Comments: Bishop of Maidstone - news and reactions

This man and his party Reform has one leg in an outside competitor or takeover, the Anglican Church of North Europe, or AMIE or GAFCON or whatever the next name might be, and he's been appointed deliberately as a kind of appeasement to the hard men. This is evidence of the C of E becoming more sectarian in its need to hold itself together, while others are trying to convince themselves that there is a bright, unfolding future for all kinds of folk in tomorrow's C of E. What's the phrase? Smell the coffee.

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 5 May 2015 at 6:56pm BST

That Reform, AMIE and Forward in Faith are delighted is worrying. What is of greater concern is what Mr Thomas has said himself :just look at his contributions to synodical debate on women in the episcopate. Enough said

Posted by Mark Beach at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 12:51am BST

From the AMiE welcome of this new bishop; it would seem that they might now have every hope of being found acceptable as the Church of England's new 'Mission Partner'.

Bishop-Presumptive Rod Thomas must be highly pleased with this outcome. The word 'Reform' in this context now more surely means 'Retrenchment' - into the middle-ages - for the Church of England.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 5:19am BST

WATCH nails the "mutual flourishing" argument: "To state the challenge clearly, the theology of headship states that women will only truly flourish under the authority of men as part of the created order. Conversely, we believe that the theology of headship is inimical to the true flourishing of women, and indeed the true flourishing of the church as a whole."

When you get right down to it, "male headship" is a *Headsman*: chopping off any real flourishing by the Imago-Dei-made-Female.

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 6:15am BST

Of course, WATCH is disappointed. Many of us are disappointed. But... this is what those who voted for the 2012 measure voted for. I'm hardly president of the Justin Welby fan club, but I do respect the fact that he is keeping his promises and giving (some) minorities an equal place at the table. Let's see if he remains consistent and gives all minorities an equal place at the table.

What WATCH and the rest of us who would describe ourselves as broadly 'liberal' need to wake up to is that the churches Rod Thomas represents are making a lot of noise, drawing the crowds, producing ordinands, and... generating an awful lot of money. Yes, Justin Welby has kept his promises. But, on his own admission, he is a businessmen in clerical dress, and is hardly likely to ignore the economics of this arrangements.

Posted by Gareth P at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 9:50am BST

In view of Reform's and AMiE's track record, it would be good to hear from Rod Thomas what he has done, and will do, for the flourishing of the majority of C of E members who disagree with his stance on gender and sexuality. There are some men who will not ordain women themselves but try to be supportive of and respectful to women priests, for instance, but willingness to give as well as take is not something I would associate with these organisations.

Great (some might say excessive) generosity has been shown to the minority who share his theological stance, at considerable cost to mission and ministry (e.g. in 2008 sociologist Kristin Aune estimated that the C of E had lost a million women worshippers over a couple of decades, partly because of its attitude to gender). It would be encouraging to see at least a little mutuality and the loyalty to the C of E (as opposed to overseas primates) which might be expected of a bishop.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 10:25am BST

In response to Gareth:
"Of course, WATCH is disappointed. Many of us are disappointed. But... this is what those who voted for the 2012 measure voted for."
Once again: no. We voted for five principles and a HofB document that said it would find a way for the Conservative Evangelical headship voice to be heard in the College of Bishops. We did not votes for a version of headship that entails unorthodox views of the incarnation (which Rod T has expressed in a letter to REFORM members after the vote) nor for a legitimation of schism, which membership of AMiE seems to me to entail.

"the churches Rod Thomas represents are making a lot of noise, drawing the crowds, producing ordinands, and... generating an awful lot of money."
But other churches are producing ordinands too - lots of women ordinands, for example.

"Yes, Justin Welby has kept his promises. But, on his own admission, he is a businessmen in clerical dress, and is hardly likely to ignore the economics of this arrangements."
Well he denied he was a businessman in clerical dress at GS last February, but he did not get the laugh he expected so maybe people think he is! However, surely we want clergy to bring their previous life experience with them into ordained ministry? This is why many older ordinands contribute so much to the ministry and life of our church.

