring their clear gospel focus onto some of the wider issues affecting our society
Wednesday's post-lunch session will include an update on the latest developments regarding the Anglican Mission in England from Paul Perkin.
We look forward to seeing many existing Reform members there and to welcome those who share our concerns for continuing to bring gospel clarity to a country in desperate confusion.]]>
Rod Thomas, Chairman of Reform writes:
There are three issues on which I would like to update members: the proposed Church of England consultations on civil partnerships and human sexuality; the continuing debates about women bishops; and the role of the newly launched Anglican Mission in England (AMiE).
Consultations on Sexuality
Two developments occurred just before the start of this summer's General Synod meeting in York. First, the Church House Legal Office published its advice on how the provisions of the Equality Act should affect the selection of bishops. There was much in the advice that was helpful, but it finished by saying that it was up to individual members of the Crown Nominations Commission to decide what weight to put on factors such as the existence of a civil partnership, and whether or not a candidate had repented of previous same-sex activity, in deciding whether such a candidate would be an appropriate ‘focus of unity'.
I wrote to the General Synod's General Secretary, William Fittall, to say that I felt the advice went beyond anything the Church had decided to permit and asked for the advice to be withdrawn. The reply I received showed a degree of puzzlement about why I thought that the Legal Office had overstepped the doctrinal mark, and said there could be no question about the withdrawal of the advice. As a result I wrote again, explaining that the issue at stake was that the advice opened the way for individual selectors to give no weight to the fact that an individual might be in a civil partnership. I am currently awaiting a further reply. In the meantime, some of the steam has been taken out of this by a statement issued by the House of Bishops. It said that no episcopal appointment of anyone in a civil partnership would be made for the time being. This was because the House intended to review its 2005 ‘Pastoral Statement' on civil partnerships, and to complete the review during 2012. It also intended to draw together material from ‘the listening process' on which the Church had been engaged since Lambeth 1998 and then produce a consultation document in 2013 on the more general topic of the Church's approach to human sexuality.
I have publicly welcomed the statement by the House of Bishops because it overcomes the worry we had that an appointment of a bishop in a civil partnership might be imminent; it accepts that there has to be some conclusion from the listening process, rather than that it should continue until one side capitulates; and it makes clear that a proper consultation will take place in 2013. This means that the General Synod will be consulted, and so far, the present General Synod has shown itself to be more cautious about the liberal agenda than its predecessor. That said, these future consultations should also ring warning bells. We have often said that if the Women Bishops Measure goes through, the same approach to Scripture will be used to promote changes in the Church's approach to sexuality - and we can now see how quickly that could occur unless evangelicals and others speak out loud and clear.
Please note that on a connected issue, the Equality and Human Rights Commission is undertaking a survey on the protection of religious belief in Equality Law. This could be highly significant for protecting the position of Christians who want to stand up for Christ in the workplace and elsewhere. Please go to the ‘Christian Concern' web site for details on how to participate.
One of the reasons this summer's General Synod was somewhat lacklustre was because there is a hiatus in church affairs while dioceses consider the draft Measure and the General Synod waits for the proposed Code of Practice (expected in February 2012) and then the ‘final approval' stage in July 2012. However, the General Synod did give Reform members the opportunity to exchange notes informally with other evangelicals and also the traditional catholics. As a result, we have been able to brief the ‘1990 Group' - a lay led conservative evangelical grouping in General Synod - about how to counter some of the arguments that will be used next year to try to pressure people into changing their mind about opposing the draft Measure. This may be particularly important for those evangelicals who don't mind women bishops but who do want to prevent a split in the Church.
At this stage it is impossible to introduce any amendments to the draft Measure, unless the House of Bishops decides to do so. That is why it is so important, when diocesan synods vote on the draft Measure, to try to get them to pass a ‘following motion' asking for better provision for those who cannot accept women bishops. In the meantime, we have now started the process of working with the traditional catholics on amendments that could be offered to the House of Bishops - and the informal conversations I had at the General Synod were very useful in developing our thinking on these amendments. I hope I will be able to say more about this and other developments at our national conference in October.
One of the arguments in favour of women bishops that is often used as a ‘clincher' is Galatians 3:28: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' Now, a new book is being published by the Latimer Trust, dealing with this and other theological arguments - and not all written by the usual suspects! If you would like to read the draft, its title is ‘The Church, Women Bishops and Provision.' At the time of writing it was available to download from the Latimer Trust web site (please note the conditions of downloading it) and it will soon be available to buy.
Anglican Mission in England (AMiE)
I wrote about the launch of AMiE and its rationale in the last newsletter. AMiE has now produced a short briefing outlining its purposes and who is behind it. This can be seen on its web site: www.anglicanmissioninengland.org. We hope to hear more about AMiE at our national conference. In the meantime, please pray for our trustees as they meet in early August to think through the role of bishops and how they should be appointed - as a way of contributing to AMiE discussions.]]>
As the Church of England's General Synod met today in York, Reform chairman and General Synod member the Rev Rod Thomas gave a cautious welcome to the recent paper from the House of Bishops about civil partnerships and the appointment of Bishops.
Mr Thomas said: "I welcome the announcement of a moratorium on the episcopal appointment of clergy who are in civil partnerships. The recent legal advice from Church House had raised fears that such an appointment might be imminent. In particular, there was concern that despite declaring himself celibate, a clergyman in a civil partnership who had previously been sexually active with his partner and who openly advocated such relationships as consistent with Christian teaching, might be appointed as a bishop.
I welcome too the intention of producing a further consultative document on the issue of human sexuality in 2013 in the light of the ‘listening process' that has been underway in the Church. One of the criticisms made by the GAFCON Primates of current developments in the Anglican Communion is that the listening process itself is being used to extend the liberal agenda on sexuality and avoid necessary discipline. The consultative paper may therefore help to show that the listening process has to reach some conclusion. The fact that it is to be ‘consultative' also means that it cannot bypass the General Synod, which has always affirmed the Church's teaching that the God-given context for human sexual relations is heterosexual marriage."]]>
Results Of Consultations Over Strategy
During May and June, five special meetings were convened around the country to discuss the strategy Reform is currently pursuing.
Multiplying Local Ministry
Members heard that Reform is still enthusiastically following its strategy of promoting the gospel by multiplying local ministry. This means encouraging people to consider full-time teaching ministry; supporting those who are seeking to win new parishes for evangelical ministry; encouraging new church plants; urging ‘lay’ church members to fulfil their ministries; and working for an environment in the C of E which supports rather than undermines faithfulness to the Bible’s teaching.
This approach to the reform of the Church and the evangelisation of the nation could well be thwarted by the proposed new legislation on women bishops. Those who do not agree with women exercising ‘headship’ in the church could find themselves discriminated against both in the selection and appointment process for teaching ministry. As a result, we are working hard to oppose – or at least change – the present proposals. At the moment our effort is devoted to the diocesan consultations, but next year, it will be focussed on General Synod. In this, we are working closely with Anglo-Catholics as co-belligerents.
We need to maintain our effort to achieve change both within the existing structures and by taking new initiatives.
Maximising our Opportunities
Deanery and diocesan synods. Over the last two months we have provided a good deal of briefing material about the women bishops legislation to those Reform members who have let us know that they are members of diocesan synods. Much of this is relevant for discussions in deanery synods too. Anyone who still needs this should contact Johnny Lockwood at the Reform office. We must keep trying to persuade deaneries to oppose the draft legislation or at least pass a following motion asking dioceses to request better protection for those who are opposed. We need to do the same with diocesan synods – asking the House of Bishops to make better provision. At the same time we must continue to remind friends who don’t want to see us effectively excluded from the Church’s structures that they need to vote with us if this is to happen.
Ordinands. As the law currently stands, discrimination against those who are opposed to women priests is not allowed and no ordinand has to take a vow of canonical obedience to anyone other than a male bishop. It is perfectly right therefore for current ordination candidates to make clear to their bishops that when they take a vow of canonical obedience to the bishop and his successors, they are doing so only on the basis that those successors will be male. Mark Burkill has drafted a simple letter that ordinands can use when making this point to their bishops; it is available from Johnny Lockwood.
The Launch of AMiE
A major step forward has been taken in the development of a society. This is now being called the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) and it was publicly announced at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly on Thursday 23rd June. The purpose of the Mission at the moment is to provide some immediate recognition and oversight for churches that cannot or do not currently receive the oversight of Church of England bishops. It will operate with episcopal oversight from Michael Nazir-Ali, John Ball, Colin Bazley, Wallace Benn and John Ellison. The new Mission has the warm support of the Archbishop of Kenya who is currently the chairman of the FCA Primates. He ordained the first English presbyters for mission in the wider church on Saturday 11th June and their episcopal oversight has been delegated to the AMiE bishops.
There is still much work to be done on exactly how AMiE will operate in future – and in particular on how its bishops will in future be selected and the role they will perform. One possibility is that they will look to local deans of mission to engage with individual congregations. Different levels of church and individual membership also need to be detailed; some members will need the oversight of the AMiE bishops, but others may not – at least for the time being. Their membership will be a matter of fellowship rather than oversight. The Reform trustees have undertaken to do more work on this – both to help AMiE and to demonstrate what the CoE should itself be doing. The formation of the AMiE is the first major practical step the FCA has taken in this country to help churches which are in impaired or non-existent communion with C of E bishops and it puts the emphasis positively on mission rather than division. On behalf of Reform, I have therefore warmly welcomed it and expressed gratitude for the support that it has been given by the Archbishop of Kenya.]]>
20th June 2011
Reform calls for legal advice on Bishops’ Appointments to be withdrawn
The legal advice from Church House on whether clergy in civil partnerships can be appointed as bishops should never have been published and should now be withdrawn. This is the view of General Synod member and chairman of Reform, the Revd Rod Thomas.
Commenting on the advice that has now been circulated to General Synod members, Mr Thomas said:“this gives the impression that the Church of England has decided that it is acceptable for candidates for the episcopacy to be in civil partnerships. However, no such decision has been taken by the Church and as a matter of law it is within its rights to prevent such a thing happening.”
The legal advice states that it is up to those involved in individual appointment processes to decide whether or not they want to take into account a candidate’s civil partnership. It also implies that it is similarly up to them to decide whether or not any expression of repentance for past same-sex activity is needed.
Mr Thomas said: “This goes far beyond anything the Church has decided to permit and opens up the possibility of a bishop being appointed who, whilst being celibate, is in a civil partnership and openly opposes the Church’s teaching on marriage.
“To be in a civil partnership is to be seen as having forged a lifelong bond with someone of the same sex; to have created family ties; and to have engaged in a commitment similar to marriage. A bishop vows to protect the church’s teaching both by what he says and by the way he lives. This is immediately compromised when he engages in a civil partnership. If the Church no longer wants bishops to support the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexual relations, it is not up to a legal office to hint at it. It must be decided by the House of Bishops and affirmed by the General Synod.
“There can, of course, be no bar on a person being appointed as a bishop because of their sexual orientation. The issue is what they teach and how they live.”
Mr Thomas will now be writing to the Secretary General of the General Synod asking for the legal advice to be withdrawn and new advice issued. In the absence of this, Mr Thomas warned that the issue would be firmly addressed at the Synod itself.
For further information contact:
Revd Paul Dawson, Reform media officer, 07791 495824
To see the news story click here.]]>
Discussions on the Women Bishops Measure are starting to take place in earnest in deaneries and dioceses. We are now sending out briefing material to members who sit on diocesan synods via e-mail. It you would like to receive this briefing and are not currently doing so, please contact the Reform office (email@example.com).
We are holding four regional consultations over the next few months.
May 10th at St Stephen's Selly Park, Birmingham
May 16th at St Helen's Bishopsgate, London
May 27th at St Bart's, Bath
June 16th at St John's Houghton, Carlisle
These events are designed partly to keep members up-to-date with current developments and partly to provide an opportunity for members to understand better - and contribute to - the strategy the Council is following. This is a time when many of us feel that our ministry and witness is under threat within the Church of England, so it is important that we continue to stand together as we face the twin challenges of opposing the present draft legislation and standing for the gospel in an increasingly secularised environment. Our regional consultations will outline the plans we are making - whether the vote in the General Synod goes for or against us - and we will be wanting to report back to the Council on what your views are.
In the meantime we are:
There has been speculation in the press about the Government's proposals for civil partnerships to be registered in places of worship. There has also been speculation, and indeed confusion, over the separate issue of scrapping the definition of marriage in order to allow two people of the same sex to hold a marriage certificate.
Government proposals to allow civil partnerships in churches implement changes made in the 2010 Equality Act. However, there has been no announcement from the Government that it has any plans to introduce full same-sex marriage.
The definition of marriage
The thousands of churches that our organizations represent hold firmly to the clear teaching of the Bible that marriage is the lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman. This is the definition that has long been recognized in English law and, indeed, by almost all cultures for all of human history.
