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What if? A scenario for Objectors to Women Bishops in C of E

What if? A scenario for Objectors to Women Bishops in C of E
What if there is no adequate provision for those in the Church of England with theological objections to women bishops

Speaking in favour of the amendment by Rev Rod Thomas, the chair of Reform, at General Synod on Saturday July 10th, which would have provided for alternative male bishops with jurisdiction where the diocesan bishop would be female, Mrs Sarah Finch, a member of General Synod for London Diocese gave this speech:

By Sarah Finch
July 11th, 2010

This amendment represents HOPE for hundreds of conservative evangelical congregations across England.

If the amendment is accepted, these congregations will be able to look forward, confidently, to a secure future in the Church of England.

They will know that they can flourish. They will be able to continue to teach the scriptures and proclaim the gospel of forgiveness, and newness of life, through faith in Christ, as they have always done, and their young men will come forward confidently for ordination.

They will know that they will not be required either to go against their consciences, or else to leave.

But what if this amendment were to be defeated? As women bishops take up their posts, in one diocese after another, conservative evangelical congregations in those dioceses would indeed leave the Church of England.

Members of Synod, I wonder how many of you have already imagined what this would look like, in terms of numbers attending, and in terms of money contributed to diocesan coffers? Many conservative evangelical churches are growing, as I will show in a moment. Most of them, also, pay their way, and many pay more than they need to. Can the Church of England afford to lose growing churches?

First, attendance. My research has been very limited, but I could tell you about one deanery, in the south of England, where conservative evangelical incumbents represent less than a quarter of the total of incumbents in that deanery, but attendance at their churches accounts for more than half of the deanery's total attendance. And there are few children attending church in that deanery who are not in those four evangelical churches.

Congregations have tripled, or more than tripled, over the last ten years in the dioceses of Blackburn, Chester, London and Sheffield.

They have doubled, or almost doubled during the same period in Exeter, Chichester, Norwich and Leicester.

Then, electoral rolls. These have doubled, or more than doubled in the last ten years, or less, in Southwark, Lichfield, Exeter, Sheffield and Chelmsford. In one church in Greater London, to be on the electoral roll means a wholehearted commitment to the life of the church, and in this church the number has grown from 300 to 600 in ten years.

From time to time it happens that conservative evangelical congregations run out of space. So members are invited to volunteer for a church plant. One congregation in the Oxford diocese ran out of space, and in ten years they have had three church plants. New congregations have been formed like this in Rochester, Portsmouth, Bath & Wells, Leicester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Manchester, Southwark, Oxford, Chelmsford and Chester. In Greater London one congregation has sent out 16 new congregations or church plants, and they are planning 20 more by 2020. Plants are currently being planned in Chelmsford (3) and Rochester (1). So, I have heard about 35 congregations or church plants now in existence, since the year 2000, and 24 that are being planned.

A growing church is a sending church. In other words, if a congregation is not sending people into ministry elsewhere, it will become stagnant, it will cease to grow. Conservative evangelical congregations are usually on the lookout for likely candidates for full-time ministry. One Oxford diocese church has sent 8 people into full-time ministry, a Chelmsford one has sent 14, and a London church has sent 51 men in the last ten years.

There are stories to tell of growing work among children and young people, of congregations for Mandarin-speaking people, of visiting to local housing estates and to prisons, of a new ministry to young dads, Christianity Explored courses being held every term, discipleship groups, fellowship groups for university students returning for the vacations, and parish people paying for an evangelist to work in an unchurched area of the parish ...

There is much growth going on among conservative evangelicals. If this amendment is passed the growth will continue within the Church of England. If this amendment is not accepted, it will continue elsewhere.



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