Reform on women bishops

Word cloud by Eurobishop David Hamid

Below is Reform's latest response to the women bishop debate.

11th May 2010
Reform Initial Response To Revision Committee Report

The Revision Committee’s report on Women in the Episcopate published on 8th May “provides no adequate framework for recognition of our future ministry in the Church of England and so could lead to a serious squeezing of the pipeline for future ordinands” said Revd Rod Thomas, Reform chairman today.

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.

Read letter sent to bishops by Reform clergy

In the letter Reform speak about how they are going to need to use their money to fund ministries which safeguard them from having to come under the care of a female bishop. "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."

No guesses where that money will come from, yep, it's "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. " Oh brother, that old story again!

Headship, headship, headship - confused?

Here are some interpretations of Scripture held by Bible-believing Evangelical Christians who believe that women can exercise servant/leadership positions in the church:

Graham Cole on 'Women teaching men: what's the problem?'
The Bible and Gender Equality by Rebecca Merrill Groothuis
Women in the New Testament: A Middle Eastern Cultural View by K Bailey
The Biblical Basis for Women’s Service in the Church, N. T. Wright


David Ould said...

Rachel, your picture of a gagged woman is unhelpfully emotive and, as you will well know, not at all a fair representation of those you seek to criticise.

Frankly, if all you can do is stoop to such poor and unloving stereotypes then you are far less of a woman than I thought you were.

Rachel Marszalek said...

I can not help but feel emotional about it, simply because this is how it feels on a human level, to feel so called and have that calling frustrated. I can imagine it is painful.

But it is also painful the other way too, no doubt. The picture might equally allude to conservative evangelical women who feel that against the backdrop of a feminist, post-modern society, their voices are unheard also.

You make assumptions that I imagine the pain is only one way, it is both. On both sides it is the women, I imagine who will feel the pain and perhaps shed those tears about it and I think no matter how much men engage, it becomes on many occasions a pain felt acutely by women on both sides. In any biblical call there is a pastoral call too so it does not make me less of a woman to express pain. We are all human and tears will be shed, and by men also, in case you think i am making gender assumptions, as Stephen Veneer testified in 2008 here in Britain when the decision in Synod went through.


David Ould said...

then I have to say, Rachel, you picked a very strange way of communicating that position.

At the top of a piece about a Reform press statement on the subject of women bishops you placed a picture of a women with a gag over her mouth.

How on earth did you think that was going to be understood? Certainly not as an empathy with those "suffering on both sides".

At least have the integrity to own the effect of the image.

Rachel Marszalek said...

David, with all due respect, I can not own the effect of an image, it is not mine to own. Signs have various signifiers, interpretations are various. The image speaks of pain and being silenced to me.

David Ould said...

well Rachel, you are then either hopelessly naive, which I do not believe for a moment, or else you border on being disingenuous.

You post up the Reform press release and choose to accompany it with a picture of a gagged woman.

For what its worth, I think you make the whole thing worse by pretending to be surprised about this. Is this how you intend to deal with difficult situations in teh future? Do something provocative and then claim to be unable to control people's reactions? I sure hope not.

Peter Carrell said...

Stick to your guns, Rachel.
The fact is, no matter how well you do in your studies, no matter what ability you have as a preacher or teacher, you will never be invited into a Reform pulpit to address a mixed congregation.
It will not change should you become a bishop in the CofE.
No matter what theology supports or justifies the Reform view, the fact is, women such as you are "gagged" in significant ways from communicating in Reform parishes.
The odd thing is, if you go to print as a woman teacher of the faith, your views will be disseminated without gagging!

Janice said...


Many years ago I undertook a course in wholistic Christian personal counselling that was run by a Sydney Anglican organisation. One of the most important things I learned is that no one can control another person's feelings or reactions. The excuse, "s/he made me do it," has no validity at all.

So Rachel is quite right to say that she "can not own the effect of an image". The effect it has on you is your business and under your control. With the help of the Holy Spirit you might learn to respond more graciously to things that upset you.

