In recent weeks on this blog, and elsewhere, for example at the Ugley Vicar, the picture may have been given that evangelicals, and others, in the Church of England are at all-out war with one another over the prospect of women being accepted as bishops. It is of course regrettable when Christians fight among themselves in public – although for some of us the continuing marginalisation of women in the church is an even greater scandal.
So I was pleased this morning to find a report of some positive discussions on this issue (PDF) (also available here, as HTML). The meeting described here, held in January, was one of a series between representatives of Reform (including Carrie Sandom who I mentioned here before) and of AWESOME (Anglican Women Evangelicals: Supporting our Ordained Ministry), a network of ordained Anglican women. At the meeting there were also some high-powered theological advisers.
The report states:
Our focus was mainly but not exclusively on issues of biblical theology, exegesis and hermeneutics rather than current political issues relating to women bishops.
Nevertheless it is an important contribution towards the current debate as it seeks to ensure that this issue does not drive a wedge into evangelical unity within the C of E:
We believe it is important that evangelicals in the Church of England with different understandings of Scripture’s teaching and divergent views on women presbyters and bishops should treat each other as evangelicals and Anglicans. The experience of AWESOME and other bodies within evangelicalism shows that differences here need not prevent us working together in the cause of the gospel as brothers and sisters in Christ who are committed evangelicals and Anglicans.
In order to accomplish this we believe more sustained discussions must continue between evangelicals, especially on the practical and pastoral implications of our differences in the life of both the local and the national church. We need to be clearer as to the patterns of evangelical love towards those with whom we disagree and how our views can be held while recognising others as evangelicals seeking faithfully to obey Scripture.
I found the report through the website of the Church of England Evangelical Council. I see that they are holding elections for their council members, and that nominations close this week. I understand that at least one of the candidates seeking re-election is a prominent and somewhat strident opponent of women leadership in the church. This may be a chance to nominate candidates who take a more conciliatory line. As a member of the Chelmsford Diocesan Evangelical Association I am eligible to nominate or second a candidate – but I will not accept nomination myself.