Marriage was ordained by God for the good of all people and is a holy institution. It was also designed to represent something of the relationship between Christ and his church. There are two partners to a marriage because there are two sexes. Marriage is a complementary covenant involving the bringing together of the two sexes not only for the purposes of procreation but also to reflect more fully the image of God.
We are also concerned about the effect of declaring that the institution in which children are raised does not require both a mother and a father.
For all these reasons we, and many others, would firmly oppose any efforts to eradicate the definition of marriage and impose a new definition on everyone in order to satisfy the demands of gay rights groups.
Civil partnerships in churches
We reiterate our long-held opposition to allowing civil partnerships to be registered in churches. It is a breach of undertakings made by Government ministers during debates on the Civil Partnership Bill. Parliament was persuaded to pass that Bill, in part, because it was made clear that civil partnership was a civil rather than a religious institution and would not take place in religious premises.
However, there are a small number of religious groups who are not content with being able to carry out civil partnership blessing ceremonies, as they currently do, but who want the legal registration itself to take place in their premises. In response to the demands of these groups, the Government is embarking on a course of action that is bringing it into conflict with thousands of evangelical churches and the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.
In any legislation, churches must be protected against the possibility, now and in the future, of any kind of legal action being brought against churches which conscientiously disagree with civil partnerships.
When it comes to equality legislation, permission often turns rapidly into coercion. In a country where faith-based adoption agencies have been forced to close or cut their religious ties by equality law, where Christian marriage registrars can be dismissed for their religious views on marriage and where Christian B & B owners are forced to pay compensation to same-sex couples, Christians will need a great deal of reassurance that the Government is not about to do something that will make their situation even worse.
Issued on behalf of:
The Christian Institute
The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches
Please note the dates for our next National Conference. It will be held at High Leigh on 18th & 19th October 2011.]]>
The Council of Reform had a very useful residential meeting at the end of last year at which a number of decisions were taken about how to support and strengthen Anglican evangelical ministry at a time of real challenge for us. In addition, important conclusions were reached about how Reform itself should be organised. For part of our time we were joined by the Council of Church Society in order to agree some joint initiatives. This newsletter reports on that meeting as well as on other events which have taken place in the last two months.
The Development of a Society
The Council felt that the idea of developing a Society was a very positive response to the challenges we currently face, but that it would not be right to form a Society purely for the purpose of providing episcopal oversight for those who cannot accept women bishops. Not only was it unlikely that the General Synod would respond in a way that would be adequate but the effect might be to marginalise us. We needed to show that we occupied, and argued our case from, the middle ground. However, the development of a broader based Society, able to operate with its own panel of bishops across a range of issues could be a positive development. The doctrinal basis of the Society would be the Jerusalem Statement agreed at GAFCON in 2008. There might be two categories of membership - one for those who were supportive but who had no immediate ministry need, and another for those who did need alternative episcopal oversight.
Quite apart from the issue of women bishops, the formation of a Society could help in situations where irregular ordinations have had to take place over the last few years or will be taking place in the future. Where the ordinands involved have been through the Reform Panel of Reference, there is every reason to commend them and their congregations to the Society.
Briefing material for discussions in deanery and diocesan synods will be jointly issued by Reform and Church Society as soon as possible. A video making the case against women bishops will be available on the Reform web-site.
A number of members have recently written to me seeking advice on how to handle discussions on this subject in deanery synods. A variety of materials are available on the Reform web-site which run through the theological arguments, but in order to secure backing for a motion in many deaneries, it might be wise to focus as much on the issue of church unity as on other theological issues. A useful objective would be to get deanery synods to pass motions for consideration by their diocesan synods.
Members may be aware that at the end of last year a number of Provincial Episcopal Visitors (PEVs) announced their resignations and intention to depart for the Roman Catholic Ordinariate. The Archbishop of Canterbury made clear that they would be replaced and we therefore wrote to the Archbishop and his staff asking that a conservative evangelical be appointed to one of these posts. In addition, members of the Council wrote individually to the Archbishop's Appointment Secretary and I also wrote on behalf of the Reform Council, urging the Archbishop not to overlook the needs of evangelicals. There are currently some twenty eight parishes which have passed ‘Resolution C' (which requests episcopal oversight from a PEV) and the feeling is that many more might do so if there was the prospect of clear evangelical episcopal oversight.
Discussions with Awesome
As part of the process of engagement over the issue of women bishops, Bishop Wallace Benn, David Banting, Roger Beckwith, Mike Ovey, Carrie Sandom, and Nigel Atkinson have been involved over the last few months in discussions with Awesome - a network of ordained evangelical women. The meetings were chaired by Bishop Keith Sinclair. A final statement has now been produced which can be viewed on the Reform web-site. Essentially it outlines areas of theological difference, including different approaches to biblical interpretation. It stresses the need to be mutually supportive, but also recognises that differences remain outstanding over what should be done in practice. We will be putting the statement to the next meeting of the Council in March. (Added 15.3.2011 - The Council have now met and decided on the following statement: We are thankful for the dialogue that has taken place and welcome the honest but gracious expression of difference that is reflected in the final statement. As the concluding paragraphs state, we continue to respect those who disagree with our view of Scripture. We wish to stress, however, that the security of our respective positions depends on faithfulness to Scripture, rather than on any political need to accommodate one another within the structures of the institutional Church".
During the course of these consultations, as the issues of male headship and female submission have been explored, more fundamental questions have arisen about the Son's submission to the Father within the Trinity. Since such serious issues about the doctrine of God have emerged, the Reform Council has agreed that a fresh publication should be produced on the doctrine of the Trinity. We hope to produce this during the course of 2011.
There was a strong feeling at the Council that more needed to be done to secure a greater sense of involvement amongst our members, particularly as such challenging times lie ahead. As a result, it was agreed that new arrangements should be put in place which gave a time limit to service both on the Council and the Steering Committee; that younger people should be asked to serve on these bodies; that there should be greater regional representation; that more arrangements should be made to present issues at regional level; and lastly that we should generate more active support for women in ministry within the Reform network. These decisions will be considered at the next meeting of the Steering Committee in February and proposals made for changes.
Featured Article by Lisa Nolland on religious liberty and the sexual orientation regulations.
This is an article that is designed to be used in parish magazines. It highlights the case of Peter and Hazelmary Bull who were ordered to pay £3600 damages because they refused a double bed to two gay men at their B & B; urges Christians to recognise the seriousness of the wider situation; provides an action plan. The article is on the Reform web site.]]>
The Council of Reform met on March 9th and considered the statement that came out of the Reform / Awesome dialogue, which is provided below. The Council made the following statement:
We are thankful for the dialogue that has taken place and welcome the honest but gracious expression of difference that is reflected in the final statement. As the concluding paragraphs state, we continue to respect those who disagree with our view of Scripture. We wish to stress, however, that the security of our respective positions depends on faithfulness to Scripture, rather than on any political need to accommodate one another within the structures of the institutional Church
Statement Jan 2011
On Thursday, 6th January 2011, the Bishop of Birkenhead, Keith Sinclair chaired a fourth and, at this stage, final meeting of representatives from AWESOME and Reform, again joined by a number of invited theological consultants. This followed an initial discussion between AWESOME and Reform in 2009 and consultations in January and July 2010, both of which issued joint statements which are on the groups' websites. This final meeting considered women, ministry and ordination in the Pastoral Epistles, comparison between discussion of women and leadership and wider debates on homosexuality, hermeneutical and systematic questions raised by our study of the various texts, and the respective needs and desires of the two groups.
In the light of this and our previous discussions it is clear to us that our ongoing differences are not only in relation to the exegesis of the specific biblical texts where we have focussed our studies. Further areas which have arisen in our conversations and which we believe require ongoing discussion among evangelicals include:
Although this particular process has now reached its end, we hope that it will mark the start of wider, ongoing discussion among Anglican evangelicals on the various issues which we have considered together. In order to resource this we will endeavour to make available on both our websites all the papers prepared and discussed at each of the three consultations.
We have become aware how limited dialogue in this area has been among evangelicals for many years and some of the problems of misunderstanding and distrust that have arisen as a result. Despite our sometimes strong disagreements, our conversations in the context of the study of Scripture and prayer have been marked by growing friendship, respect and understanding. We pray these qualities will develop and deepen more widely among evangelicals and within the Church of England as it considers legislation relating to women bishops.
Across our different understandings of Scripture's teaching and divergent views on women presbyters and bishops we reaffirm that we want to recognise each other as fellow evangelicals and Anglicans. We see in each other a genuine desire to understand and be faithful to the Scriptures and their teaching about men and women. We therefore reject the view that our differences are to be explained in terms of either misogyny and cultural conservatism or secular feminism and cultural conformity. We believe evangelicals need to beware and repent of elevating exegetical disagreements in such a way as to deny Christian charity.
In the light of this mutual recognition, and reaffirming our initial commitments to ongoing reflection in a number of areas, we commit ourselves across our varied ministries and across our differences on women presbyters and bishops
(1) We believe that those who hold women presbyters and bishops are developments contrary to Scripture deserve a supported, secure and respected place among evangelicals and in the wider Church of England.
(2) We believe that those who welcome these developments as faithful to Scripture, particularly those women serving in church leadership, deserve a supported, secure and respected place among evangelicals and in the wider Church of England.
We recognise, however, two main challenges in discerning the practical implications of the full implementation of these commitments.
As a result, we believe that more work urgently needs to be done in order to understand and address these challenges. We commit ourselves and the various wider networks of which we are part to further reflection and action. We are considering whether and how we may initiate a new stage in our own discussions and we hope CEEC will support the commitments we have made and enable wider consultation and discussion about their implementation.
David Banting - Reform
Lis Goddard - AWESOME]]>
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:
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:
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.'
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.
- Ends -
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.
‘This book is not only a useful commentary on the foundational chapters of God’s biblical revelation, but also an excellent model of serious reading, study and interpretation of the Bible’ Dr Peter Adam Principal of Ridley College Melbourne
‘The book should be in the library of any preacher who wishes to make these passages come alive for his congregation.' Dr Carl Trueman
‘This is a refreshing and much needed book I commend it wholeheartedly’ Richard Cunningham UCCF
Rod Thomas, Chairman of Reform, writes:
The General Synod
At the General Synod's meeting in York earlier this month, I moved an amendment to the proposed measure on women bishops which, had it passed, would have enabled parishes to opt for a ‘complementary bishop' when it came to key issues like selecting ordinands for training, disciplining clergy and appointing incumbents. There was a good debate but the amendment was lost in the subsequent vote. The voting figures were:
Bishops 10 28
Clergy 52 124
Laity 73 118
These figures are significant because they show that more than 1/3rd of the House of Laity felt the present draft Measure to be in need of major revision.
The Archbishops of York and Canterbury put forward their own amendment. Although it did not go as far as our preferred option, it was nevertheless something that would have been very helpful for us had it passed. The amendment would have made it clear that when parishes opted out of having a woman bishop, the resulting male episcopal oversight wouldn't be ‘delegated' by her but would operate by statutory right. A majority of General Synod voted in favour of this amendment (216 to 191) but it fell because it didn't get a majority in each House. The House of Clergy voted against it by 90 to 85 with 5 abstentions.
The result is that the draft Measure will now go round all the Dioceses for consultation before coming back to the General Synod for final approval sometime in 2012. As it has emerged from the General Synod, the draft measure requires every diocese to devise a scheme for female diocesan bishops to delegate certain functions to a complementary bishop in order to provide for those who cannot in conscience accept the ministry of women bishops. In doing so they must have regard to the Code of Practice. Exactly what might result from this, however, will vary from one diocese to another.
Any legislation which provides for a woman bishop to ‘delegate' her functions is a far cry from the exercise of male headship that we believe should characterise episcopal leadership. However, what makes the situation much worse is the fact that there can be no certainty about how much oversight a complementary bishop might be allowed to exercise. The Code of Practice (not yet drafted) might provide for all sorts of functions to be passed to such a bishop but diocesan schemes won't be required to act on this: all they will have to do is to take the Code into account. This leaves a great deal of uncertainty. There is also the likelihood that over time, diocesan schemes would become more restrictive as people became more intolerant of those taking a stand on the Bible's teaching.
That said, this is no time to lose heart. There is still much that can be done as is outlined below. In all this we need to keep stressing:
What Do We Do Now?
There are steps we need to take in both the short-term and the long-term.
Deanery Synod Reps. Make sure a resolution is passed on to the diocese saying that the legislation needs to be changed to allow a greater sense of security to people who cannot in conscience accept the ministry of women bishops.
Diocesan Synod Reps. Urge your synod to pass a ‘Following Motion' if they decide to vote in favour of the legislation. This motion should ask for changes to be made so that ‘traditionalists' don't feel excluded. If enough dioceses pass Following Motions, the House of Bishops will be able to introduce changes to the draft legislation before it comes back to the General Synod.