David Ould said...

Right you are, Janice. We should all be allowed to post up whatever derogatory and perjorative images and words that we choose - after all, it is other people who are to blame if they are upset by them.

Glad we've clarified that.

Top tip for ministry for you Rachel, make sure you let nothing stand in the way of you making your point.

Rachel Marszalek said...

David, I am not as concerned about political correctness. I am passionate about Jesus' radical and inclusive love and his affirmation of women in their demonstration by word and action of his gospel.

...double-edged sword, radical remember

David, we can love each other as Christian brother and sister but we do not have to agree.

David Ould said...

I said nothing about "political correctness" nor did I make any denial of Jesus' radical inclusive love (although, once again, I am constrained to point out how radically inclusive his selection of 12 Apostles was).

Nor did I argue that we must agree over this.

I protested against your use of the picture of the gagged woman. Your subsequent attempts to justify the behaviour by suggesting that either

i you intended to imply those conservative women who feel gagged by those of your position


ii it is simply my fault that I find it offensive

are either pathetically childish or plainly unfeeling. I am hesitant to conclude which it actually is but either way I am left extremely disappointed. If this is the way that you will respond on this subject in the future when the matter is raised where you are in ministry then all I can do is warn you that you are going to do a great disservice to "radical inclusion".

you will, of course, dismiss this. but then that would be "radical inclusion" in full action. I remain, however, unconvinced and not a little disappointed.

And, frankly, surprised. But I am beginning to realise that next to nothing will stand in the way of these egalitarian "arguments" being made, not least a fair representation and treatment of those that they oppose.

Rachel Marszalek said...

"I am constrained to point out how radically inclusive his selection of 12 Apostles was" - oh David, really - what a thing to fall back on - only a wee bit of homework required on this one.

Janice said...

David, you wrote,

We should all be allowed to post up whatever derogatory and perjorative images and words that we choose - after all, it is other people who are to blame if they are upset by them.

Images are one thing and words are another. Words have more or less stable, more or less restricted, agreed-upon meanings, whereas images do not.

For instance, when you write:
"you ... stoop to such poor and unloving stereotypes",
"you border on being disingenuous",
"you make the whole thing worse by pretending to be surprised about this",
"[y]our subsequent attempts to justify the behaviour ... are either pathetically childish or plainly unfeeling",
the derogatory nature of your comments is plainly displayed to all who can read English.

But what is the meaning of Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ"? Plainly, a lot of people are very offended by it yet, according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_Christ), Wendy Beckett, a Catholic nun and art expert, "regarded the work as not blasphemous but a statement on 'what we have done to Christ' — that is, the way contemporary society has come to regard Christ and the values he represents."

[You] find [the picture of the gagged woman] offensive, presumably because you think it is, not at all a fair representation, of those who deny that Christians should allow women to become priests and, perhaps eventually, be consecrated as bishops.

In my experience it's a fair representation. A group of senior students from a well known Sydney theological college visited for what, I suppose, might be called a mission practicuum. An outreach meeting was to be held on the campus of the local government funded university, i.e., neither sermonising from a church pulpit nor leadership of a congregation were involved. Nevertheless, one of the fellows helping organise the visit suggested that since men were bound to be present on campus the women students should not be allowed to speak. Is that, or is that not, gagging women?

Rachel Marszalek said...

Interesting Janice, thank you. Words do indeed 'speak' more immediately than images. Interpretations are still slippery at times but the tone in David's language certainly communicates his 'disappointment' explicitly.

Thank you for sharing your experiences here.


David Ould said...

Words do indeed 'speak' more immediately than images.

What nonsense. You keep digging a bigger hole by insisting that, somehow, the "meaning" and "interpretation" of that picture of a gagged woman is "slippery".

We all know exactly what you intended to communicate by it. How about a little honesty in all this?

And Janice, you take me to task and yet if you use even a small amount of equal criticism in the direction of Rachel you would also be sure to let her know of the effect of that image.

