Reform’s Response to C.of E. H.o.B. Invitation to Women at Meetings

Posted on 4 March 2013

Individual members of Reform, and particularly members of the General Synod, have been responding to the consultative document. 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

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:

  • makes secure provision for those who cannot accept the ministry of women bishops – particularly ensuring that no element of the provision can either be approved or subsequently changed except by a two thirds majority vote of each House;
  • ensures non-discrimination in selection and appointment procedures (thus retaining a vital element of the 1993 Act of Synod);
  • preserves Resolutions A and B of the 1993 legislation;
  • validates the views of those who cannot accept the ministry of women bishops as acceptably Anglican and enables ordinands and clergy to make vows of canonical obedience with integrity;
  • provides a legal means for alternative oversight to be offered and undertaken where a parish, on theological grounds related to men’s and women’s ministry, cannot accept a diocesan bishop’s spiritual oversight ;
  • specifies that such alternative oversight be applied in the key areas of selection for training; ordinations; appointments, discipline and confirmations, without requiring the ‘alternative’ bishops to be accountable to the Diocesan Bishop. This does not exclude the possibility of requiring them to consult over such matters or relating their decisions to diocesan financial constraints.


Here is an article which describes ‘Reform’ Evangelical Group’s response to the announcement that a number of invited women will be ‘sitting in ‘on discussions by the Church of England House of Bishops about the future legislation that would allow Women to be ordained Bishops in the Church of England:

“Reform published a response to the document (re the invitation of the HoB for women to be present at its meetings) – from its chairman, Prebendary Rod Thomas, on its website, on Monday. The response noted that women clergy had been invited to participate in meetings of the House of Bishops ( News, 15 February). “We hope that a similar gesture will be made for conservative Evangelicals.” The House of Bishops had “no member able to articulate the doctrine [of male headship] from a position of personal conviction”.

The very fact that Mr. Thomas, of ‘Reform’, should feel that his small group of ultra-conservative Evangelicals – who appear not to have a friendly ‘Male Headship’ member in the H.o.B. opposed to the Ordination of Women – should have a ‘special place’ at meetings of the House of Bishops – to protest against the presence of women on the episcopal bench of the Church of England –  would seem, maybe, a little presumptuous.

The Church of England has already, for many years now, accepted the fact of women’s ordination to the priesthood. What is at stake here, in the House of Bishop’s invitation to women to attend its meeting on future legislation concerning women bishops, is to seek the mind and the understanding of women, clergy and laity, on aspects of the legislation that might affect the outcome for acceptance by women in the Church.

What ‘Reform’, and Mr. Thomas, would seem to be arguing for, is the opportunity to put before the H.o.B. a case for special ‘Alternative Oversight’ –  PEVs – for those Evangelical clergy whose understanding of Biblical Headship precludes, for them,  the inclusion of women as clergy, bishops, and teachers of men, in the Church. 

They do not, for instance, seem to consider that any provision made for Anglo-Catholic dissenters against women in ministry would provide the right kind of protection that they feel ‘male headship’ advocates will need if women do in fact become bishops in the Church of England.

The degree to which dissenting ultra-montane Anglo-Catholics and conservative Evangelicals have so far colluded – in every effort to keep women out of ministering to their particular sodalities – appears to have stopped short of sharing the same means of preferred Alternate Episcopal Oversight. In fact, one wonders whether, to a con/evo enthusiast, the prospect of a woman bishop might be even preferable to a High Church bishop who believes in the real Presence of Christ at the Eucharist. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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