If the draft measure is eventually approved in something like its present form, the clearest warning bells will be ringing for us. It may be that we will be able to make use of arrangements under the Code of Practice but at the very least it seems likely that some of our best young men will be put off offering themselves for the ordained ministry in the Church of England. If that happens - if the tap is turned off - then new incumbents for our churches will be harder and harder to come by and the future of our churches will be called into question.
Our response to this must be twofold:
There are two main problems with this measure as it stands.
First the provisions made for those who cannot in conscience accept the oversight of a female bishop are inadequate. This measure does not provide a secure future for our ministry within the Church of England.
Second we think that given the voting patterns we saw this time, unless the Dioceses recommend some significant changes, we will very likely see this voted down at the 2012 General Synod.
The positive response to the Archbishops' own amendment shows that there are still options available which have not yet been fully explored and which could give Reform members and others adequate provision. We want to see these explored and will seek discussions to ensure they are.
Reform was established in 1993 and is a network of churches and individuals within the Church of England. Current individual membership is around 1,700, in addition to 35 member churches. More than 350 ordained clergy are Reform members.]]>
drafted July 2010
On Thursday, July 8th, the Bishop of Birkenhead, Keith Sinclair chaired a third meeting of representatives from AWESOME and Reform, again joined by a number of theological consultants as guests. We first met informally in September 2009 and then full-on in January 2010 as evangelicals to consider again the Biblical texts that lie behind the current debates on gender and roles in the Church of England. The first Statement issued at that time was part of the stimulus for the C of E Evangelical Council (CEEC) to convene a meeting on Monday, June 21st, between some seventeen evangelical Anglican networks, organisations and institutions to consider and coordinate evangelical responses to the issue and contribution to the General Synod debate in July on the legislation for Women Bishops. We believed that, parallel to our Biblical and theological consultation, there needed to be a consultation on the political (ie Synodical) and pastoral (ie ministerial and back in the parishes) dimensions to this debate. Evangelicals need to be engaging with each other, especially if we appear to differ on these issues of the day, to understand each other better and to model to the wider Church how to engage with differences and maintain unity and charity.
In January the texts under discussion were Genesis 2-3 and 1 Timothy 2, with a sweep through Luke 24, John 20 and Acts 18. We found, as did CEEC on June 21st, that we had not heard and engaged with the variety of views for some time and that it was good to meet and listen to the understandings and feelings of others. This third meeting of AWESOME and Reform decided to look again at 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5/1 Corinthians 7 and see what they taught of the Trinity and marriage respectively and what relevance they might have to gender roles in the Church. As in the previous consultation, papers were written and circulated in advance and it is hoped that they may in due course be edited to appear on our two web-sites.
The conversation was extensive, open and honest. It continued to be illuminating for better understanding of each other and a growth in mutual respect. We accepted that our discussions remain incomplete. We need to meet a fourth time to explore the Pastoral letters again for our understanding of order and ordination in the Church, and to grapple with whether there is any relation between this debate on gender and roles and that on issues of human sexuality which continue to convulse the C of E. We honestly recognised that we are still in a position of ‘agreeing to disagree' on a number of substantive points and for that reason too needed a fourth meeting if we were to add anything further to our initial Statement. However, we are very clear and grateful for the growth in friendship and respect that we have discovered as we have met to pray and converse.
This next meeting is likely to be after the elections to the next General Synod and, of course, in the light of the decision of the July General Synod, but we intend it to be before the February 2011 GS. Our plan is for the papers eventually to be on our two web-sites. The CEEC consultation dramatically revealed how evangelical Anglicans had stopped meeting to talk these issues through. We, therefore, offer these ongoing discussions between Reform and AWESOME as a model and stimulus to others to engage or re-engage similarly.
Chair: The Bishop of Birkenhead
Awesome: Lis Goddard, Rosie Ward, and Julia Murphy, with Emma Ineson and Andrew Goddard
Reform: David Banting, Carrie Sandom and Nigel Atkinson, with Mike Ovey and Roger Beckwith
Drafted July 2010, published and circulated in October 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:
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:
He continued: "It is very disappointing that the Committee, despite a lengthy discussion of the implications of these decisions, has voted to give no adequate statutory provision to those who cannot accept the oversight of a female bishop on Scriptural grounds.
"We very much hope that amendments will be made at July's General Synod so that we are able to vote on a piece of legislation that seeks to include rather than exclude our ministries now and in the future."
As evidence of the strength of feeling concerning this innovation, 100 Reform clergy have signed a letter sent to every bishop in advance of the House of Bishops' meeting next week. This follows a similar letter signed by 50 of the clergy sent in February, and sets out why "the consecration of women bishops would be a mistake and would raise for us great difficulties of conscience and practice, as well as being wrong for our Church as a whole."
A major practical consequence highlighted by the letter is the pipeline of future ordinands. The 100 churches represented by the letter have sent 286 men into ministry in the Church of England over the last 10 years, of whom 120 were under the age of 30. But these numbers would be seriously squeezed in the future, with Reform clergy encouraging young men to undertake training for ministries outside the Church of England's formal structures, although within an Anglican tradition.
As active clergy within the Church of England we are writing to say why, in our view, the consecration of women bishops would be a mistake and would raise for us great difficulties of conscience and practice, as well as being wrong for our Church as a whole.
Our concern is derived from Scripture. It seems to us that the Apostolic teaching on male headship in church and family (as in 1 Corinthians 11-14, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 3) is clear enough in its principles: overall leadership in the church is to be exercised by men. This is not cultural, but a creation ordinance (1Tim 2:13) and rooted in the nature of God (1Cor 11:3). The fierce debates that have surrounded the gender issue over the last twenty years or so have stimulated much careful analysis of these texts, and have only served to show that mainstream translations such as NRSV, NIV, REB and ESV are correct in their translation and may (and should) be taken as they stand.
It is, of course, right to say that these passages in Paul and Peter have a particular cultural setting; but to make them prisoners of that culture and thus unable to challenge our culture, seems to us implicitly to deny the authority of Scripture. It is surely the genius of the New Testament that what was spoken in a particular context is at one and the same time also God's word to us. Far from being a prisoner of his culture, Paul is not afraid to challenge it, warning his readers "not to live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking" (Eph 4:17). Why, then, is it assumed he will uncritically reflect their values on this issue of gender?
Therefore we think the historic, reasoned reflection of Christians down the ages (including the historic position of the Church of England) has been correct; we fear that the current pressure to overturn it comes not for biblical reasons but because we are losing our nerve in the face of pressure from society.
In saying all this, we emphasise again that we are NOT for a moment saying women are not equal to men, or are less valuable or are inferior and nor does the Scripture. This, in our experience, is the point which we find hardest to communicate, since the world about us equates value with power. Just by making this point we are thought to be "anti-women". On the contrary, it is both possible and right to affirm that we are "all one in Christ Jesus", while at the same time affirming different roles. For the Bible separates roles and worth: our Lord Jesus himself submitted to the Father, but is, of course, no less God than he is.
There are, of course, questions about how precisely to honour this teaching in some details of the life of our churches today, but few would doubt, surely, that the office of bishop is indeed very much a leadership function!
In our own churches we are glad to teach these passages of Scripture as they stand, and include a ‘complementary' view of gender roles in our teaching on marriage, family life and church. Gently ordering our shared life this way is, in our view, vital to our witness to a Christian understanding of family life. Our churches contain many members - and very many women as well as men - who are glad of this teaching, which is all the more important in a world which is so confused about gender roles and sexuality in general. In such a context, the oversight of a woman bishop would be enormously hard to explain, however great her merits in other regards. Again and again, in our youth groups, at marriage preparation and whenever covering the relevant passages in homegroups and from the pulpit, we would find ourselves having to answer people's question, "Why does the Church of England go against this?" This would fester on for as long as people have Bibles in their hands.
In the end, this is an issue about our view of Holy Scripture, and this is why it matters to us so much, as ministers of the Word.
As matters stand, it seems likely that General Synod will be invited to vote on legislative proposals that threaten our ministries. We fear this will significantly impact how we function as parish churches, as part of our Diocesan communities and not least as partners in the mission of ministry of the Church of England. An illustration of the practical problems we will face should a Measure fail to provide adequate safeguards, can be seen with future ordinands. At the moment we are encouraging young men into the ordained ministry in the knowledge that they cannot be discriminated against if they hold convictions about male headship. While this remains the case, we have encouraged them to believe that there is a worthwhile future for their ministries in the Church of England. However, we will be unable to do this if inadequately protective legislation is passed. The issue that will then arise is how to encourage these men to develop their ministries if they cannot do so within the formal structures of the Church of England. The answer must be to encourage them to undertake training for ministries outside those formal structures, although hopefully still within an Anglican tradition. We will, of course, have to help them with the financing of their training.
Many of our congregation will inevitably start asking questions about their own place within the Church of England if they see us encouraging people into training for alternative ministries. This will come into sharp focus when the issue of succession to an incumbency arises. Since we cannot take an oath of canonical obedience to a female bishop, we are unlikely to be appointed to future incumbencies. We see nothing but difficulty facing us. In these circumstances we will have to discuss with our congregations how to foster and protect the ministry they wish to receive. This may well generate a need for the creation of new independent charitable trusts whose purpose will be to finance our future ministries, when the need arises.
These twin developments will need to be financed from current congregational giving. This will inevitably put a severe strain on our ability to continue to contribute financially to Diocesan funds. Where we are unable to contribute as before some will see this as a form of retaliation. However, that could not be further from the truth. We long to contribute to the well being of the Church of England. Over the last ten years we have encouraged 286 people into the ordained ministry, 120 of whom were under the age of 30. We have together contributed a gross figure of over £38 million to Diocesan funds.
Finally, for those of us ordained since 1992, our understanding, in good faith, was that proper legal provision would be made for those who did not agree that women should have the overall leadership of a church (Resolution B, etc). It seems to us a matter of simple integrity that Synod should now keep its word to us in this and not force us down a road none of us wish to tread.
Yours in Christ,
Rev'd Rod Thomas St Matthew's Elburton, Exeter
(Chairman of Reform)
Rev'd Michael Andreyev St Peters Stapenhill, Derby
Rev'd Canon George Ansah Emmanuel, West Dulwich, Southwark
Rev'd Nigel Atkinson St John's Knutsford, Chester
Rev'd Simon Austen St John's and St Peter's, Carlisle
Rev'd Martin Bailey All Saints Riseley, Peterborough
Rev'd Iain Baker St Thomas Kidsgrove, Lichfield
Rev'd Hugh Balfour Christ Church Peckham, Southwark
Rev'd David Banting St Peter's Harold Wood, Chelmsford
Rev'd Neil Barber St Giles Normanton, Derby
Rev'd Robert Bashford St James Westgate,Canterbury
Rev'd Paul Baxendale St James Burton-in-Kendal and Holy Trinity Holme, Carlisle
Rev'd John Birchall Christ Church Surbiton Hill, Southwark
Rev'd David Bourne St Mary's Hailsham, Chichester
Rev'd Matthew Brailsford All Saints North Ferriby, York
Rev'd Peter Breckwoldt Moulton Parish Church, Peterborough
Rev'd Iain Broomfield Christ Church Bromley, Rochester
Rev'd Mark Burkill Christ Church Leytonstone, Chelmsford
Rev'd Tony Cannon Kingham & Daylesford, Churchill with Sarsden, Oxford
Rev'd Jim Charles St Peter's Bexleyheath, Rochester
Rev'd John Cheeseman Holy Trinity Eastbourne, Chichester
Rev'd Philip Coekin United Benefice of Emmanuel, Hastings, Chichester
Rev'd Edward Coombs St Paul's Banbury, Oxford
Rev'd David Craven Croglin, Carlisle
Rev'd Tim Crook St Mary Magdalene South Bersted Chichester
Rev'd Dr Roger Curl St Mary's Fulham
Rev'd Paul Darlington Holy Trinity, Oswestry, Lichfield
Rev'd Canon Tim Davies Christ Church Central, Sheffield
Rev'd CJ Davis St NicholasTooting, Southwark
Rev'd Robert Desics St Timothy's Hemlington, York
Rev'd Charles Dobbie Holy Trinity Lyonsdown, St Albans
Rev'd Steve Donald St John the Evangelist, Carlisle
Rev'd William Eardley St Withun's Holmesfield, Derby
Rev'd Nigel Elliott St Mary's Wombwell, Sheffield
Rev'd Jonny Elvin Trinity Church Exeter, Exeter
Rev'd Richard Espin-Bradley St Luke's Wolverhampton, Birmingham
Rev'd Dick Farr St John's Tunbridge Wells, Rochester
Rev'd Jonathan Fletcher Emmanuel Church Wimbledon, Southwark
Rev'd John Fulton Hepworth, Hinderclay, Thelnetham & Wattisfield, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich
Rev'd Simon Gales St John s Lindow, Chester
Rev'd David Gibb St Andrews Leyland, Blackburn
Rev'd Ian Gilmour Holy Redeemer Streatham, Southwark
Rev'd John Hamilton St Andrew's, Sherborne St John
Rev'd Graham Hamilton St Peters Bovey Tracey, Exeter
Rev'd Tim Hanson Christ Church, Winsford, Chester Diocese
Rev'd David Harris St Leonards, Exeter
Rev'd Clive Hawkins St Mary's Eastrop, Winchester
Rev'd Chris Hobbs St Stephen's Selly Park, Birmingham
Rev'd Christopher Hobbs St Thomas Oakwood, London
Rev'd Jon Hobbs Maresfield & Nutley Churches
Rev'd Richard Hopkins Sileby, Cossington & Seagrave, Diocese of Leicester.
