Posted on 29 May 2014
A Statement from the Reform Steering Group
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.