Posted by Charles Read at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 12:20pm BST

Unless I have missed it I have not seen reference here to the revival of another suffragan see, that of Richmond.
On 29 April 2015, the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales announced that the See of Richmond would be revived for a suffragan bishop to assist the Bishop of Leeds in his area bishop duties.
http://www.westyorkshiredales.anglican.org/content/new-suffragan-bishop-diocese

Posted by Ken Sawyer at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 1:59pm BST

Religious orthodoxy from Constantine to the present day has been and remains more about politics than theology. Anglicans in general and the C of E in particular, of all people, surely must know this. Conservatives are a political force to be reckoned with throughout the Communion. Conservatives have strength of numbers in the wider Communion. They can have clout in the churches in western democracies where factious dissent always extracts a toll in the face of declining membership and declining budgets. If the church squares off with social conservatives as TEC has done then the expected outcome is litigation and conflict. The other strategy open to the church is appeasement. The Rod Maidstone appointment appears to be an example of this. Such a strategy tends to play well with the mantra, " can't we all just get along together". Just don't confuse appeasement with genuine reconciliation.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 2:37pm BST

I suspect, Savi, that on the tolerance front he will adopt what he sees as biblical stance, separate themselves from the ungodly, and the hierarchy has just enabled it.

Posted by Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 2:56pm BST

@Charles Read is fond of repeatedly telling us that he did not vote for this as part of the Five Principles. But I am at a loss to know how else a voice expressing a conservative evangelical view of headship could be heard in the College of Bishops without consecrating someone like Rod Thomas. Or was he expecting that a group of 'regional representatives' would attend without voting rights (as per the senior women attending HoB)? From my reading of the Measure it seems perfectly simple.

Nonetheless, I do agree wholeheartedly with Charles about the question of how Rod Thomas can make the declarations at his consecration in good faith, and that needs to be hammered out. His AMiE connections and previous statements are not consistent with 'the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it' and we need to be clear (just as Philip Giddings wanted to be clear about Jeffrey John repenting of his previous... well, what?). But... have we any theologians left who are competent to determine this now that the Archbishop is so dismissive of them, and he is hardly qualified to determine this himself?

Posted by James A at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 3:45pm BST

Ken Sawyer - I published an article about the revival of the See of Richmond here:

http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/006945.html

It has attracted a good number of comments.

Posted by Peter Owen at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 4:46pm BST

We are told that churches such as those encouraged by Rod Thomas have larger congregations.All I can say is that appointment such as this drive my grand daughters even further away from the Church and that grieves me greatly. Nor will they be helped by General Synods plans for mission and growth.They need people who respect their questions and doubts and will discuss them in reasonable and liberal ways. They also need people who recognise their intelligence,dignity and equality.

Posted by Jean Mayland (Revd) at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 4:53pm BST

Have to agree that such an appointment was inevitable once the proposals voted upon at GS gave in to the bullies. However it is hard to see how this person can make the necessary declarations at his consecration in good faith - although given the position he and his followers take......

Posted by Confused Sussex at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 5:35pm BST

The appointment of Mr Thomas extends the 'broad church' approach of the Church of England which gives such a clear lead to the nation. The bishop-elect shows that women are equal and/or subservient to men.
That women can/can't be bishops.
That gay clergy are to be welcomed/ abhorred and sacked/ loved and affirmed/ treated with respect or generally reviled. (Tick which applies)
Hopefully the women of Maidstone will rejoice that they are regarded by their new bishop as unequal/ intelligent and/or silly females. Thank goodness the Church shows it loves/hates and or accepts/rejects everyone.

Posted by FrDavidH at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 6:11pm BST

"Have to agree that such an appointment was inevitable once the proposals voted upon at GS gave in to the bullies."

I suspect too that the pre-election timing of this appointment is far from coincidental. Are the Tories trying to embed their own in the CofE?

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 6 May 2015 at 7:28pm BST

"the churches Rod Thomas represents are ... generating an awful lot of money."

And we're supposed to serve both God AND mammon. Oh, wait...

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 7 May 2015 at 5:24am BST

Rod Thomas's view on women's roles relative to men are bizarre and repulsive. For him to be appointed as a bishop in the Church of England, not in spite of such views, or primarily because of pastoral, spiritual or other qualities, but, rather, specifically because of his disgraceful views is a new low for us.

Posted by badman at Thursday, 7 May 2015 at 7:52am BST

In response to James:
there are two grounds for believing in male headship. One is to see this grounded in creation - it is part of how God has made things that men are (ultimately) to lead and women are not. I do not agree with this one bit and it is dangerous as it can legitimate all sorts of things, including abuse, if allowed to run free and taken to extremes. To be fair to REFORM et al, they would roundly condemn abuse and say that male headship entails seeking the best for your wife / the women in your congregation etc. and any man using headship views to legitimate abuse is committing a sin. You can say that this is an illogical argument etc. but we have to be fair with REFORM and see that they are not seeking to legitimate abuse.