Rev'd James Hunt Blessed Mary and St Peter's Bishops Waltham, Portsmouth
Rev'd Pete Jackson St Andrew's Kendray, Sheffield
Rev'd Charles Jefferson St James Thrapston, Peterborough
Rev'd Jonathan Juckes St Andrew's Kirk Ella, York
Rev'd Jeremy Leffler St Ambrose Widnes, Liverpool
Rev'd James Leggett St James, Ryde, Portsmouth
Rev'd Ian Lewis St Bartholomews, Bath
Rev'd Robert Lovatt All Saints Eastbourne, Chichester
Rev'd Mark Lucas St John's Church Polegate, Chichester
Rev' d Rupert Mackay St Paul's Hadley Wood, London
Rev'd Angus MacLeay St Nicholas Sevenoaks, Rochester
Rev'd Mark Madeley St John the Baptist Coley, Wakefield
Rev'd Julian Mann Oughtibridge Parish Church, Sheffield
Rev'd Bob Mason St James' Poole, Salisbury
Rev'd David Mathers St Peter Thurston, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich
Rev'd Dafydd Meirion-Jones All Saints Preston, Blackburn
Rev'd Steve Midgley Christ Church Cambridge, Ely
Rev'd Jonathan Milton-Thomson St Andrew's Church Livesey, Blackburn
Rev'd Ed Moll St George's Wembdon, Bath
Rev'd Darren Moore St Catherine's Tranmere, Chester
Rev'd Russell Moul St Paul's Harold Hill, Chelmsford
Rev'd Ken Moulder St Oswalds, Newcastle
Rev'd Robert Munro Cheadle Parish Church, Chester
Rev'd Mike Neville All Saints Fordham & Eight Ash Green
Rev'd Alasdair Paine Christ Church Westbourne, Winchester
Rev'd Paul Perkin St Mark's Battersea Rise, Southwark
Rev'd Mark Pickles St Ackmund's Duffield, Derby
Rev'd Frank Price St Matthew's Cambridge
Rev'd Andrew Raynes Christ Church, Blackburn
Rev'd Mike Reith Dagenham Parish Church, Chelmsford
Rev'd Vaughan Roberts St Ebbe's, Oxford
Rev'd Simon Scott All Saints Little Shelford, Cambridge
Rev'd Robin Sewell St Paul's Braintree, Chelmsford
Rev'd John Simmons Christ Church Chadderton, Manchester
Rev'd Simon Smallwood St George's Dagenahm, Chelmsford
Rev'd Will Stileman St Mary's Maidenhead, Oxford
Rev'd Canon Alan Strange Holy Trinity Norwich,
Rev'd Hugh Symes-Thomson St Peter & St Paul, Cranfield, St Albans
Rev'd William Taylor St Helen's Bishopsgate, London
Rev'd Melvin Tinker St John's Newlands, York
Rev'd Peter Tizzard Christ Church Ramsgate
Rev'd Gary Townsend Henham, Elsenham and Ugley, Chelmsford
Rev'd Alistair Tresidder St Luke's Hampstead, London
Rev'd Philip Venables St Andrew's Bebington,Chester
Rev'd Giles Walter St John's Tunbridge Wells, Rochester
Rev'd Stephen Walton St Michaels's Marbury, Chester
Rev'd Tim Ward Holy Trinity Hinkley, Leicester
Rev'd Mike Warren St Peters Tunbridge Wells, Rochester
Rev'd Gordon Warren St Anne's Limehouse, London
Rev'd Paul Whybrow St Olaf's, Truro
Rev'd Paul Williams Christ Church Fulwood, Sheffield
(The Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev'd Wallace Benn, also wishes to be associated with this letter)]]>
In one way, this is not a usual Reform booklet. Since our concern is the evangelisation of the nation through a reformed Church, many of our booklets seek to explore the ways in which we can do that. By contrast, this booklet is concerned not so much with reforming the Church as with safeguarding and promoting marriage.
However, in another way, I hope this booklet will be seen as addressing an issue very much at the heart of our concerns. Marriage has huge theological, societal and personal significance. Marriage is under attack as a distinctive gift of God and it is up to Christians, as never before, to explain, promote and live out the joys and challenges of marriage. Those with the gift of singleness will, I hope, wish to join with their married brothers and sisters, in encouraging all people to see the blessings of marriage.
This booklet seeks simply to encourage us to review what we are doing through our churches to encourage and sustain marriages. It is full of examples, ideas and explanations of fresh approaches. The sheer variety of what is already going on will be a stimulus for more widespread action; the lack of consistency across churches, particularly in the area of marriage preparation, will be the challenge.
Fortunately, as we all seek to be effective in this field, there are a good many resources we can tap. We do not have to keep inventing the wheel! A large number of these resources are listed here - an invaluable guide as we plan for action.
We are publishing this booklet to coincide with Marriage Week UK. It is always good to set aside a particular time to focus on an issue, but our hope is that churches will make the promotion and sustenance of marriage a year-round matter for prayer and action.
In Praise of Marriage
by David Banting with the assistance of Clare McCaughren
The genesis of this booklet is found in Reform's Covenant document. Reform's origins lay in the debates of the 1980s and it was launched in 1993 with "A Covenant for the Evangelisation of England". It still makes excellent reading and is itself the subject of a Reform article (booklet no.20). After a clear statement of the doctrinal and confessional foundation of the Church of England and of the Reform network, the Covenant highlights topical issues of concern in areas of Christian ministry or living.
One section of the Covenant is headed "Our understanding of God's way of life for his people" and then mentions five issues. Two of them are directly relevant to marriage:
In all the debates and conflicts that are increasing over issues of human sexuality, the positive need to champion and cherish both the institution of marriage and individual marriages has received less attention than it should. This booklet attempts to avoid the negative (what we oppose or are concerned about) and affirm the positive (what we value and celebrate of God's gift and provision). We understand that God's Word does not describe human beings by their sexuality, but by their gender. Humankind is created, male and female, in the image of God, and marriage is God's gift for the hallowing and blessing of our sexual desires and for the foundation and energy of family life and society. The married relationship between husband and wife is a unique reflection and symbol of the relationship between Christ and His Church, with profound implications for the ordering and flourishing of the human and divine families.
Marriage and marriages are under enough pressures and strains as it is, at societal and personal levels, without alternatives and substitutes being actively encouraged and promoted. This booklet is a modest attempt to celebrate marriage and encourage local churches to consider how best they might not only prepare couples for marriage, but also seek to promote and champion marriage in the community and the life of our nation. I freely acknowledge the modest nature of this contribution and the limit of its scope. The returns to the questionnaire (circulated through the Reform network) indicate the fairly low opportunity and priority given to marriage ministry. There are some glorious exceptions - I think particularly of some books and courses that have recently been promoted, especially those by Nicky and Sila Lee or Simon Vibert, as well as good thinking and practice offered by Christopher Ash, Michael Lawson and J. John. But by and large marriage ministry seems mostly reactive, i.e. it responds to those who in some way approach the church to be married, rather than adopting a more pro-active, let alone go-get-‘em, approach.
To test how robust our teaching is about marriage preparation (let alone marriage promotion), may I recall an approach that I heard of from America? With a divorce rate like that of the UK (approaching 50%), one town determined to face the issue head-on. There were two elements: one, to gather all the agencies and organisations to collaborate in offering teaching and support (e.g. doctors, schools, welfare, police, counsellors, as well as churches and other voluntary groups); and second, blunt realisation in the face of statistics of 1 in 2 failure that, unless marriage preparation persuaded some couples NOT to marry (and therefore avoid the fall-out and cost of breakdown), it was probably pretty useless. How do you react to such a robust aim?! That town community saw the need to prevent disastrous marriages as part of the championing of marriage and good marriages.
By the way, I need to say at this stage that there is no such thing as a blueprint for how any one actual marriage works or looks and certainly no formula as to how best to foster marriage. This booklet aims to affirm marriage in our society and to commend its blessings and value to today's citizens.
The final trigger for a booklet on this subject has been the emergence of NATIONAL MARRIAGE WEEK and the few enthusiasts who have promoted the idea and begun to gather and disseminate resources. I will leave the Marriage Internet Resources web page to offer a further explanation of the week and its associated growing resources. I will simply relate my understanding of it here and endeavour in my local church and parish to use the opportunities it provides.
National Marriage Week was launched some seven years ago, with Prime Minister Tony Blair adding his commendation. The week has been designated as the two Sundays either side of Valentine's Day on February 14th. That began to give me a twin stimulus: first, to give some annual focus in Sunday preaching and teaching and in midweek celebration to the whole issue of marriage; and second, to galvanize the marriage preparation we were offering to those requesting to get married that year at St Peter's.
We started by offering two occasions during that week; a dinner for all those planning to get married that year and those who got married the previous year, and then some kind of public event offering insight, celebration and support of marriage. The dinner is relatively easy to set up. In the first week of the new year, we look at who has booked in to get married any time that year, and send them (and all those married in the previous 12 months - we tell them at the time of their preparation) an invitation to a dinner "In Praise of Marriage". We enjoy an excellent meal together (the couples, the staff team and the marriage preparation team). I am able to introduce the couples to whichever of the clergy will be taking their wedding and to explain our whole approach to marriage preparation. The marriage prep team introduce themselves and the four-week course they offer and the proposed dates. Finally, I offer something by way of an "after-dinner speech" to the title "In Praise of Marriage". It is usually fairly light, but aims to have some Bible and Christian inspiration and insight to set the whole project alight.
The public event has been more varied and challenging to mount successfully. It has tended to be on a weekday evening (Tues/Wed, when Small Groups usually meet) or Fri/Sat, but always avoiding Valentine's Day itself! We have been reasonably effective in getting members of our and other churches along, but less so reaching into the community. We issue invitations in our quarterly door-to-door publication, in the local press, and through whatever personal interactions we can. We have had the press present and articles in the local press occasionally.
Roughly in order to date, we have had a speaker and presentation from CARE - largely the social and political issues; an evening we ran ourselves using the Rob Parsons videos and discussions for marriage support and renewal; a dinner with Anne Atkins, who spoke after the meal on her latest book (on families) and answered questions - it could have gone on till midnight; a different evening, again in-house, but very professional, on stress in modern life, especially families, and ways of de-stressing - ending with a pampering session or two; a spell-binding evening with Andrew Cornes expounding the "Song of Songs" in his intimately personal and uniquely powerful way; and an evening with Simon Vibert promoting his approach in his book "The Diamond Marriage".
If the evening event is on Saturday, it has also enabled a visiting speaker to preach the next day - e.g. Shaun Atkins on Mark 10, Simon Vibert on Ephesians 5, etc. - which has been excellent for the congregation.
We have a long way to go, but we have made a start. National Marriage Week certainly gives us a space and a stimulus every year to time and plan how we are actively addressing Marriage Matters - teaching, educating, celebrating, campaigning, supporting, cherishing, championing. I hope this little publication will encourage and stimulate others.
This booklet offers a personal and local introduction and then a summary of ideas and suggestions gathered from ministers and churches that replied to the simple Marriage Preparation questionnaire. We received a few contributions from individuals and one of these from Mark Ashton is in appendix iv. National Marriage Week has now become Marriage Week UK (www.marriage-week.org.uk) while Ted Pratt (a member of Reform) is active in Marriage Resource (www.marriageresource.org.uk). Both web sites provide a vast wealth of material and ideas, some of which I have reproduced here. There is a concluding bibliography for books (obviously!) recommended and thought valuable, and other resources/agencies.
Go to - enjoy marriage and promote marriage and the family.
Marriage Preparation Example Questionnaire
(sent out to Reform churches and clergy in 2005)
1. How many weddings do you take a year?
2. What preparation can you offer?
3. Do you have any ideas or strategy as to how to support marriage or to promote marriage
a) in your church?
b) in your community?
c) in the public arena?
