I reported a few days ago on The Reform letter on women bishops. This has generated an interesting discussion in comments here and in private e-mail, as well as on other blogs.
Now Matt Wardman reports on something I had also noticed, and asks Why did Reform Leaders not all sign the Women Bishops letter? He names two well-known conservative evangelical Anglicans, Rev David Holloway and Rev Paul Perkin, who are incumbents of large churches and trustees and/or council members of Reform, but who are not listed as signatories of the letter. The large contributions that these churches surely make to their dioceses could have increased the sum that the signatories were threatening to withhold, 0.22% of the Church of England’s budget, to make it look a little bit less like a drop in the ocean.
Church Mouse lists several other Reform leaders who didn’t sign the letter – some of them because they are not incumbents. Julian Mann, one of the signatories who blogs as Cranmer’s Curate, also comments on the missing signatures, but not by name, and speculates on the reasons.
Of course it may simply be that Rev Rod Thomas, who wrote the letter, was unable to contact Holloway, Perkin and others in time to get their signatures. After all we can presume that they are rather busy looking after their large churches. So possibly there is no real division here.
Richard Connolly, commenting on Matt’s blog, suggests a reason for division, that the Reform leadership may not be united in its opposition to women bishops. But, as I commented in response (link to the Reform Covenant added),
If any of these Reform leaders are not actually opposed to women bishops there is some hypocrisy going on there. According to the page on Reform Trustees and Council Members, “The Council and Trustees each year sign the Reform Covenant …”, and one article of that covenant is:
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.
But I would think it more likely that the Reform leaders are divided over what tactics to choose at this time. See for example how these tactics have been criticised by one Reform-oriented vicar.
I note that the Reform statement does not oppose women assistant clergy. Indeed, two of the Reform council members are ordained women – but neither of these are incumbents, and so they could not sign the letter.
The Reform-oriented vicar I mention is of course my old sparring partner John Richardson, the Ugley Vicar. I don’t know if he is actually a member of Reform, but this article by him and this one are on the Reform website. In his post he is openly critical of the Reform letter, not because he has any doubts in his opposition to women bishops, but because he sees the tactics in the Reform letter as counter-productive, with the threat in it likely to hurt Reform more than the Church of England.
Now I won’t presume to give Reform my advice about their tactics for reaching a goal I do not support. But John’s analysis of the letter, which is not so different from mine, makes a lot of sense. And this suggests, and confirms Julian Mann’s suspicion, that if there really are divisions in Reform over this matter they are over tactics rather than over the principle of women bishops.