But, instead, take out your anger on me. Fair enough.

Rachel, if you walk into a parish and go about ministry like this it's going to be a disaster. And I'd say that to a man, too. If you think you have no responsibility for using images like this then you're both unwise about how people work, but also dismissive of your weaker brothers and sisters.

Rosemary said...

Thank you David.

You know it concerns me that women are so concerned about their ministry, [and by that they mean an 'in charge' ministry, otherwise their 'equality' is threatened] that the church is losing, hand over fist, many of the women that kept various lay ministries going. Sigh. I believe the Lord is trying to show us a lesson that many cannot hear.

Peter .. I'm ashamed of you. Here was your opportunity to stand with women that are accounted 'nothing' in much of the western church, and you failed.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
I think a comment in response to a post need not tackle multiple issues, and may appropriately tackle just one issue. While another commenter is, in freedom of speech, able to mark a single-focus comment as failed for not being a multiple-foci comment, that does not change the appropriateness of single focus comments!

There are women accounted as 'nothing' in the Western church, and there are women who feel 'silenced' in the Western church, even in parts of it which offer no formal restrictions on women speaking or leading. I am not sure how best to empower women in these situations, though I do what I can (though, clearly, not every time I comment on the internet!). But I am sure that restricting able, gifted women from pulpits is not a decision which offers hopeful signals to the wider church that women are accounted as 'something' rather than 'nothing.'

While appreciating the arguments brought by proponents of men only addressing mixed congregations - arguments that are based on Scripture, express deep concern for the church, and cite long-standing tradition - I do not agree with these arguments because I think they misread the dynamic within Scripture in which the death and resurrection of Christ inaugurate a new humanity which is deeply egalitarian and radically free of new laws imposed on the body of Christ. To misunderstand this dynamic and to continue to deny women opportunity to teach people, men and women, one reborn person in Christ to others, is a matter which raises the possibility that Rachel's image is a salutary one. Provocative, yes. Provoking us, I hope, to dig deeper into Scripture to discover the true freedom we have in Jesus Christ.

Back to my comment: my focus was on Reform as the organisation in the C of E which Rachel is contending with. Have I misunderstood within that comment anything about Reform viz a viz women preaching to mixed gender congregations?

Janice said...


Instead of huffing and puffing, perhaps you would provide an answer to my question. Is that, or is that not, gagging women?

David Ould said...

sorry Janice,

obviously far too busy "huffing and puffing" to answer your question.

Funny how this huffing goes. You hardly know you're doing it until someone asks you a question that they don't really want to hear the answer to. All of a sudden you get all out of breath.

Janice said...

No, David. I do want to know how you would answer that question. For the sake of your future ministry you really need to stop making assumptions about what other people think or feel or want.

David Ould said...

Sorry Janice, not playing.

Do find someone else to act as a foil for you. Better yet, just make up a caricature and respond to it - it is pretty much what you do already.

Rosemary said...

Chuckle .. and here I thought women couldn't be 'gagged.' Hmm, come to think of it, I STILL think that!!!

David Ould said...

oh but Rosemary, you're oppressed and you don't even know it.

Janice said...


Your response is not what I hoped for but it is, given what I know of you from here and other places, what I expected; ungracious, presumptuous and, "gutless" (my husband's word, quoted with his permission).

My prayer for you (and I do pray for you) is that you will learn to become more Christ-like.

David Ould said...

Sorry "Janice" if you were hoping for something else and I am somewhat disappointed that you resort to name-calling. In my experience you seem to delight in makig judgemental comments about me.

as for your "husband", I'm afraid I have no idea who you are talking about. Presumably it is someone who does not know me at all well but who is happy to jump to conclusions too. Again, disappointing but, as I note above, not surprising in these contexts. Its always those who complain they are being "judged" who seem to be very good at it themselves.

Thanks for your prayers, but please in the future don't use the claim to pray for someone as another means of publically insulting them. Seems rather wrong.


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A little background reading so we might mutually flourish when there are different opinions