on Friday, 14 January 2022 at 11.33 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Church of England, News
The Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas, has announced his intention to retire on 2 October 2022 – see here (scroll down).
Interesting phrasing of the final sentence. “The Archbishop … will be undertaking consultations…before any future appointment is made.” Does this indicate the appointment of another Bishop of Maidstone with particular oversight of conservative evangelical churches is not guaranteed? Or am I reading too much into it?
The Archbishop will need to ensure that some provision is made for oversight of Conservative Evangelical churches which have passed a resolution under the House of Bishops Declaration. I don’t think there are currently any other Conservative Evangelical bishops in post to provide such oversight, so it may be that a new appointment to Maidstone will have to be made. But it may be that someone of that integrity is in line to be bishop of somewhere else, in which case it may be possible for the See of Maidstone to fall back into abeyance.
Sincere question from a non-Englishman: are Conservative Evangelical parishes requesting oversight entitled to get it from a bishop of their particular tribe? There have been PEVs who do not ordain women, even if not for the “right” reasons according to the headship crowd, since long before Maidstone was revived for its current purpose. By what process was it determined that “male headship” was a permissible doctrine within the CofE, much less one in need of an à la carte prelate?
You could say that male headship is the historical position of the CofE, as in most of Christandom, and that it is not conevos or Angcaths that have changed but that the CofE has recently introduced an heretical innovation by ordaining women. As I understand it, none of the English PEVs ordain women, nor do a handful of suffragans (Burnley, Wakefield, Fulham) and one diocesan (Chichester).
Perhaps it’s a question of the terms. I understand “male headship” in the sense being used here to mean more than simply the traditional doctrine around male priesthood. As used by contemporary conservative evangelicals, it seems to refer to a wider set of teachings around the role of women, including the authority of husbands over wives and the restriction of not only holy orders but most teaching and governance roles to men. Those views go considerably beyond what Roman Catholics or conservative Anglo-Catholics believe.
Re: men only in teaching and governance roles: I asked a hard-core male headship devotee if he would allow a female cardiologist to perform surgery on him should he find himself in an Emergency Room. He replied, “Yes, because I could assume she has a male boss.”
The arrangements put in place by the legislation that agreed to the ordination of women bishops allows PCCs to pass a resolution that priestly and episcopal ministry be provided in accord with their theological convictions, which the parish needs to be able to articulate. In order to honour the variety of theological convictions that exist within the C of E on these matters, there needs to be a variety of bishops. I very much doubt that the PEVs would be found agreeable to Conservative Evangelical parishes.
Within no limits? Any and every theological conviction that precludes the ordination of women is within the range of permissible opinion in the CofE? If I have a congregation that believes women are responsible for original sin and find Maidstone too “liberal”, the church is obliged to create a new bishopric for me?
This is a good opportunity for a new start for the CofE: this can used as an easy chance to pilot/introduce open applications for appointment to sees.
The current system is outdated and unjust. When only those tapped on the shoulder can be appointed, it’s blatantly unjust, and we are so far behind good practice norms as to be an embarrassment.
He will be missed by a few I am sure.
He will be missed by few.
Opportunity to review provision for those who cannot (will not) accept so-called complementarianism, aka discrimination?
Anyone any idea why he is going now? Any link to Smyth ‘club’, Emmanuel Wimbledon, Rome…?
‘Interesting times’ for General Synod- any questions?
It isn’t going to be easy to find a conservative evangelical of sufficient experience and standing, who isn’t implicated in the Smyth and Fletcher cover-ups.
And one who has always shown integrity, who’s been open + honest with his own churchgoers + the wider church about his policy + practice of male headship ministry.
There are a few who have always been transparent, who would pass this clergy honesty and trustworthiness test. It needs to be one of these.
It would be very wrong were Maidstone made to endure another bishop who won’t ordain women.
I don’t think that the Bishop of Maidstone ministers to Maidstone and its people. His work is entirely with Evangelical Resolution Churches all over the country.
It would be very wrong were the Church of England made to endure another bishop who won’t ordain women. Time to clean the stables.
I’m at a loss to understand why making provision for those against ordaining women is so terrible.
Would you be happy for us to have a bishop who refused to ordain black people?
It is perfectly acceptable in the Orthodox Church and the Anglo and Roman Catholic Traditions to be against the ordination of black women.
