Comments: Reform appoints its first full-time Director

er a woman leading an organisation that believes in male headship. Can anyone explain this?

Posted by David at Tuesday, 25 June 2013 at 10:01pm BST

One of these mysteries that pass all understanding!

Posted by Susan Cooper at Tuesday, 25 June 2013 at 11:39pm BST

"Can anyone explain this?"

Stockholm Syndrome.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 12:37am BST

During the height of the Women's Lib movement in the US, a woman from Florida campaigned vigorously AGAINST the Equal Rights Amendment. (And to this day, women do not have equal rights in the US). She flew all over the country arguing that women should stay at home with the children.

Who was this woman? A phenomenally wealthy one.

It is highly unlikely that you would find such activists amongst single moms, or working class families who require both incomes to put food on the table.

Because of the different cultures, I can't tell where Reform gets their women. It is clearly a small minority of CoE. I don't get why these people believe they have the right to subject women to any more indignity. Let them have male priests leading their parishes, but a voice in the larger church seems crazy.

God calls women to ministry. She really does.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 12:50am BST

"Mrs Leafe gave voice to over 2000 female lay members of the Church of England who believed..."

Inasmuch as every member of---well, anything---is a beloved Child of God, this is still not a particularly impressive number. Certainly, not representative of "female lay members of the Church of England" as a whole.

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 2:03am BST

It's a clever appointment. After all, they only believe in male headship where "teaching" in a church context is concerned and just possibly in marriage.

And appointing a woman means it makes it much harder for people to charge them with sexism.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 5:48am BST

She does, if I am not mistaken, represent the only Reform parish in the diocese of Truro. This is a tiny separatist organisation.
My question to any bishop appointed from this constituency would be: where do I find some proper provision of alternative episcopal oversight? Because I could not, in conscience, swear any kind of allegiance to a bishop who treated scripture and tradition and reason in such an un-Christian manner.

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 6:49am BST

"It is highly unlikely that you would find such activists amongst single moms, or working class families who require both incomes to put food on the table."

Cynthia, isn't this a truth about GS? By and large middle class who have got the time to spend worrying about how many angels can balance on the pin head.

Posted by Joseph Golightly at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 8:12am BST

I don't agree about not challenging them about sexism. There have always been women who have internalised paternalistic views regarding women that have been damaging to the gifts and vocations of women.Its challenging them about their contradictions relating to Headship I find interesting. How are they going to account for that I wonder.

Posted by sally Barnes at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 9:59am BST

How shocking that there are still people who don't understand the difference between ministry and priesthood.

If you read the rest of the Press Statement, David, you will see that 'With regard to women’s ministry the Covenant states: Our understanding of God’s way of life for his people includes: .. 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.

The new Director of Reform will seek to promote the unique value of women’s ministry in keeping with the Reform Covenant. Reform is committed to promoting and valuing women’s ministry, and also to communicating the biblical idea of complementarity in ministry.'

Posted by Jill at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 11:35am BST

The petition, Proper Provision, went viral in the United States, and many clergy there encouraged lay women to sign it. There was no way of knowing if the apparent 2,000 signatories came from England. I believe they were only asked to declare they were Anglican. As JCF has pointed out, even if all signatories were members of the CofE and regular worshippers, 2K is not impressive.

I have tried to engage with Susie Leafe about the petition, but she refused to speak to me.

Posted by Anne at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 11:59am BST

The point about the early church bar on women speaking and leading in church is that THIS IS HOW WOMEN WERE EXPECTED TO BEHAVE OUTSIDE OF CHURCH TOO. Early church leaders were nervous that the new 'freedom in Christ' would result in women, and men, wanting to overturn the social order and behave differently - hence the clamp down. By contrast today's conservative evangelicals have moved away from the idea that this is about women's role in society generally (or maybe they have just given it up as a lost cause) but they still want to apply it to church life. In other words they are throwing out the baby but cherishing the bathwater which is what leaves your average Thinking Anglican feeling so very very puzzled.