There is a second theological underpinning of headship, grounded in the incarnation. Here it is alleged that women are to submit to men as Christ submits to the Father. While in his earthly life, Jesus did submit to the Father's will (Garden of Gethsemane prayer etc.), orthodox theology sees this submission as temporary and functional. Those using it to underpin male headship views see it as eternal (but still functional). I think this is still unorthodox Christology and actually makes trinitarian theology difficult.

In GS we voted for a 'headship' voice in the College of Bishops, knowing that this meant in all probability appointing a suffragan. In the debate and in correspondence with the archbishops, some of us pointed out that appointing someone with 'type 2' headship views was not acceptable due to the christological problems here. Only fairly recently has type 2 arisen, imported from Sydney (who have now disowned it) and the USA (where they have not). Type 1 headship would still cause big problems for lots of us, but has been a position held by faithful Anglicans. I don't agree with it and have argued against it for many years, as an evangelical with conservative doctrinal views.

Rod's appointment comes with the Archbishops knowing about the doctrinal problems with the headship theology he espouses - he is on record as agreeing with type 2 theology. If GS has been asked to vote on details of what headship grounds were acceptable, type 1 would have got through and type 2 would not. We were told to trust the powers that be with the details. We did. We got Burnley and Maidstone.

Posted by Charles Read at Thursday, 7 May 2015 at 9:49am BST

Jeremy

"I suspect too that the pre-election timing of this appointment is far from coincidental. Are the Tories trying to embed their own in the CofE?"

who on earth do you think you are?

The Conservatives have just brought in Equal Marriage (and it was in their manifesto in 2010). Can you show that Reform = Conservative Party, or indeed that Conservative Party = Reform? Because I can't....

Seems nastiness is a broader church than Mrs May would have had us believe all those years ago.

Posted by primroseleague at Thursday, 7 May 2015 at 10:08am BST

Charles Read's unpacking of what he understands to be the nuances surrounding the 'Headship' argument is extremely helpful. I broadly agree with him - and certainly don't think that, just because conservative evangelicals hold the purse strings they should be given any more credence than anyone else. I would describe my self as 'liberal' - which is why I am arguing for all minorities to have a voice - catholic, evangelical, traditionalist, liberal, gay, straight, or whatever.

But trusting the Archbishop of Canterbury to deal with the theological nuances was a touch naïve, perhaps. Of course, +Rowan would have done it brilliantly with his capacity to understand profoundly those with whom he disagrees. It's a pity his proposals in July 2012 were voted out by the ungenerous liberals. If they had accepted it then, instead holding out for a clause which left minorities excluded, suffering defeat in November 2012, then consenting to a virtually identical proposal in 2014, and allowing Welby & Sentamu to work out the theological small print, may be 'Headship 1' and 'Headship 2' as Charles analyses them would not be something we're now arguing over.

At a more pragmatic level, Rod Thomas is 60. This is not going to be another Wallace Benn scenario, rolling on for years. When Rod retires, may be the Archbishop will have the wisdom to bring on board some of those theologians (from across the spectrum) whom he finds so tiresome, to advise him on the nuances.

Posted by James A at Thursday, 7 May 2015 at 9:30pm BST

Jeremy....from the Conservative manifesto:

"Our historic introduction of gay marriage has helped drive forward equality and strengthened the institution of marriage. But there is still more to do, and we will continue to champion equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people."

Of course most other parties would agree with this. Reform clearly don't. Nor, as far as we know, do our diocesan bishops---or if they do they haven't said so.

Posted by Turbulent priest at Friday, 8 May 2015 at 7:53am BST

"Rod's appointment comes with the Archbishops knowing about the doctrinal problems with the headship theology he espouses" @Charles Read. Really? Do the Archbishops get it?

I take the point about Rod Thomas's lack of orthodoxy in the way he has argued for headship. But what, precisely, is unorthodox about Philip North - let alone his appointment?

Posted by Tom Marshall at Friday, 8 May 2015 at 8:13am BST

Thanks Tom...

I think there are bishops who get it about the subordinationism theology because they have expressed concern to me about it (before Rod was appointed so not aimed at him in particular). I asked a question about it in the Feb group of sessions. Do the bishops get it? Well, they have been told often enough.

Philip North is, I am sure, chalcedonally orthodox. The issue there was about the circumstances of his consecration. In the discussions leading to the final legislation, Forward in Faith asked for 'their' (new) bishops to be consecrated by 'their' (existing) bishops and for the archbishops to step aside. Some of us made it clear that was a line we would not cross and the rumour was that ++Justin had firmly said no to FinF. And what happened with Philip? Again, the GS was told 'leave the details of consecrations to us'. The pattern I see emerging is of bishops who do not see that their episcopal ministry is there to serve the whole church and that is why policy decisions like this need checking out with GS - it's the same issue as the Green Report.