Perhaps because it is open discrimination dressed up in ill-fitting theology? This simply would never have happened were it men being discriminated against, regardless of why.
In 2014 an overall agreement was reached which included preserving an honoured place in the CofE for those who hold these views.
For detail see the documents of that settlement – the primary ones are GS Misc 1076 and 1077, which can be found via the Church of England website, or just by searching on House of Bishops’ Declaration and Guidance on women in the episcopate, or similar.
It is impossible to occupy an “honoured place” while practising overt and deliberate discrimination. By taking those actions the place one occupies ceases to be honourable. The 2014 legislation is pandering to bigots and needs to be amended forthwith. ++Justin needs to borrow a spine from somewhere and lead.
The See of Maidstone is, by definition, made up entirely of churches that don’t accept the ordination of women. What’s your point?!
Kate – Maidstone has been designated as such since 2015. I agree that it would be intolerable to maintain and therefore collude with such a position. Ditto Beverley. This shambles of appeasement, collusion and cultural appropriation needs to stop.
Let’s hope the next Bishop of Maidstone will not give himself permission to publish his own personal version of ‘Guidance’ on passing PCC Resolutions to exclude women from ministry. Let’s hope a new bishop will instead expect his constituency to refer only to the official House of Bishops’ Declaration + Guidance (GS Misc 1076 +1077), + the associated documents. These were what was agreed by General Synod and Parliament for the 2014 settlement, and they were the basis on which Parliament allowed the CofE an exemption to equality law. As yet, we do not know how many PCCs have passed… Read more »
This might help – the last two pages list the churches that look to Maidstone for (conevo) oversight:
I note that something like 12% of the resolution parishes have ‘Christ Church’ as their dedication.
Is there a thesis begging to be written here?
It seems that the majority of churches in ACNA are Christ Church, Church of the Redeemer or All Saints. A thesis begging to be written!
Evangelicals are traditionally (and still, on the whole) not into venerating saints. Hence the dedications of evangelical churches. It might be a short thesis.
An interesting list, Prof. Monkhouse (many thanks!), but also a rather confusing one. For example, St Nicholas Cole Abbey, is essentially an adjunct to Bishopsgate, but St Peter Cornhill and St Andrew Undershaft, which fall into the same category, are not mentioned. Moreton-in-Marsh is listed, but not other churches in the benefice: Batsford, Lower Lemington (which is a festival church), Longborough (w. Sezincote) and Todenham. Felsted is listed, but not Little Dunmow. Arborfield and Barkham are listed separately, although they are part of the same benefice. And so on. So, although this gives an impression of the size of the… Read more »
Yes, indeed, Froghole – a blurred impression at best and certainly understated. I know of a fair number of conevo churches that are not listed, possibly because the present bishop is male. I can’t help but ponder the complications arising if humans were sequentially hermaphrodite like some fish, for example. After all, the female is the default setting, the male being experimental, one might say. Just think of the theological implications of a male bishop becoming female at a certain age. Of course, you might say that the longer a man is associated with the church the more likely he… Read more »
If you take Felsted as an example: perhaps the Felsted PCC has passed a resolution for male headship ministry, but the Little Dunmow PCC hasn’t.
Incidentally, have a look at Holy Cross Felsted’s website: there’s no mention of their PCC resolution, or their policy + practice regarding excluding women (have I missed it)? If there’s no indication on the website, then those attending + joining the church might never be made aware of what they are unknowingly receiving + supporting financially. Absolutely shocking.
Certainly not the only parish keeping their Maidstone affiliation under wraps!
Oops, St Peter Cornhill is listed. Both Cornhills, a little surprisingly!
Thanks Stanley. The issue is that we don’t actually know how many of these churches’ PCCs used the Bishop of Maidstone’s ‘Guidance’ rather than the House of Bishops’ documents.
The latter are essentially the code of practice, setting out the grounds + processes which are agreed by General Synod and Parliament.
The Bishop of Maidstone’s Guidance documents can also be found on his personal website.
Kate—the association with the actual town of Maidstone is titular only as I understand it. So it has no more relevance to any actual inhabitant of the place than to the rest of us. Of course someone living there could be aggrieved that the name of their town was being used…but bishops have to have some sort of geographical title.