For what it’s worth Susie Leafe will probably make quite a good Director of Reform as it sounds as though she has many of the necessary gifts and skills. In the 1980s I remember conservative evangelicals regularly arguing in Synod that that women should not occupy any leadership position because they lacked the necessary attributes and should confine themselves to the nurturing roles for which God had created them. At least we don’t have to listen to that kind of tosh any more.

It’s hard to say how conservative evangelicals are reflecting on all of this as they do not have a theological language in which to have the conversation. How does a religious group speak about change when it holds in principle that change is not possible? What they could do with is some kind of concept of ‘aggiornamento’ (‘bringing up to date’) such as the Roman Catholic Church developed during the Second Vatican Council. In an ideal world one might look to the Director of Reform to provide some of this intelligent engagement – as Colin Podmore will no doubt do for Forward in Faith. But that may be too much to hope for.

Posted by Jane Charman at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 12:17pm BST

Andrew Godsall refers to the unChristian manner in which those of the Reform ilk treat scripture and tradition. And what of the lack of charity of proponents of women bishops who published scurrilous articles about catholic clergy in parish magazines and elsewhere? It works both ways, such an argument.

Posted by Benedict at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 1:34pm BST

Jill To anyone looking on that quote (and the appointment) is contradictory. How can a woman be a 'Director' in an organisation that believes Christian leadership is male? It would be interesting to know where she sits in the present structure of Reform and what authority she actually has. The logic is that she will work 'under' male headship? What does all this really mean in an organisation where all its trustees are men and where 23 out of 25 council members are men (one of the women is not, yet, ordained. The other is, correct me if I am wrong, a permanent deacon).

Posted by David at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 9:21pm BST

Gosh, Benedict, I had no idea parish magazines were so interesting. Do give details.

Posted by Helen at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 9:40pm BST

Helen, your comment is clearly designed to be sarcastic and thus deserves a limited response, except to say that there are examples of articles cited in back copies of New Directions, so if you are as interested as you claim, take a look there.

Posted by Benedict at Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 10:26pm BST

"the divine order of male headship"

Gag. Is this 2013? Jesus did not establish such an order. He broke taboos to heal, teach, and include women. Women were the first witnesses to the Resurrection. Some say that Mary Magdalene was an apostle to the apostles.

Jill and Susan would have us emulate primitive cultures, ones that Jesus rebelled against, to achieve what? The theology for that is so lame.

Bizarre. Very unhealthy. Actually stunning that these people think that the women called by God and every one of their supporters are delusional, apparently. The discernment committees, the lay people who have benefitted immensely from the ministries of female clergy and bishops? We are all batty.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 2:26am BST

Andrew, then why do you expect them to be able to submit to liberal "don't take anything literally",CWOB ,and "tradition is only to be followed if convenient" bishops? If you won't submit to Christians you disagree with, why should they?

Posted by Chris H. at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 4:59am BST

"How shocking that there are still people who don't understand the difference between ministry and priesthood."

I think everyone here gets it, Jill. I am a lay minister. The rector of my church is called to ministry as a PRIEST, and in TEC, a number of women have been elected to serve their ministry in the episcopate.

There's lay ministry and ordained ministry. Desmond Tutu's daughter is called to ministry to serve as a priest and does so in Washington DC (or used to).

Women are called to ministry as priests and bishops, and I find it odd that in the 21st Century other women would say "no" and cling to a bizarre concept like "male headship." Just look to Africa to see how well that's working out.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 5:15am BST

Benedict I am afraid you rather miss the point of my comment. It's not at all about parish magazine articles but oversight. Reform want 'proper (by which they mean legal) provision' for those who can not accept a woman bishop. My question is: where would I get 'proper provision' of alternative oversight if a Reform candidate happened to be appointed as a bishop?

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 7:08am BST

I don't find any reference to "complementarity" in the Bible , Jill. Where is it?

Posted by Helen at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 7:58am BST

How shocking that some people would ascribe only 'unique value' to 'local ministry' by women but 'divine order' to 'male headship' in this day and age. Beats imagination.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 9:26am BST

I am shocked that REFORM believe in 'priesthood' at all in any shape or form.

Not so protestant after all !

Posted by Laurence at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 9:52am BST

ChrisH: I think the point was that was/is/always has been that some members of the C of E won't submit to other Christians they disagree with isn't it? Do you now see how unsustainable that position is?