4. Do you know of National Marriage Week?
Do you support it in any way in the parish?
If so, how?
5. Do you run or are you thinking of running any events / courses to celebrate or support marriage?
6. How do you teach about marriage and relationships?
7. What other things do you do / can you think of that promote marriage
a) in the Church
b) in the community
c) in society
8. Press/Media - any stories or ideas to repeat?
9. What resources would you recommend?
10. Please be as imaginative and bold and practical as you wish in any other ideas or suggestions, comments or questions.
Marriage Preparation Survey Responses
Preparing Engaged Couples for Marriage
Number of weddings taken in a year:
|Number of weddings||Number of churches||Percentage of respondents|
All but one of the churches who responded were able to offer some form of marriage preparation, for instance through lending relevant books and materials, at least one meeting between the vicar and the engaged couples, and courses ranging from a day or an evening to several weeks. These courses are often lay-led and in the context of "home groups". One respondent also mentioned that they have had some success with encouraging the couples to attend the morning service, which all do for a few sessions, and some stay on once they are married.
|Preparation||Number of churches||Percentage of respondents|
|One session preparation||6||25%|
|Short marriage preparation||4||17%|
|Longer marriage "course"||11||46%|
Three churches replied that they used their own "home grown" marriage preparation courses.
A couple of respondents were able to go into further detail about exactly how their preparation works. The "In-House" Day at St Giles' in Derby runs as follows: first a discussion on how the Bible deals with sex and relationships between men and women. The couples are then taken through Two Ways to Live, The Marriage Service and the Five Languages of Love. Another church's course runs like this: "The main session is 3-8pm on a Sunday. We do 45 minutes on the service itself, 1 hour using Parsons' video, 30 minutes in seminars with married couples, 15 minutes for questions, 1 hour for a meal together and then 1 hour 30 minutes for the evening church service."
Some churches had very encouraging stories to share, for instance St Mark's in Southwark: "This year we prepared 30 couples through marriage preparation courses - half of them had had no previous connection with the church." St Catherine's in Tranmare, Chester have recently had two women come to faith through their marriage preparation course. Ideas and suggestions about marriage preparation from those who responded to the survey included:
St Thomas', of Garrets Green in Birmingham, wrote about people's objections to marriage: "It is substantially about money. The direct and indirect costs of marriage must be reduced." To help overcome the possible financial obstacles associated with getting married, St Thomas' does the service for the £240 statutory fee and provides the music, flowers etc free of charge, with the children's club helping with the flowers.
All respondents wrote that they promote and teach about marriage and godly relationships as the theme naturally occurs in the course of Sunday preaching and at wedding services. Two churches specifically set aside time in the year to dedicate to the topic of marriage: St Mark's in Southwark does "one Sunday sermon each term, geared appropriately to couples and families in the morning, and singles and recently marrieds in the evening", while St Andrew's in Truro uses a Sunday around Valentine's Day, as well as 3 or 4 other Sundays in a year, to focus on marriage.
More suggestions for effective ways to promote marriage:
There are many courses, designed in a similar way to marriage preparation courses, but specifically to help couples already married. A total of 9 churches who responded run such courses, with material from Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), Alpha, Rob Parsons and Care for the Family. St George's of Ripon and Leeds offers the HTB marriage course as a follow up once couples who have been through their marriage preparation course have been married a while. St Mary's in Cheadle, Chester, advertises "Marriage Enrichment Weekend", but they also open their marriage preparation events to any couple, not just those preparing for their wedding.
Holy Trinity in Rochester replied that it was very important to be open to talking about marriage, to share yourself and your experiences in order to help and encourage others. Support between members of the congregation is vital - both Holy Trinity and St Mary's, as well as other churches, cited the importance of home groups in the role of teaching, counselling and supporting married couples. One church aims to "arrange as many ‘get togethers' as practicable, particularly for young marrieds." They also "encourage the congregation to make their chief friends in the church and love one another fervently."
Another popular way of supporting marriage was through holding celebratory events for special milestones: 10 of the churches who responded specifically mentioned the increasing popularity of renewal of vows, and big anniversary celebrations (i.e. 30, 40, 50 years).
Other ideas and suggestions include:
National Marriage Week
Do you know of National Marriage Week? Do you support it in any way?
|No. of churches||% of replies||No. of churches||% of replies|
The majority of churches who do support "National Marriage Week" celebrated with special prayers during the Sunday services. St Mary's in Cheadle, Chester replied that "The main marriage service is held on the Sunday closest to Valentine's Day and the evening has a marriage/invitation theme".
Problems and Concerns
A number of churches have come across obstacles to successful marriage preparation and promotion. One church who has offered non-obligatory courses has found them to be poorly attended, "possibly because the majority of engaged couples are already co-habiting and see no difference in the relationship", and therefore no need for extra preparation. Westham Parish Church in Chichester agreed and cited the need for "a course which took into account that many couples have been living together for some time."
A few churches named such difficulties as low numbers of both young marrieds and people willing to run the courses or be a support for them. Sometimes couples live outside of the parish (using a parental address as their residence) which means they are not around for preparation.
Such difficulties also extended to running events or courses to celebrate or support marriage: the majority of churches would like to be able to do this, but regretted a lack of knowledge and resources, a scarcity of people to run the courses, too few marriages taking place, and general lack of interest in attending such events.
More than one church acknowledged that completing (or trying to complete!) this questionnaire had caused them to realise how little time and thought is often given to promoting and supporting marriage.
The Reform web site has a page with all the links below and also some specific resources that can be downloaded: click here
Bristol Community Family Trust: www.bcft.co.uk
Care for the Family: www.careforthefamily.org.uk/marriage/
Marriage Preparation Questionnaire: www.foccus.org.uk
Marriage Resource: www.marriageresource.org.uk/
Two ways to live: www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/
The Jubilee Centre: www.jubilee-centre.org
Holy Trinity Brompton Marriage Preparation Course / Marriage Course (http://relationshipcentral.org)
Peter Jackson: Preparing for Marriage (www.thegoodbook.co.uk)
The FOCCUS Questionnaire (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study) from firstname.lastname@example.org (highly recommended by St Mark's, Battersea Rise, but needs training to conduct it)
Christopher Ash, Married for God (IVP: 2007)
Christopher Ash, Marriage: Sex in the Service of God (IVP: 2003)
James Dobson, Love for a Lifetime (Multnomah Gifts: 2007)
James Dobson, Love must be Tough (Multnomah Publishers: 2003)
J. John, Till Death Us Do Part (Philo Trust: 2004)
Michael Lawson, The Better Marriage Guide (General Publishing Co: 1999)
Nicky and Sila Lee, The Marriage Book (Alpha International: 2000)
Rob Parsons, The 60 Minute Marriage (Hodder & Stoughton: 1997)
Alexander Strauch, Men and Women: Equal Yet Different (Lewis & Roth Publishers: 1999)
Simon Vibert, The Diamond Marriage (Christian Focus Publications: 2005)
Ed and Gaye Wheat, Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfilment in Christian Marriage (Scripture Union Publishing: 2000)
in New Directions (search archive here)
Sabbatical Report on Marriage
Mark Ashton (St Andrew the Great)
This report is focussed on the general area of marriage and the family, and more specifically on marriage breakdown within the Christian community.
The Theological Framework
Pressures On Marriage
Marriage and the Christian Life
The Marriage Foundation Year
Observations from the American Christian Community
Roles Within Marriage
Andrew Cornes, Divorce and Remarriage (Christian Focus: 2002)
Rodney Clapp, Families at the Crossroads (IVP: 1993)
Kent Huges, Common Sense Parenting (Tyndale House Publishing: 1996)
Tony Payne & Phillip Jensen, Pure Sex (Matthias Media: 2003)
Garland & Garland, Beyond Companionship: Christians in Marriage (Wipf & Stock: 2003)
Steve Ayers, Sex and Sensibility (IVP: 1997)
Linda Berg-Cross, Couples Therapy (Routledge: 2001)
William McRae, Preparing for your Marriage (Zondervan: 1980)
Dave Leal, On Marriage as Vocation (Grove Books: 1996)
Oliver O'Donovan, Marriage and Permanence (Grove Books: 1978)
Jay Adams, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible (Zondervan: 1986)
Larry Crabb, Connecting (Thomas Nelson: 2004)
Rod Thomas, Chairman of Reform, writes:
A Critical Time
There is a good deal of uneasiness in the church, not least within the House of Bishops, about the prospect of introducing legislation which could alienate so many parishes. The Archbishop of Canterbury voiced this in his address to the February General Synod, when he effectively said that nobody should so pursue their claim to have their rights recognised that they undermine the rights of others in a way that produces injustice. "We need," he said, "to look for a resolution that allows some measure of continuing dignity and indeed liberty to all - in something like their own terms."
We must continue to make our case. The letter we sent to the House of Bishops and the General Synod as a whole, signed by 50 incumbents, was a start. To view the letter click here. It generated a substantial amount of publicity and we will now be seeking further signatures in order to demonstrate the scale of the problem before the House of Bishops meets in May.
General Synod ‘recognised and affirmed' the desire of ACNA churches to continue as Anglicans. ACNA churches are those who have separated from TEC (The Episcopal Church of the USA) both over the consecration of actively gay clergy and also over questions about TEC's commitment to the uniqueness of Christ. It would be good if churches in this country were able to start forming links with ACNA churches beginning perhaps by inviting clergy over here as guest preachers. If you would like to play a part in this, please contact theReform office.]]>
The Reform Chairman was commenting on an open letter issued to Synod members today by 50 Church of England ministers who have links with Reform. Drawn from churches of varying sizes across England, they say that in the last ten years they have sent over 180 men into ordained ministry, of whom more than 50% were under the age of 30. They have also contributed more than £22 million to the Church of England's finances.
The ministers say that if future legislation fails to provide adequately for them, then they would have to encourage new potential ordinands to consider training for ministry outside the Church of England and to help them financially to do that. Churches would also need to consider establishing charitable trusts to finance their own ministries in the longer term. These costs would inevitably put a "severe strain" on their continuing ability to contribute to the Church of England.
The signatories represent just some of those who are concerned over the current lack of provision for opponents of women bishops. The letter points out that their opposition is based on the pattern the Bible gives both for relationships in the home and the church. They say that they cannot see how, as Bible teachers, they can do other than put into practice what they believe the Bible to be teaching.
Rod Thomas said: "The current absence of any proposal from the General Synod's Revision Committee to guarantee a future place for our views within the Church of England is causing great concern."
Reform has more than 1,300 members, of whom more than 350 are ordained clergy. Many others are known to be sympathetic to its concerns.]]>
A group of representatives from Awesome and Reform have met in order to talk about their understanding of what the Bible says about men, women and headship.
On Tues 5th January 2010, Bishop Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead chaired a second meeting of representatives of AWESOME & Reform.1 This time we were joined by invited theological consultants as guests. We met to discuss differences among evangelicals over biblical teaching about women’s ministry and leadership and the implications of such teaching for any church committed to ordering its life as a faithful, obedient response to that teaching and were assisted by papers written by some of those attending. Our focus was mainly but not exclusively on issues of biblical theology, exegesis and hermeneutics rather than current political issues relating to women bishops.
We acknowledged that structured conversations with this focus have sadly not occurred among evangelicals in recent years and all found the meeting to be a valuable initiative, helping us as evangelicals to recognise the importance of unity around the gospel. Although significant differences clearly remain, as a result of our conversations we have identified a number of key areas we believe it is essential evangelicals explore together as we continue to wrestle with what it means to uphold our shared conviction that Scripture is “the wholly reliable revelation and record of God's grace, given by the Holy Spirit as the true word of God written...given to lead us to salvation, to be the ultimate rule for Christian faith and conduct, and the supreme authority by which the Church must ever reform itself and judge its traditions”.2
We believe it is important that evangelicals in the Church of England with different understandings of Scripture’s teaching and divergent views on women presbyters and bishops should treat each other as evangelicals and Anglicans. The experience of AWESOME and other bodies within evangelicalism shows that differences here need not prevent us working together in the cause of the gospel as brothers and sisters in Christ who are committed evangelicals and Anglicans.
In order to accomplish this we believe more sustained discussions must continue between evangelicals, especially on the practical and pastoral implications of our differences in the life of both the local and the national church. We need to be clearer as to the patterns of evangelical love towards those with whom we disagree and how our views can be held while recognising others as evangelicals seeking faithfully to obey Scripture.
For those opposed to women presbyters and bishops as a development contrary to Scripture this requires ongoing reflection about:
For those fully supportive of women presbyters and bishops as a biblical development this requires ongoing reflection about:
We are committed to continue these ongoing reflections together and view them as a matter of urgency in relation to General Synod’s decision about whether and how to make provision for those opposed to any legislation for women bishops. We have therefore committed to meet together again before the July General Synod once the Revision Committee has published their draft legislation.