I sense all manner of ingenious suggestions brewing in the minds of contributors. I am doing my best not to pen my copy of a map – a Christmas gift – which lists many of the more ‘picturesque’ places in the UK, such as Pant-y-Waco (in Wales, and therefore ineligible as a titular town for an English bishop). A former Dean of Lincoln and Provost of Bradford’s outrage over the exhibiting of a life-size statue of a golden man, naked, strongly suggests that, had he been elevated to the purple, a roundabout near Abingdon (OX44 9PR), would have suited admirably.… Read more »
The same could be said of people living in Beverley, Richborough and Ebbsfleet.
The public commitment given by the Archbishops and the House of Bishops, in the run up to the final approval by the General Synod of the legislation to allow women to be admitted to the episcopate, included agreeing for there to be a member of the College of Bishops to be available for those who hold a conservative position on headship. There is no reason to suppose that that commitment will be broken, given the need now to identify a successor to Bishop Rod Thomas. The Bishop of Maidstone, though technically a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Canterbury and… Read more »
I think it’s the unwillingness to accept the Eucharist from women validly ordained by other bishops which really offends people and that needs to change – in accordance with the Guiding Principles.
That said, the obvious solution is to make the Bishop of Burnley a member of the House of Bishops. That keeps everyone sort of happy and avoids more difficult decisions.
The Bishop of Burnley is a member of the House of Bishops, having been re-elected last year. However, I can’t quite see how that “keeps everyone sort of happy and avoids more difficult decisions”.
If the Bishop of Burnley takes on the oversight of conservative parishes which has been undertaken by the Bishop of Maidstone then no new bishop needs to be consecrated to this role which kicks the “should we or shouldn’t we” question down the road several years.
I rather doubt that Conservative Evangelical churches would subscribe to the same theological principles as the Bishop of Burnley.
I find it a little odd that some churches can expect/demand to be ministered to by a bishop that shares their foibles. Are LGBT+ friendly churches allowed to insist on a bishop who will bless same-sex relationships?
It depends on your attitude to Scripture. If the Bible is indeed the word of God, only “no-women” bishops – Maidstone and the Anglocatholics – are proper bishops. The rest are heretics. If you believe that scripture can be “interpreted” to suit developing knowledge and your and society’s whims, then they’re all kosher, I suppose. I’ve no idea why it matters other than that some must think it affects the class of seat in the afterlife. It’s all rather pathetic really – which end do you crack your boiled eggs?
Well not quite. I believe the Bible to be the Word of God – infallible and inspired – and I also fully support the ordination of women. I am not alone…..
Oh yes, I’m a thoroughgoing heretic by these standards. It’s great! I refuse to let any party or doctrine limit my imagination, and this broadness of vision and lack of limits is IIRC one of the Hebrew images of salvation.
Yes, a large majority of those in the Church of England subscribe to gender equality in ministry and also believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God.
That’s why we are where we are.
It is unthinkable that on a site called “Thinking” Anglicans someone can believe human writings are infallible and inerrant. Such nonsense leads to dangerous religious concepts propounded by the Taliban and strange sects founded by deluded Americans like Joseph Smith.
Well you might want me to unpack the terms! I don’t like the word inerrant and would not use it to describe the Bible. But I don’t have that hangup with the word infallible. Surely it’s unthinkable on Thinking Anglicans to close down debate by labelling a view unthinkable when perfectly intelligent, well-read and nicely brought up people like me hold it!
I can confirm that Charles is ‘perfectly intelligent, well-read and nicely brought up’.
Fr. David, it is perfectly possible for thinking Anglicans also to be courteous Anglicans, and refrain from insulting those they disagree with.
I’m at a loss to understand how an intelligent person can regard anything as infallible.
I suppose you never read Euclid then?
There’s no shortage of privately-educated ordained young men in the Church of England who enthusiastically hold to a conservative Evangelical view of the complementarity of men and women. However much I disagree with such a stance, statistically it will not be difficult to find someone to replace the Bishop of Maidstone. Equally, it will be very difficult for the Archbishop of Canterbury not to fill the vacancy as there was an undertaking to provide such a bishop as part of the deal to get legislation to allow the ordination of women to the episcopate through all three houses of the… Read more »
Thanks to all those who have educated me that the office of the Bishop of Maidstone has no particular connection to Maidstone. Maybe that would be clearer with a title like the Bishop to the Armed Forces?