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 10:48am BST

Benedict, I did not read Helen's comment as sarcastic, but merely a request for you to cite the sources for the allegations you have made. It is helpful to know that reference can be found in New Directions, but not all of us have access to ND. Please will you let us have the references of the articles you mention. thank you.

Posted by Anne at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 11:07am BST

without wishing to get drawn into the debate Anne, actually everybody does have access to New Directions if they've got access to the internet - issues can be downloaded free of charge.

Obviously without page references supplied by Benedict it will be a bit of a needle in a haystack job, but I do recognise what he's talking about and essentially you'd be looking for the "30 Days" column, which has bits and pieces from parish magazines which fit the bill to a greater or lesser extent almost every month.

Please see this as public information spreading, rather than side taking/endorsement however!

Posted by primroseleague at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 12:19pm BST

I am shocked that REFORM believe in 'priesthood' at all in any shape or form.

Not so protestant after all !


Posted by ROBERT IAN WILLIAMS at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 1:42pm BST

> Reform want 'proper (by which they mean legal) provision' for those who can not accept a woman bishop. My question is: where would I get 'proper provision' of alternative oversight if a Reform candidate happened to be appointed as a bishop?

Andrew, there is a difference (I would assume, anyway) between the position of at least some members of Reform and your own position. You would feel uncomfortable (I imagine) with a Reform bishop because you would disagree with his views and probably even find them offensive. You would not, however (again I imagine), believe that he wasn't a bishop at all. You would regard him as a Bishop with offensive views, whom you would rather have nothing to do with but who could still celebrate the sacraments (e.g. ordination of priests/presbyters) validly.

Some members of Reform, however, would believe that a woman bishop was not a bishop at all, and therefore that, however much she believed she was 'doing what the Church does', her sacraments (e.g. ordinations she carried out) would be null and void.

Posted by Veuster at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 3:57pm BST

Thought is free, Veuster, and the Anglican church has rarely wanted to make windows into men's (or women's) souls. Reform members will therefore be welcome to believe what they will about women bishops. They can hardly, however, expect the structures of the Church of England to reflect those beliefs.
I am unhappy about the assumption that priests etc are authority figures. What happened to the idea of service (there's a bit about that in the gospels)? I wonder whether all this stuff about women's ministry emanating from Reform is designed to allow some women to have "authority" over other women? Just a thought.

Posted by Helen at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 6:01pm BST

REFORM is an evangelical organisation. Unlike Anglo-Catholics who are concerned about sacramental assurance and believe that women cannot be priests, evangelicals know that women can be priests and bishops, but they believe in male headship and therefore consider ordained women to be a direct rejection of God's will.

To that extent, you could well argue that they just feel uncomfortable about a woman bishop.

I have to say - I am astonished that people who are so passionately against women's ordination have still not understood the breadth of the anti women spectrum and the two completely different and contradicting reasons for it.

It is important to understand it, though, because it explains why the question of provisions is so complex - they have to justify 2 completely different groups, each with different requirements.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 7:21pm BST

Helen,weren't priests as authority figures the big reason women wanted to be priests? It wasn't fair that men got all the power and women had to remain below. That's why white men are the root of all evil now, right? They had the power for so long. Being a nun or layperson wasn't good enough. Lip service to the idea that Christians are to serve and lay ministry is important is all well and good, but lay ministry is often second or third class. And the idea is spreading. Nobody wants to be a nun at the local convent anymore and it's going to close soon. Why be a nun if you can be a priest? Also, several lay leaders have reported being insulted/held in contempt or pressured to become ordained by both male and female priests because anyone with a "real" gift of ministry should be a priest. Why else all the cynicism about a woman leader of REFORM? Evangelicals like the wife of noble character in Proverbs. The evangelical "male headship" clause usually includes the pulpit and the individual family, so why not let a woman be an organizer or PR person? Because leaders should be priests and ministry equals priesthood so a woman can't have a ministry without being a priest and a woman who doesn't believe in female priests REALLY can't do ministry.

Posted by Chris H at Friday, 28 June 2013 at 7:57am BST

Chris H
so are you saying that there is a direct link between a vocation to the priesthood substituting a vocation to monastic life or to lay ministry?