The Rt Revd Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead (Chair)
Awesome representatives: The Revds Elisabeth Goddard, Tamsin Merchant and Rosie Ward
Awesome guests: The Revd Drs Andrew Goddard, Emma Ineson and Ian Paul.
Reform representatives: The Revd Dr Nigel Atkinson and The Revds David Banting and Carrie Sandom
Reform guests: The Rt Revd Wallace Benn, The Revd Drs Roger Beckwith and Mike Ovey.
In attendance at invitation of Chair:
Professor Richard Bauckham
Released 26th January 2010.
1 AWESOME (http://www.awesome.org.uk) is a network of women ordained into the Anglican Church from across the Evangelical spectrum. It includes both permanent deacons and priests and exists to support and pray for each other in ministry, seeking to learn from Scripture, the Spirit and one another.
Reform (www.reform.org.uk) is a network of individuals and churches within the Church of England committed to reforming the Church of England from within according to the Holy Scriptures. Its understanding of God’s way of life for his people includes “the unique value of women's ministry in the local congregation but also the divine order of male headship, which makes the headship of women as priests in charge, incumbents, dignitaries and bishops inappropriate”.
Our national conference last October was a very encouraging time. It was good to see attending a healthy number of younger men who are at the start of their teaching ministries, as well as those of us who are longer in the tooth - whether lay or ordained. We had challenging bible readings, thought provoking addresses about the global struggle for the gospel as well as very practical sessions on working in smaller churches and preparing for ministry. There was such a good feel to the conference that we have decided to abandon plans for a day conference in London next year and instead arrange another residential conference at High Leigh. The dates are 19th - 20th October 2010. If you missed out this year, please put the dates in your diary for next year!
Reform in the media
Since our conference we have increased our public profile a little with press releases on the Vatican's approach to disaffected Anglicans and the latest developments on women bishops. This had led to several interviews on Radio 4 as well as coverage in the national press. We have also been trying to get on the front foot in drawing attention to the need for reform in the church's approach to non-residential training - a topic that has been picked up in the pages of Church Times.
General Synod Revision Committee
Progress with our work can sometimes seem frustratingly slow. A recent example was in the General Synod's Revision Committee looking at legislation on Women Bishops. At one point a decision had been taken to draft legislation to provide for the statutory transfer of functions from a female bishop to another bishop where parishes asked for this to happen. However, when it came to working out the details of which functions would be transferred in this way, the committee voted down every single proposal. The result was that we are back where we started, with the Revision Committee working on legislation that will clearly be inadequate to provide safeguards for those who, like us, cannot accept women bishops. Does this mean that we have now lost the argument? The answer is no. It simply means there is much more work to do to try to get the proposals amended in General Synod.
Opportunities for influence
It is important to recognise too that there remain many opportunities for influence in the Church of England and that we have a wonderful God who delights to demonstrate His power in our weakness. I was reminded of this in my own diocese when my curate decided to stand for election to the Vacancy in See Committee, despite the fact that he was largely unknown. It turned out that not enough people stood to make an election necessary and so he was automatically elected!
When progress is slow we need to encourage each other to keep going:
Responding to the announcement made on Saturday 14th November that the Revision Committee had failed to approve the transfer of jurisdiction from female to male bishops where parishes could not accept their oversight, Rod Thomas said:
"At last February's General Synod there was a clear desire to provide legislative safeguards for those who could not, in conscience, accept the oversight of women bishops. This has now been overturned by the Revision Committee. Whereas there was a prospect of agreement, the Revision Committee has now set the General Synod on a course of confrontation. It has served the Church badly.
"There has been much speculation about Anglo-Catholics leaving the Church of England for Rome. What has been overlooked is the number of large evangelical churches which the Church of England now risks losing - not to Rome, but to independence or alternative Anglican affiliations.
"Within the General Synod there will be many who will be deeply unhappy at the bullying tactics being used to dismiss opponents of the proposed new legislation. Some evangelicals who do support the introduction of women bishops will nevertheless vote against proposals which have the effect of excluding other evangelicals. This means that by the time the proposals have finished their tortuous progress through the General Synod, they will be likely to fail, since they will be unable to garner the two thirds majority support needed.
"It may be that in the providence of God, the result of the Revision Committee's decision may be the reverse of what they intend: that this unbiblical move to put women in positions of headship in the church will fail. Reform will now renew its commitment to work towards this outcome."
This media statement followed the announcement from the Revision Committee on 14th November 2009, which you can read here: http://www.cofe.anglican.org/news/pr10509.html]]>
"Anglicans concerned about protecting the basic Christian faith need not go to Rome, because we now have the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA (UK)) which holds together those who want to stop the orthodox faith being eroded. We can remain Anglican. Furthermore, the FCA Primates have recognised that problems with episcopal oversight are arising here in the UK. They have expressed the hope that these will be solved locally, but if not, they are willing to step in."
"This development highlights the need for robust legislative provision to cater for those who cannot agree to women bishops, such as that recently suggested by the Revision Committee."
"If priests really are out of sympathy with the C of E's doctrine (as opposed to the battles we are having over women's ministry and sexuality), then perhaps it is better they make a clean break and go to Rome. However, when they do, they will have to accommodate themselves to Rome's top-down approach to church life, whereas the C of E has always stressed the importance of decision making at the level of the local church."
"It is illusory to pretend that this development is an outcome of ecumenical dialogue. It illustrates the difficulties the C of E faces and the need for stronger leadership, rather than the ‘softly softly' approach so far taken to those holding liberal views who are splitting the church."]]>
The committee has proposed that certain functions would be transferred by statute from a female bishop to a male bishop who would minister to those who have theological objections to receiving episcopal ministry from a woman.
Rod Thomas said: "This could be what is needed to avert a split and preserve unity among people who differ on this issue. This proposal is much more robust than the previous suggestion that left the decision about such a transfer to a code of practice, and so we welcome this move.
"We believe that the introduction of women bishops is not supported by the Bible's teaching and we will continue to try to persuade the wider church of this. However we are grateful to the committee for its willingness to appreciate our concerns. While we will need to examine the details as they emerge, we are clear that statutory safeguards are needed in areas such as appointments and selection for ordination. This is the bare minimum for us to be assured that our ministry will be allowed to prosper in the Church of England in the future."]]>
1 We must create more opportunities for evangelical ministry in local churches.
Many members already play key roles in patronage bodies and in advising those seeking new incumbents. There is also a greater openness than in the past to opportunities for church planting, not least because of a legal framework (The Dioceses Pastoral & Mission Measure 2007) that is able to accommodate (although not promote) church planting across parish boundaries. Help for new and established ministry is given through the regional Gospel Partnerships. There are also many models both of church planting and also of initiatives to breathe fresh life into churches that would otherwise become redundant.
However, there are areas of difficulty - and it is here that support for reform is vital. One substantial difficulty is the current lack of recognition for a number of church plants that are either treated by dioceses as ‘outside' the Church of England, or which themselves have had to refuse oversight from existing diocesan bishops on doctrinal grounds. We are currently praying for - and working with - the newly-formed Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans to see what alternative arrangements can be put in place to enable men to be ordained and proper Episcopal oversight exercised.
Fostering evangelical ministry in local churches depends crucially on effective training for evangelical ordinands. Whilst a number of good developments are taking place at residential theological colleges, the fact is that those wearing an ‘evangelical' label at such colleges (which is not, as we know, a guarantee of evangelical commitment), account for less than 30% of all ordinands in training. One of the reasons for this is the huge growth over the last ten years in non-residential training courses and in the appointment of non-stipendiary ministers. The figures for the latter (taken from official Church of England statistics) are:
Total: 243 (64%)
Total: 136 (36%)
Non-stipendiary (including OLM)
Total: 264 (47%)
Total: 288 (53%)
We need to challenge the institutional confidence in non-residential training and non-stipendiary ministry. Whilst there will be some terrific ministries that have emerged this way, all the anecdotal evidence points in the other direction.
I hope to say more at our national conference about how we might tackle this.
2 We must win hearts and minds at all levels
This has to be done in a number of ways: through publications and engagement with the press; through various church networks both nationally and locally; through representation on key synods and committees; and by bringing some influence to bear on the House of Bishops.
In each of these areas there is still much to be done. We are pressing ahead with the preparation of new leaflets: there will shortly be a new leaflet on ‘Interpreting the Bible' by Jonathan Fletcher in our ‘Truth Matters' series and by the end of the year a further leaflet on ‘Anglican Identity' by Mark Burkill. We are conscious too that we cannot assume we are holding the ground on the Biblical approach to sexuality - so we hope to have another ‘popular' leaflet on this shortly.
THERE IS AN URGENT NEED to encourage members - particularly ‘lay' members to consider standing for election to General Synod.
Finally, we need to influence the House of Bishops. We praise God for some recent appointments, but overall we believe the Church still discriminates against ‘conservative' evangelicals - as the Pilling Report on Senior Church Appointments demonstrated two years ago.
3 We must help the Church of England to become better placed for mission.
The key to this is to win the argument that the Church of England is a confessional church. Some argue that because it is a national church it is thereby catholic and inclusive. That is why it is so important for us to keep emphasizing its doctrinal basis as laid out in Canon A5:
The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.
Last year's Jerusalem Statement to which a number of us contributed has firmly underlined the confessional basis of Anglicanism. Furthermore, recent conference speeches by David Holloway and Jonathan Fletcher have done much to boost our confidence in the Church of England as the right place to be for mission.
We need to continue to engage publicly on this issue. As I write, I have just read Julian Mann's letter in the Church Times of 18th September defending this position. It is hugely encouraging to see this sort of engagement and I would urge as many members as possible similarly to take up the cudgels.
Needless to say, we cannot talk about the proper basis for mission if we ourselves are not actively engaged in evangelistic endeavour. It's so good to hear about all the planning taking place for the 2010 ‘Passion for Life' mission; I do hope it has gained the full involvement of all our churches.
Reform is, I believe, a topic that should continue to galvanise us into action. Could I therefore urge you to ensure that:
Lastly, do you feel that we keep banging the same sort of drum here in Reform? I certainly hope so:
‘Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist ...' (Eph 6:13-14)
There was a Christ-honouring debate on the uniqueness of Christ. The motion itself was fairly mild:
That this Synod request the House of Bishops to report to the Synod on their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in Britain's multi-faith society, and offer examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none.
However, what brought the debate alive were the contributions from members who told their stories of how they had been converted from their previous beliefs to faith in Jesus. As a result, most attempts to amend the motion were roundly defeated. The only amendment to succeed simply commended the background paper which Martin Davie had prepared for the House of Bishops on this subject. This paper is a thrilling historical exploration of how the doctrine of Christ's uniqueness has been expressed by Christians through the ages. Unfortunately it is spoiled towards the end by implying that God could have chosen to save people other than through Christ if He had wished. Nevertheless, overall the motion is very helpful; it will hopefully generate useful material to aid our witness in multi-faith environments, and it was passed overwhelmingly.
The second debate where our prayers were answered concerned the legislative proposals for women bishops. In one sense it was a strange debate in that it was never going to decide anything. All that it was designed to do was to send the legislative package off to the Revision Committee to be worked on. So even if you were opposed to women bishops, you might still vote in favour of sending the proposals to the Revision Committee since it is only there that any changes can be introduced. What mattered in the debate was that lots of people should register their disquiet with the proposals and ask for better provision for those who were opposed to this innovation. That was precisely what we got.
As you may recall from previous newsletters, there were two major problems with the legislative proposals:
In other words, the legislative provision for opponents was very uncertain. In the debate, speaker after speaker said that these legislative provisions were inadequate. The Archdeacon of Berkshire pointed out that the House of Lords had itself said that the legal status of Codes was uncertain. In my speech, I made the point that the proposals left opponents feeling that their ministries were merely being tolerated by the wider church, rather than encouraged to flourish. At the end of the debate, the Bishop of Winchester asked whether the Revision Committee would be able to consider major changes to the legislation and not feel bound by the vote which took place at the previous meeting of the General Synod. In replying to the debate, the Bishop of Manchester said he could give that assurance. The vote to send the proposals to the Revision Committee was 281:113 in favour. The size of the dissenting vote was a clear indication of the unease felt by Synod.
Reform Evidence to the Revision Committee
The next stage of proceedings is that the Revision Committee will take evidence (which has to be in by 16th March) and, guided by a Steering Group, will start the process of changing the legislative proposals. This will take them at least a year, so the first report to Synod will not be before next February, and may not be until July 2010. I submitted evidence on behalf of Reform on Tuesday 3rd March, following a discussion at the Reform Council on 25th February. This re-stated our view that it was inappropriate to change the church's position on this subject, but since General Synod had asked for proposals to be formulated, there were a number of areas where provision would have to be made if we were to feel that our ministries had a future in the Church of England. In particular, alternative oversight would need to be guaranteed for parishes in the areas of confirmation services, pastoral care, discipline, appointments, clergy review procedures, and pastoral reorganisation.