Posted by Charles Read at Friday, 8 May 2015 at 10:58am BST

'We are told that churches such as those encouraged by Rod Thomas have larger congregations.All I can say is that appointment such as this drive my grand daughters even further away from the Church and that grieves me greatly. Nor will they be helped by General Synods plans for mission and growth.They need people who respect their questions and doubts and will discuss them in reasonable and liberal ways. They also need people who recognise their intelligence,dignity and equality.'

Yes. But there are hundreds, thousands of churches in the C of E which aren't like Reform and which do do the things mentioned. I think it's slightly precious for liberals to stay away because of things like Rod Thomas' appointment. Far better to participate.

Posted by John at Friday, 8 May 2015 at 2:31pm BST

I agree wit Rod but there are other reasons why my granddaughters have left the Church but this will not help them back

Posted by Jean Mayland (Revd) at Friday, 8 May 2015 at 5:10pm BST

"Who do you think you are?"

Someone who pays close attention to when Downing Street issues press releases.

"Of course most other parties would agree with this [the Tories' new position on equal marriage]."

But the point is that a substantial portion of the Tory base does not. And they were just given a strong signal, a mere days before the new Parliament was elected.

Coincidence? Of did the Tories think that this appointment would increase turnout of their vote?

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 8 May 2015 at 5:25pm BST

The girls in Mr. Thomas' diocese will certainly become aware that they are flawed and unequal in his view. This is spiritual abuse. Let alone the problems of female clergy who will have an unaffirming boss.

I grew up in the Greek Orthodox church, believe me, the girls know that they are second class members.

Again, CoE is asking the vulnerable to carry the burden of injustice for the sake of... actually I'm not clear on why. This was the cost of having women bishops (who so far are all married to priests/bishops to appease the "headship" crowd???)?

Lift up TEC as an example of what not to do, if you'd like, but at least we've stopped victimizing girls as a national policy. Our collective moral compass is informed by our MLK formation on that one.

Our young families say that they are thrilled to join "unbigoted" churches (their words). And many schismatics are coming back because hate just isn't a good foundation for a church.

In theory, making room for everyone (in leadership) sounds great, so Christian. In practice, it is not compassionate or particularly Christian to the most vulnerable. But that is the major difference I find between Thinking Anglicans (CoE blog) and Episcopal Cafe (TEC blog). CoE leadership seems so willing to deal predominantly in the abstract while studiously avoiding how policy impacts real people, and TEC seems more willing to engage at the human level.

It just seems that as the National Church, CoE was well positioned to take a stand that is more in sync with the larger population and the egalitarian laws of your land. A stand that also is kinder to girls, women, and LGBT people. If these egalitarian laws are moral, than what exactly is the church doing? Very confusing.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 9 May 2015 at 12:05am BST

"The Conservatives have just brought in Equal Marriage."

Wrong!

In point of fact, there was a bitter intra-Tory debate in the Commons, and Cameron needed Opposition help to get the bill through.

Remember the headlines:

"How Mr Cameron's obsession with gay marriage is killing the Tory party." Daily Mail, 26 July 2012.

"Labour saves Cameron's gay marriage bill." The Guardian, 20 May 2013.

"Blow for Cameron as 128 Tory MPs vote against gay marriage: Tory opponents of the bill outnumber supporters as just 117 Conservative MPs vote in favour." New Statesman, 21 May 2013.

"Conservative MPs rebel against David Cameron's gay marriage plans." Daily Express, 20 May 2013.

"Gay marriage legislation passed despite huge Tory rebellion: Full list of MPs who voted against Bill." Mirror, 21 May 2013.

How could anyone forget this political drama?

Gay marriage may have been a Cameron achievement, but it very far from a Tory achievement. More Tory MPs voted against than in favor!

And gay marriage was commonly thought of as an issue that drove Tory voters to UKIP, and caused a historic decline in Tory party membership.

So before we leap to the conclusion that this appointment had nothing to do with party politics, let's get our facts right. A majority of the Tory party bitterly opposed gay marriage. And the opponents still resent it.

No wonder Cameron sent several signals, just before the election, to try to comfort religious conservatives.

Consider the timing:

May 5 - 10 Downing Street announces appointment of the Bishop of Maidstone
May 7 - national election

Coincidence? I think not.

Desperate politicians do desperate things.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 9 May 2015 at 12:31pm BST

I'd have thought it pretty unlikely that the timing of the announcement was in any way connected to the election. I suspect that's giving undue weight to the power of the CofE in government circles. More likely to have come up for announcement once all the internal checks and processes were complete and this was the next Tuesday.