Did that happen with male priests, male Lay Readers, youth group leaders and monks too, or is it only something that affects women?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 28 June 2013 at 9:20am BST

I can only speak for myself, Chris H, but I sought ordination because I believed,and others affirmed, that I was called to that role. My experience of ministry over the last 20 years has not caused me to doubt the rightness of that, and other people don't seem to have doubted it either. Yes, priests - male or female -need to be able to have the authority to do the job, but that is about knowing that the validity of what you are doing is recognised by the Church which has ordained you, not about having power to lord it over others.

You need authority to do whatever it is you do in life. You need authority to be a servant as much as to be a leader, the permission to fulfil a role and the recognition that it is your place to do so. That applies just as much to a lavatory attendant or street sweeper as it does to a teacher, doctor or priest.

The fact that ambivalence was built into the current system from the outset about whether we truly have that authority is the thing women priests often struggle with most, and the reason why we are so resistant to further ambivalence being built in when women become bishops. We know, as well as anyone can, that we are called, ordained, and that our own congregations and the majority beyond them regard us as truly priests, but as long as there is official sanction for the view that we aren't really quite the real deal, as long as people are allowed officially to hold and express that view, (as distinct from personally holding and expressing that view -no one can control what anyone else thinks or says in a personal capacity) then we are condemned to minister with one hand tied behind our backs, and that is not good for the Church, or for us.

The reality of priesthoood , certainly in my parish, is that there is very little power involved, other than that which can be exercised through love and service. Anyone who seeks ordination in the hopes of such power is going to be bitterly disappointed, (or very dangerous). But all priests, male or female, need to be able to trust that they have been properly and thoroughly given the authority to do the job, otherwise they cannot exercise the gifts and the ministry to which they have been called.

Posted by Anne B at Friday, 28 June 2013 at 11:50am BST


I can't speak for Chris, but yes in the wider CofE I would agree with that - doesn't matter if you're male or female, the relentless march is to make (unintentionally or not) priesthood the be all and end all. I think vocations to be a religious, or lay ministry are being directly rechannelled into the priesthood on a substitutionary basis.

Of course, it's just an opinion and difficult to put hard numbers against, but I do believe it's the case personally yes....

Posted by primroseleague at Friday, 28 June 2013 at 11:54am BST

Frankly, Chris, your opening comment is offensive (incidentally I have never sought ordination nor am likely to do so, so I don't take it personally). How on earth can you make this sort of assertion about thousands of women you've never met and know nothing of? Arguing on those lines shows how little you understand of a)women's ordination and b) priesthood.

Posted by Helen at Friday, 28 June 2013 at 12:58pm BST

Primrose League,
Are you saying that there is a relentless march towards making the priesthood seem to be the most important ministry?

Because there certainly does not appear to be a link in terms of the number of ordinations.

The statistics I have been able to find in a quick search on the CoE websites are:

The Church recommended 491 future clergy for ordination training in 2009, maintaining the level at the turn of the millennium.
Another 491 candidates were accepted to train as future clergy in 2009, making a total of 1338 in training. In total, 564 new clergy were ordained in 2009, 10 less than in 2008 and 77 more than in 2006 (the lowest in recent years). Of those, 309 were entering full-time paid ministry, compared with 321 in 2008 and 226 in 2006.

The number of people ordained to stipendiary (paid) ministry - 264 in 2011 - has remained broadly stable over the past 16 years.

And again: The number of people ordained to stipendiary (paid) ministry - 264 in 2011 - has remained broadly stable over the past 16 years.

I would really like to see some solid figures, especially from Chris, to support the claim that women are abandoning lay ministry in favour of ordained ministry (never mind their supposed reasons for that, let's get the actual figures first, please).
Such figures would include statistics on monastic vocations before and after the CoE ordained female priests, and statistics on the development of licensed lay ministry.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 28 June 2013 at 2:41pm BST


thanks for the figures - I suspect we'd also need figures for the other vocations as well though (I realise we're getting wildly off topic). My contention would be that I suspect they are going down (male and female) yet the priesthood figures as you show are holding up. so the question is to what extent that's because people are being channelled down that route to *ensure* those numbers hold up, however implicitly. I'm not saying DDOs are saying to would-be monks "thou shalt be a priest," but I do see anecdotally multiple people who think about lay readership, for example, being pushed towards at least non-stipendiary ministry.