Our evidence made it clear that such oversight could only be guaranteed if it were provided in statute and did not depend on the discretion of a diocesan bishop. We further argued for making statutory provision for individuals where their views differed from those of their parishes.
As a result of the debate, the future now looks more hopeful than it did. Two other developments have bolstered this view. The first was the Archbishop of Canterbury's Presidential address to the General Synod where he said that the different views on this issue were ‘not going to go away' and that we needed to find structural solutions. The second was the news that proposals are being developed for the House of Bishops which promote the idea of ‘networks' or ‘communities' which could then come under the oversight of ‘Episcopal visitors'. There are some similarities here to the way religious communities already operate in the Church of England. In our evidence to the Revision Committee, we did not propose any particular structural solution but simply noted the Archbishop's view that structural solutions were necessary and that different proposals for special dioceses or religious communities could provide a way forward.]]>
An Urgent Need To Pray And Contact Bishops
As you know, a drafting group under the chairmanship of the Bishop of Manchester has produced legislative proposals for the General Synod's meeting in a week's time which pave the way for women bishops. What has been produced provides insufficient safeguards for the future ministry of evangelicals opposed to the episcopal consecration of women. If the proposals are eventually voted through by General Synod in more or less their present form (which cannot happen this February), then we believe that potential ordinands will be put off ministering in the Church of England and the whole appointments process for vicars will become increasingly discriminatory against those who hold to male headship.
Some members of Reform will feel more strongly about this issue than others. However, it is important that we act now to defend each other's place in the Church. Wallace Benn, the Bishop of Lewes and a member of the Reform Council has put the point this way:
‘It is very important to say to all who profess to be ‘evangelicals' that Gospel commitment ... means that we should seek to defend one another's place in the Church. The Gospel has our prime loyalty, therefore we stand with Gospel brothers and sisters. This is not an issue about whether the Church of England decides to consecrate women bishops or not - on that it seems the majority wish to do so and should not be hindered from so doing. No, rather, what is at issue is whether provision for those of the older traditional integrity, be it Catholic or Evangelical, will be provided. If some evangelicals are content to see fellow evangelicals effectively driven out of the Church through lack of provision that is adequate to meet conscientious problems, then something other than the Gospel has claimed their first loyalty. Credally and morally orthodox believers cannot afford to lose Gospel allies at a time like this!'
What is proposed is legislation to permit the consecration of women bishops and to require all diocesan bishops to ‘have regard' to a Code of Practice in dealing with situations where ‘petitioning parishes' or particular ministers or workers request male oversight.
The draft legislation provides for ‘complementary bishops' to whom diocesan bishops could choose to delegate some of their jurisdictional powers. This means that activities such as sponsoring candidates for ordination training, making appointments of clergy, exercising discipline and providing pastoral care could be delegated by a female diocesan bishop to a male ‘complementary bishop.' However, it would be up to that diocesan bishop to decide which of these activities should be delegated - and indeed whether any should be delegated. All that would be required of them is that they have regard to the Code of Practice in making their decision.
The illustrative Code before Synod says that in making these decisions, bishops should consider a parish's theological convictions and put in place arrangements that enable them to be expressed. There should then be an ‘instrument of delegation' which specifies who does what. The Code also sets out what parishes should do to express their wishes to a diocesan bishop and how this would apply to multi-parish benefices and to individuals.
The Manchester Group felt that any new legislation would also require an amendment to Canon A4 which deals with the ordination of clergy and the consecration of bishops. As a result the proposal is to provide both that the legal status of women bishops should be unquestioned and that Church of England members ‘may with good conscience, hold theological convictions which render them unable to receive the ministry of female bishops or priests.' However, the proposed Canon then states that in making special arrangements for those with these theological convictions it nevertheless regards those ordained or consecrated (ie including women) as ‘truly' bishops, priests or deacons.'
The Problems with a Code of Practice
The reasons why a Code of Practice provides inadequate safeguards are:
Support for Stronger Protective Legislation
The proposals before Synod do suggest that it might be possible for some of the Code's provisions to be enshrined in primary legislation (which is less easy to alter or put to one side), but they do not set out how this could be done. Nevertheless, there is a genuine and fairly widespread concern, not least in the House of Bishops, about the position that ‘traditionalist' catholics and evangelicals find themselves in. Some who favour women bishops are nevertheless unhappy with proposals which would effectively exclude ‘traditionalists' from the Church. They are very open to proposals which would give congregations the statutory right to have alternative arrangements for oversight (ie which would remove the discretionary power of bishops over whether to delegate some of their jurisdiction).
The Church of England Evangelical Council has also recently issued a statement which ‘reaffirms its view that both integrities on this matter can and should be represented within authentic Anglicanism in accordance with assurances made and undertakings given in 1992. The Council believes that legislative safeguards are required if the conscientious objections of many evangelicals and others to the consecration of women as bishops are to be taken seriously and we urge the General Synod to make such provision.'
General Synod starts its next set of sessions on 9th February and the debate on this issue is scheduled for 11th. It is unlikely that anything dramatic will be decided: the proposals will simply be debated and then sent on to the Revision Committee. However, the significance of next week's debate is that if there are a good number of strong speeches - especially from bishops - arguing that primary legislation should require that jurisdiction be passed from a diocesan bishop to a complementary bishop in the case of petitioning parishes, then the Revision Committee would be much more likely to introduce these essential changes when the draft legislation next comes back to Synod. In short, we must encourage bishops to act now.
Even although time is very short, we ask members to make these issues a matter for urgent prayer.
He expressed appreciation for the detailed work undertaken by the Manchester Group, but warned that the end result of relying on a Code of Practice to solve differences over women bishops would be a proliferation of court cases. He said it was a huge distraction from the more urgent work of seeking to bring spiritual life and hope to an increasingly secularised and spiritually rudderless nation.
The proposed Measure and the associated Code make it clear that special provision for ‘petitioning parishes' can only be made if a diocesan bishop chooses to delegate his or her authority to a ‘complementary bishop.' This proposal is fraught with difficulty. On a purely practical level, if a diocesan bishop chooses not to delegate some of his or her Episcopal powers, then there is every possibility that a petitioning parish will seek a judicial review in the High Court. Instead of creating certainty, the legislation could lead to a multiplicity of damaging court cases. An alternative approach could easily have been adopted which would have avoided these difficulties. It would have been to provide, in a Measure, that where a parish so petitioned, the jurisdiction of a complementary bishop would apply. This would have avoided the need for a diocesan bishop to have been involved.
Mr Thomas added: ‘The outlook is very sad for the church. We now have the prospect of much wrangling in the General Synod, with at least some possibility that the whole project will fail to gain the necessary two thirds majority in a few years time. If the proposals are passed in their present form, we have an equally bleak prospect: that of the secular courts adjudicating on problems amongst God's people. The Manchester Group have tried to do the impossible: while it is good that they have proposed that the Canons of the Church should be changed to acknowledge the legitimacy of those who cannot accept the role of women bishops, they have refused to allow the power of diocesan bishops to be affected in any way. No amount of ‘delegation' of Episcopal power can cover up the fact that this power remains intact. And that means that female ‘headship' will remain intact, despite our understanding of the Bible's teaching to the contrary. Ultimately, therefore, since inadequate provision has been made to safeguard our ministries, we are bound to oppose what is on offer.']]>
At last month's Reform Conference, I said that our strategy for the future had to embrace ‘alternative' Episcopal oversight. This attracted some public comment - with one or two people questioning how committed we are to the Church of England. In this newsletter, therefore, I want to describe the nature of our commitment as I see it.
Word Ministry in the Church of England
What makes us part of the Church of England is our co mmon commitment to the doctrine of the Church, not our institutional structure. The doctrine of the Church is encapsulated in Canon A5 which says:
"The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal".
Happily, the essence of this is now also in the GAFCON statement.
There are a number of consequences for our present circumstances:
We need to continue to rely on the power of the Word of God to change lives - and encourage incumbents to continue making exposition their first priority.
If the Church of England makes a decision which is inconsistent with the Bible's teaching or if a Diocesan bishop teaches error, the question that arises is not ‘should we leave the Church of England?' but ‘as loyal members of the Church of England, how best can we demonstrate to others what is biblically faithful?' We may end up taking principled irregular action in order to express our desire to confront error and promote the gospel, but that is completely consistent with remaining a part of the Church of England.
We should continue to encourage people into the ordained ministry, but recognise that the shape of that ministry may, at times, be unpredictable.
The 2008 conference voted overwhelmingly to pass three resolutions:
This conference welcomes the outcome of GAFCON, pledges the support of Reform for the resulting initiatives and calls on evangelicals in the Church of England to show more courage in promoting the gospel and resisting heretical teaching.
This conference recognizes that when bishops accommodate themselves to heretical teaching they deny the faith and therefore abandon their sees. In these circumstances it is vital that alternative oversight should be provided.
This conference calls on the House of Bishops to recognize that pursuing the General Synod resolution on the preparation of legislation to allow the consecration of women bishops will permanently damage and narrow the Church of England. We urge the house to prevent this by presenting alternative proposals to the General Synod to preserve the ministry of those who maintain a Biblically orthodox position.
The conference also pledged its unanimous support to the parishes in Vancouver who are facing legal battles with the Diocese of New Westminster as follows:
We the undersigned as active clergy and lay members of the Church of England stand with those parishes in Vancouver that are part of the Anglican Network in Canada, affirming that they are authentically Anglican.
An on-line petition has been established for those who wish to support this:
We will shortly be sending members a new discussion paper on Reforming the Episcopacy. A further paper outlining an evangelical understanding of the church is also in preparation. Other titles being planned for next year include General Synod: Time for a Change; Interpreting the Bible; Anglican Identity; and The Reforming Role of Smaller Churches.
Reform is a network committed to action. This does not mean that we act on behalf of others nor does it mean that we tell churches what to do. Responsibility for action rests with local church congregations. However, Reform can help shape what happens: it can help churches see the wider picture; and it can help the local decision-making process by exploring issues that others aren't prepared to address and suggesting ways forward. Please pray that the Council will be given wisdom as we do this.]]>
Revd Rod Thomas, Reform's chairman, welcomed the clear Biblical leadership given by the GAFCON Primates at the Jerusalem meeting in June 2008, saying that there "we saw what an Anglicanism united in the Gospel and dedicated to mission could look like."
He highlighted two key areas for Reform in the coming year: developing alternative oversight and growing gospel fellowships.
"Seeking alternative oversight is not necessarily a confrontational act," he said. "Many Reform members work well with their Bishops, and they need our support not our rebuke." He encouraged the House of Bishops to develop "English solutions" for the provision of alternative oversight for 25 congregations in the UK who are currently in impaired communion with or being denied oversight from their bishop, and for many others who would be unwilling to receive oversight from a female bishop in the future. However he also warned that "we must take forward the agenda of alternative oversight even if the Church of England cannot currently find a way to accommodate it".
Concerning growing gospel fellowships he encouraged Reform members to co-operate with other evangelical and orthodox Anglicans to build on the "huge momentum" created by the UK church leaders briefing on GAFCON on July 1st at All Souls church in London. "Co-operation won't be possible on every issue," he said "but we now have a unique opportunity to encourage one another in gospel partnership."
Reform council member Revd Paul Perkin urged church councils as well as individuals to declare their support for the Jerusalem Declaration, the statement issued by GAFCON as the theological basis of the movement and also announced plans to form a Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the UK.
The conference voted overwhelmingly to pass three resolutions:
The conference also pledged its unanimous support to the parishes in Vancouver who are facing legal battles with the Diocese of New Westminster as follows:
We the undersigned as active clergy and lay members of the Church of England stand with those parishes in Vancouver that are part of the Anglican Network in Canada, affirming that they are authentically Anglican.
An on-line petition has been established for those who wish to support this:
We will scrutinise the proposed code of practice in February's debate carefully, but remain very sceptical as to its usefulness.
By giving no legal provision Synod has effectively said: "We don't want people like you in our Church of England." This message will no doubt further rouse the ‘sleeping giant' of orthodox and evangelical Anglicanism in the UK and around the globe.]]>
GAFCON exceeded expectations. We had hoped that this major Anglican gathering in Jerusalem last month would achieve two things:
In the event, GAFCON did more. Using the wording of Canon A5, it re-iterated that Anglican doctrine was grounded in the Holy Scriptures and articulated in the 39 Articles, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. It stressed the need for Christian churches to be galvanised into joyfully embracing our Lord's command to bring the gospel to all people. It identified a need for discipline in relation to the Episcopal churches in the USA and Canada where a false gospel has been promoted and called for their repentance. Its own understanding of the gospel was summarised in the ‘Jerusalem Declaration': "We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity's only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith". It restated biblical teaching on marriage, sexuality, unity, justice, responsibility towards the needy and ‘freedom in secondary matters'. It not only supported those who had offered oversight from oversees to churches under false leadership but said these actions would continue to be necessary around the world. It specifically repudiated any suggestion of schism, describing GAFCON as ‘a movement of confessing Anglicans' into which every Anglican would be welcome, making clear that its purpose was to reform and revitalise the Anglican Communion and expand its mission in the world. Finally, it called for the formation of a new province in North America and for a Primates' Council to take matters forward across the Communion as a whole.