Or are you suggesting that the announcement of the appointment of Prebendary Thomas to the See of Maidstone was the factor that miraculously turned an opinion-poll dead heat into a surprise Conservative majority? :-)

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Saturday, 9 May 2015 at 7:30pm BST

"Mr. Thomas' diocese" -- Cynthia, Prebendary Thomas isn't getting a diocese. The See of Maidstone is a suffragan see, and the appointment is to a national role in any parish that'll have him where the local diocesan bishop agrees.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Saturday, 9 May 2015 at 7:32pm BST

I've just heard Prebendary Rod Thomas interviewed on the Sunday programme on the wireless and he sounded to be reasonable, sensible and conciliatory while at the same time holding fast to his strong Biblical beliefs.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 10 May 2015 at 7:40am BST

" he (Rod Thomas) sounded to be reasonable, sensible and conciliatory while at the same time holding fast to his strong Biblical beliefs."

- Father David -

I would have thought; strictly Scriptural (Sola Scriptura) and maybe Traditional; but, you say; Reasonable? It seems that his 3rd leg of the Anglican stool is pretty shaky on the matter of any modern understanding of male-only leadership roles in the Body of Christ.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 10 May 2015 at 11:12am BST

Fr Ron, the interview should be listened to before you reject the notion

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05tbs6q

and go forward 18 minutes or so...

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 10 May 2015 at 4:37pm BST

Fr. Ron, I am no supporter of Reform but I was pleasantly surprised by Prebendary Thomas' rational, reasonable and conciliatory tone in the Sunday interview. He clearly stated that he was committed to mutual flourishing and will be a strong advocate for his strongly held traditional, Biblical beliefs.
The Church of England has long claimed to be both Catholic and Reformed. The Catholic claim has taken quite a battering in recent years but it seems that the Reformed section of the Church now has a champion in the next Bishop of Maidstone.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 10 May 2015 at 4:55pm BST

At this morning's Eucharist the final hymn was 'And can it be?' Fantastic words, fantastic tune, impossible to sing it without weeping. But also 'And can it be' that at long, long last the various strands of the Church of England have learned sense?

Posted by John at Sunday, 10 May 2015 at 9:24pm BST

"the factor"? No, of course not.

One means by which the Tories government, who did not know how the election would go, attempted to increase their turnout among their base? Quite possibly, yes.

See generally, BBC "Church of England still 'Tory Party at prayer.'" By John McManus BBC News, 26 January 2014.

What electoral result, if any, did the appointment have? We'll probably never know.

Posted by Jeremy at Sunday, 10 May 2015 at 11:14pm BST

Thank you, Simon (Sarmiento), for pointing me to the link with Rod Thomas' interview.

However, in Rod Thomas' explanation of why he was intimately connected with the AMiE organisation in the U.K. (a rival to the Church of England) - he clearly sees AMiE as a necessary vehicle for the accommodation of Male Headship - outside of the official Church of England.

In other words: a parallel quasi-Anglican Church - not unlike the R.C. Ordinariate, that pretends to represent Catholic Anglicanism.
Surely, this must either be a divisive move or one seeking to accommodate the schismatic tendency of A.M.i.E.? (Perhaps I'm wrong!)

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 11 May 2015 at 1:12am BST

Well, I've heard some conspiracy theories in my time but the suggestion that the announcement of the Bishop of Maidstone's appointment swung the General Election in favour of a Tory victory beats them all. However, I can't recall any Red Top Headline which proclaimed "IT WAS ROD WOT WUN IT"? Perhaps I missed something?

Posted by Father David at Monday, 11 May 2015 at 6:22am BST

Again: "the factor"? Of course not.

One tactic to which the Tories resorted? Again, quite possibly.

Ex ante and ex post are very different.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 11 May 2015 at 7:46am BST

Jeremy, I think you could have a future as an ecclesiastical spin doctor advising the government of the way to win elections by announcing episcopal appointments at appropriate moments....or maybe advising the opposition to raise a legal objection to the election result on the grounds that a political announcement was made during "purdah"....

Posted by Turbulent Priest at Monday, 11 May 2015 at 11:31pm BST

Obviously, they don't take much notice North of the Border regarding the announcement of the identity of the next Bishop of Maidstone as the Tories still only have one seat in Scotland, as indeed do Labour and the Liberal Democrats - each of these parties now having less MPs than there are pandas in Edinburgh Zoo.
Mind, the Established Church to the North of Hadrian's Wall is, of course, Presbyterian, rather than Anglican so perhaps the Scots behaved like deaf adders when the announcement was made just before polling began?

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 12 May 2015 at 7:54am BST
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