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Reform Open Letter to Synod on Women Bishops

Reform Open Letter to Synod on Women Bishops

50 Church of England ministers, who have links with Reform, have written an open letter to Synod members to say why they believe the consecration of women bishops would be a mistake:

Monday 8th February 2010

'Dear Bishops and Synod members,

As 50 incumbents of Church of England churches 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.

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 less valuable than men, 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.'

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.

The letter was signed by the following persons

Rev'd Rod Thomas, St. Matthew's Elburton, Exeter (Chairman of Reform) and 49 other signatories, which follow

Rev'd Michael Andreyev St Peter's Stapenhill, Derby

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 John Birchall Christ Church Surbiton Hill, Southwark

Rev'd Iain Broomfield Christ Church Bromley, Rochester

Rev'd Mark Burkill Christ Church Leytonstone, Chelmsford

Rev'd John Cheeseman Holy Trinity Eastbourne, Chichester

Rev'd CJ Davis St NicholasTooting, Southwark

Rev'd Steve Donald St John the Evangelist, Carlisle

Rev'd Richard Espin-Bradley St Luke's Wolverhampton, Birmingham

Rev'd Jonathan Fletcher Emmanuel Church Wimbledon,Southwark

Rev'd Simon Gales St John s Lindow, Chester

Rev'd David Gibb St Andrews Leyland, Blackburn

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 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 Angus MacLeay St Nicholas Sevenoaks, Rochester

Rev'd Julian Mann Oughtibridge Parish Church, Sheffield

Rev'd Ed Moll St George's Wembdon, Bath

Rev'd Darren Moore St Catherine's Tranmere, Chester

Rev'd Ken Moulder St Oswalds, Newcastle

Rev'd Robert Munro Cheadle Parish Church, Chester

Rev'd Alasdair Paine Christ Church Westbourne, Winchester

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 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 William Taylor St Helen's Bishopsgate, London

Rev'd Melvin Tinker St John's Newlands, York

Rev'd Alistair Tresidder St Luke's Hampstead, London

Rev'd Philip Venables St Andrew's Bebington,Chester

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

(The Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev'd Wallace Benn, also wishes to be associated with this letter)

(Source: Reform website, 08/02/10)

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