What a conference statement cannot contain, however, is a sense of what the gathering felt like. An undercurrent of joy and unity was present throughout - largely because, despite the different churchmanships on display, there was no argument over the authority of God's Word. There was also a sense of humility as participants recognised that God was doing a new thing with the Anglican Church. When the first draft of the conference statement was read to everyone, there was a huge wave of joy and relief as people stood to clap, tears in their eyes, as they realised that at last an initiative had been taken to start to address our needs.
In the hope that evangelical Anglicans in this country will wish to demonstrate full-hearted support for the outcome of GAFCON, there are two on-line opportunities to do so. One is for individuals [http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/20243.html] and one for parishes [http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/20252.html]. Needless to say, I warmly commend you to do so.
GAFCON and England
GAFCON was followed immediately on 1st July by a packed meeting at All Souls in London for church leaders, both clergy and non-clergy. It culminated in Archbishop Peter Jensen warning us that the revisionists' strategy was to buy time in the expectation that those who are currently orthodox will eventually give in. GAFCON would help to counter this by taking ‘principled action' which would both provide order and support for orthodox churches across different provincial boundaries. As a movement GAFCON could be as significant as the Evangelical Revival and Peter Jensen called on us in England to play a leading part. He said it was for us to decide what action to take, but urged us to:
Peter Jensen's call for action came against the background of a series of meetings that Reform and others were able to organise whilst we were at GAFCON. At these meetings we recognised the need for all evangelicals who unequivocally accept the authority of God's Word to come together for the sake of action in defence of the gospel. Action was needed, both to provide for the needs of a number of congregations who were either being denied a place in the Church of England or who were in impaired communion with their bishops, and also to encourage those who would otherwise feel excluded by the Church in the event that new legislation on women bishops was approved. The form this action could take had already been envisaged by the signatories of ‘A Covenant for the Church of England'. It is therefore to these signatories, representing united evangelicalism, that we look for immediate steps forward.
The first step in our ‘English solution' must be to explore opportunities for ways forward that are likely to gain official recognition. This means once again approaching the Archbishop of Canterbury so that his support can be sought for new arrangements for episcopal oversight where they are needed. In the first instance this will mean requesting him to appoint a bishop to provide such oversight. However, it is important that we avoid lengthy discussions and further delays. We need to move forward, but to do so in a way that keeps the Primates of the ‘Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans' (FOCA) both informed and supportive.
Alongside these developments, the recent General Synod debate on women bishops has also had an impact.
General Synod Debate on Women Bishops
As members will know, the House of Bishops decided not to pursue any of the options for protecting the position of those who disagree with the consecration of women bishops, and instead recommended to Synod a motion advocating a single-clause Measure permitting women bishops with ‘protection' for dissentients being provided through a Code of Practice.
The only additional step General Synod was prepared to take was to ensure that any such Code of Practice would be statutory -i.e. all parties would be bound by statute to ‘have regard' to it.
During the debate it was made clear that on its own a Code of Practice would be insufficient to protect dissentients and that, coupled with the removal of the protective provisions in the 1993 Measure, this would be tantamount to the exclusion of many orthodox people from the Church of England. There was a good deal of unease about this; many senior bishops voted against the motion and the Archbishop of Canterbury abstained.
A statutory Code of Practice would be insufficient to protect those who believe it to be wrong to consecrate women bishops for a number of reasons. These include:
Despite this unfavourable outcome, it is important to recognise that the outlook is not wholly bleak. The voting in General Synod showed that when the time comes for approving legislation, there is a strong possibility that the required two thirds majority in each House will not be obtained. If this is so, then it will not be possible to consider the matter again until the new General Synod is elected in 2010. This means that it is crucial we put effort into encouraging people to stand for election in 2010. Just a few more people elected for the House of Laity would firmly tip the balance against a future two thirds majority in that House.]]>
There has been a tremendous response to the appeal for help in funding the travel and accommodation arrangements for bishops from the Third World who will be attending the conference. Our target was £50,000. At the time of writing we have contributed over £65,000. Thank you to everybody who has contributed in finance and prayer: the result is a wonderful encouragement and a firm statement of communion with those who are holding fast to the Bible's authority.
What will GAFCON achieve?
The issue now facing us is ‘what will GAFCON achieve?' The very fact that there is a gathering of 1000 Anglican leaders from all over the world, including 280 bishops, is itself an important public statement of orthodox commitment. But many of those struggling in the USA and Canada (where Jim Packer and David Short have just been threatened by the Bishop of New Westminster with prosecution for trespass if they set foot in their church building) as well as evangelicals in this country who are apprehensive of similar developments here, will be hoping for some clear signposts for future action.
In a pre-conference press release, the aims of GAFCON were stated. They were to:
The numbers that have booked seem to offer great promise for fulfilling the first of these goals. So far as the second is concerned, we look forward to a joyful and positive statement that Anglicanism is defined by its commitment to the biblical faith and not by institutions. This will help us all, in our different national settings, with decisions about the future. ‘Invitations to Lambeth' cannot be an adequate definition of Anglicanism. We are a confessional church - and it is the faith we profess that is our primary distinguishing characteristic. Canon A5 encapsulates the distinctively Anglican reformed tradition. This says:
"The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal."
The third goal - in which we prepare for our future as gospel people - cannot succeed without recognising that the needs and circumstances of faithful Anglicans will vary across provinces and dioceses. My hope therefore is that GAFCON will express its warm support for all those bishops who have come to the aid of parishes and dioceses struggling in South America, the USA and Canada - and will accept that this is an inevitable development as the dividing lines between liberals and orthodox become clearer. Territoriality is irrelevant to the fight for the preservation of the gospel: and it is important that we all recognise that this is what we are fighting for. It's not just an argument about sexual ethics. According to some reports, Katherine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church, is perceived not only to approve of same-sex unions and but also to believe that Jesus Christ is not necessarily the only way to God. Here are two trade-marks of present-day liberalism: a refusal to accept God's Word when it challenges social mores, and a denial of the uniqueness of Christ. We must be firm in our resistance.
It is good to know that many Reform members will be attending GAFCON. I will be part of a ‘Statement Group' helping to articulate the conclusions of the conference. Please continue in prayer for us all.
The Manchester Report
At this July's General Synod there will be two debates on women bishops. The first will concern the Manchester Report and the second will pave the way for the preparation of a single-clause Measure permitting women bishops. Protection for those who disagree with this move will only be provided on a ‘voluntary' basis through a Code of Practice to which "all concerned would be required to have regard".
The Manchester Report was published in April. Its purpose was to describe the different options that were available in dealing with the issue of women bishops. It was not required to choose between them.
The Report identified a range of possible alternatives for making special provision for those who disagree with the consecration of women bishops.
(a) New Structures.
Various proposals (e.g. for a new province or for creating ‘peculiar jurisdictions') were quickly dismissed. However one idea taken seriously was for the creation of new, special dioceses. Such dioceses would be headed by male bishops and would operate just as all other dioceses do at the moment, albeit on a non-geographical basis.
(b) Arrangements within Existing Structures
The main proposal is for a Code of Practice enabling diocesan bishops to delegate some of their functions to complementary bishops where they are petitioned to do so by a parish. The report says such a Code could be voluntary or mandatory and could entail either the removal of the provisions in the 1993 Measure entitling parishes to pass Resolutions A or B, or their retention. A major alternative to this approach is for the ‘statutory' transfer of specified responsibilities from diocesan bishops to complementary bishops. These responsibilities could include:
The report accepts that diocesan bishops may want to keep these final three responsibilities.
The Forthcoming Debate at General Synod
Despite all the detail in the Report of how protection could be given to those who dissent from the change, the House of Bishops decided by a small majority to put forward a motion to General Synod which provides the barest minimum of reassurance.
What is at stake is not just whether the Church will continue to honour reassurances given in 1993. Our concern is that gospel ministry should prosper. What we need is reassurance that our candidates for ordination will still be welcomed and that clergy will continue to be able to find livings. That can only be guaranteed if it is enshrined in legislation. A Code of Practice will not be enough because its provisions will not be binding.
The need for clear legislative protection can be seen both by examining developments in England and in the wider Anglican Communion. In England the Pilling Report on senior church appointments has recently described clear evidence of discrimination against conservative evangelicals. If this is the case when legislation formally protects our position what possible good could a non-binding Code of Practice do? What is needed are clear arrangements, set up and guaranteed by a Measure.
A refusal by General Synod to provide any statutory safeguard is tantamount to a clear decision to exclude "conservative" evangelicals (and conservative catholics) from the Church of England. Without it, there will be no assured future for us and our need for alternative forms of oversight will grow.
Action To Date
Reform has analysed the Manchester Report and held urgent consultations among Council Members. As a result, we made a clear submission to the House of Bishops prior to its meeting in May, urging them for the sake of unity not to press forward with legislation on women bishops. Such action would only add to the divisions already facing us in the Anglican Communion. However, we said that if they decided to take action, then our needs would only be met if a safeguard could be offered that provided jurisdictional independence for those bishops who would oversee dissenting clergy and parishes.
Since then we have been actively briefing members of General Synod and preparing for further efforts to encourage all evangelical members of General Synod (whatever their view on women bishops) to vote against the motion on the grounds that without protection many of their partners in the gospel will see themselves as excluded from the Church.
Every member of Reform can add to this effort to secure greater protection for our position:
(a) Letters and telephone calls to bishops and your members of General Synod expressing your concerns will be a tremendous help.
(b) Signing one of the petitions that have now been organised will also help. http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/19592.html [petition now closed]. Around 700 have signed this and the number is rising steadily. It is asking General Synod to reject the ‘Single Clause, Code of Practice' option.
http://www.gopetition.com/online/19595.html [now closed] This one is for those who approve of the consecration of women as bishops but still wish to see General Synod reject the ‘Single Clause, Code of Practice' option.
You may also find it helpful to read the article ‘Less like a Church' about the impact of the ‘Single Clause' option on the future of the Church of England at: http://ugleyvicar.blogspot.com/2008/05/less-like-church-impact-of-manchester.html
(c) Urgent prayer for the debate at General Synod. The Manchester Report will be debated on Saturday 5th July and the proposal for legislation on Monday 7th July.
We have to recognise that the Church of England is determined to introduce women bishops and provide minimal protection for us. It is just possible that eventual proposals for legislation will fail to achieve the two thirds majority required in each House of General Synod. However, even if legislation fails in this ‘quinquenium' it will re-surface in the next General Synod (elected in 2010). We therefore need a strategy for safeguarding biblically faithful ministry within the Church of England for when this occurs. Members of the Reform Council are now working on this and we hope to explore such a strategy with as many members as possible at our forthcoming conference in October.
These are fast-moving times, but it is good to know the sustaining power of the Lord as we seek to remain faithful in his service, as well as the wonderful encouragement that comes when we see lives transformed by the gospel. At the end of the day, our ability to focus on gospel work is key, whatever changes have to occur to the institutional arrangements within which we minister.
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18
The threat by the Bishop of New Westminster in Canada to suspend the Revd Dr Jim Packer from ministry because his church has sought the oversight of the Primate of the Southern Cone has rightly created a huge sense of outrage across the Communion and especially among evangelicals in the Church of England. We are all indebted to Dr Packer for his monumental contribution to our understanding of Christian doctrine. To treat such a scholarly, godly and elderly man, who has been a key evangelical leader for over half a century, in this mean-spirited and aggressive manner is deeply upsetting.
At its most recent meeting, the Council of Reform was of the view that this development demonstrated that there are only really two sides to the current controversy over human sexuality - and we can now see clearly what they are. It is becoming increasingly apparent that there is no room for middle ground. This being so, it is all the more regrettable that a number of English dioceses are offering ‘Lambeth' hospitality to the very people who are responsible for opposing faithful Anglicans - and in some cases dragging them through the courts -in the USA and Canada. Some dioceses are also discovering that they are having to pick up a bill amounting to tens of thousands of pounds to support the Lambeth conference - a bill which ultimately will be shouldered by hard-pressed parishes.
What a relief it is to know that GAFCON points to an alternative vision of the future for Anglicanism.
Rod Thomas, Chairman, Reform]]>