Of course, it's the DDO's job to help discern vocation, but one can't help feeling sometimes that there's a bit of steering going on....

Posted by primroseleague at Friday, 28 June 2013 at 3:53pm BST

I haven't time to google for these now but I don't think we have to "suspect" what happens to lay ministry, there should be published figures for licensed lay ministry. Maybe someone here has got them?

Purely from personal experience and general reading I would "suspect" that the reality is quite the opposite. With more parishes merging and more priests, especially in rural areas, being responsible for several churches and whole benefices lay ministry is expanding to keep the show on the road. Certainly, my own church could not function without our team of Lay Readers, parish visitors, children's ministry team etc. Everyone who wants to be involved can be involved at virtually every level. And we are no unusual round here.
But maybe it's because we are now on our third woman priest - and, again anecdotally, women tend to be pretty good at working in teams without their ego getting in the way. Precisely because "authority" is not generally as important to them then it appears to be to men.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 28 June 2013 at 7:25pm BST

I can give you some related stats to ponder. If you add together the numbers of ordained ministers, lay ministers and retired ministers in the C of E the number is about 30,000 which is higher than many people think. Assuming a C of E worshipping membership of 1.3 million that's one 'minister' for roughly every 40 people. This does represent a very considerable 'drift to the sanctuary' but suggests that it is discipleship (rather than lay ministry) that is undervalued since we seem to want to 'authorise' anyone who shows signs of taking discipleship seriously. It isn't a gender issue. Or particularly an issue about ordination. I'm not sure what sort of issue it is, to be honest. As far as the rest of the conversation goes, I'm alongside Anne B. Anyone who seeks an authorised ministry because they think it will give them power has missed the point and is in for a rude awakening. We do try and screen out most of them during the process of discernment.

Posted by Jane Charman at Friday, 28 June 2013 at 9:22pm BST

"Why be a nun if you can be a priest?" [Chris H.]

Some are both! I know a few women among the regular or religious clergy.

Posted by Geoff at Saturday, 29 June 2013 at 1:15am BST

Putting offense aside, Chris H., the crux of the matter is that God did not put women in the oppressive box you seem to think we "belong" in. The nature of oppression is when one group forces another to live up to the expectations of the dominant group, against the will of members of the oppressed group. So your box is quite oppressive.

God has called women to ordained ministry, including the episcopate. Many people have benefited greatly from women's ordained ministry. I am certainly grateful to the wonderful female clergy I've met in both of our countries.

But your tone and entitlement certainly affirms my view that the anti-women side is not rational, and therefore there's no place for it in governance.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 29 June 2013 at 2:09am BST

thank you for those figures.
When I googled those statistics on the CoE website yesterday I also came across the figure that there is one ordained priest per 2,500 people in the parishes.
If that is true, and if your comment that there is one minister per 40 people is true, it would suggest a very healthy level of lay ministry and no particularly elevated role for priests.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 29 June 2013 at 8:14am BST

Primroseleague: Thank you very much for telling us that New Directions is freely available online. I did not know this, so that was really helpful information. But despite spending a little time looking at the 30 days column, I'm not quite sure what it is I am looking for. it would be helpful if Benedict would give us his sources. I think it is always essential to cite one's sources accurately so that others can check them out, so please Benedict will you do that for us? Thank you.

Posted by Anne at Monday, 1 July 2013 at 11:25am BST

Just checking back to see if Benedict has found his references.
I have to say, Benedict, I am really disappointed.
This is about the fourth time that you have had conversations here criticising everyone and everything and then quietly disappeared from the thread when you were asked to provide evidence for your assertions.
You can't be ill or on holiday every single time this happens.

It does not strengthen your case. And I so wish it wasn't like that because if you are right, then your challenges have to be taken very seriously by everyone who cares about church regardless of their churchmanship.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 4 July 2013 at 9:16am BST
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