(I replied here rather than pick one person at random.)
Good point Kate. So for the bishop who ministers to those parishes who subscribe to male headship and female submission in the church and family, it would be clearer if it was something like ‘Bishop for Male Headship Ministry.’ And for the Anglo Catholic Traditionalist bishops who minister to parishes that believe that women can’t be priests, it should be something clear too, like ‘Bishop for Male Priesthood Ministry (Southern/Eastern/Northern Region)’ or similar. If this change is implemented, then when these bishops are referred to as overseers on individual church websites, the dear prayers and payers will have more chance… Read more »
The Bishop to the Armed Forces is a bishop who is already a diocesan or suffragan and who retains that position. Therefore, “bishop to the armed forces” is an added role. I believe a see must be the name of a city, not a county or region.
Bishop of Repton, of Dorchester, of Buckingham, etc. Not necessarily a city.
They are not sees.
They are sees, suffragan sees. The Suffragan Bishops Act 1534 is explicit that these are sees, as is more recent legislation such as the Vacancies in Suffragan Sees and Other Ecclesiastical Offices Measure 2010. They are titular sees, the theory being that every bishop must have a see.
They aren’t, of course, dioceses, but my understanding is that suffragan bishops are appointed to a See. If I’m wrong one of the wise people who comment here will advise me!
If you want a diocesan example Blackburn would do fine.
Bishops must be nominated and consecrated to a see — either a diocesan see or a suffragan see (or it is also allowed to consecrate to an overseas see in certain circumstances). They are not just consecrated “bishop”, but to be “bishop of X”, where X is a town or city in England.
For those sufficiently interested, The Suffragan Bishops Act 1534 is available online on that wonderful facility:
Although the language is archaic, the meaning is clear. Interesting to note that in 1534 Gloucester, Bristol (?) and Guildford were to be Suffragan Sees. All three were subsequently made diocesan, Guildford much the most recently in 1927. My late father, living in Surrey then wholly in the Diocese of Winchester, was confirmed by the Suffragan Bishop of Guildford.
Many thanks, as ever. The online legislation is indeed invaluable, especially as many statutes and measures can also be accessed in their original formats. Some of the putative suffragan sees were pretty obscure: South Molton (north Devon) and Penrydd (north Pembrokeshire). As to Bristol, it would appear that suffragan status was not enough to satisfy its sense of its own dignity. The city, which had been in Gloucestershire, had been a ‘county corporate’ (i.e., a county in its own right) in 1373, a status also granted to Gloucester in 1483: “It therefore seems plausible – though hard evidence is lacking… Read more »
My father would have been confirmed circa 1919-20 in St Giles’ Church, Ashtead. Now that you remind me that East Surrey had by then been subsumed into Southwark, my mother was confirmed about one year later in St Mary’s Church, Caterham by the then Bishop of Southwark, Cyril Garbett, who was later to return to Hampshire (having been Vicar of St Mary’s Portsea) as Bishop of Winchester, and later Archbishop of York. In his younger years, Garbett had been known as ‘the walking bishop’ and, indeed, as a small girl my mother had once encountered him on such a country… Read more »
Many thanks for that, Mr Wateridge! Yes, Cyril Garbett (who was a real martinet with very limited inter-personal skills) established a custom of touring much of the southern, and more rural, part of the diocese on foot (‘summer pilgrimages’). It might be argued that he was continuing a practice started by his immediate predecessor, Hubert Burge (formerly headmaster of Repton and Winchester), who was one of life’s countrymen (he liked to make hay at his Northumberland cottage), refusing a car and walking around his dioceses (or taking public transport where it was to be had). As it happens I attended… Read more »
Indeed, I do know St Lawrence, a lovely survival in what was quite rural Surrey in my mother’s childhood, and used then, as I recall her, for Sunday school. My grandparents are buried in St Mary’s churchyard, alas a very long and difficult journey from where I now live. What you say about Garbett is interesting. When my mother met him he seemed a forbidding figure – she was still a small child and I think was slightly frightened by him. His clerical clothes also would have seemed strange and unfamiliar. With apologies to other TA readers for these personal… Read more »
There is one factor that perhaps be considered in all this. Justin Welby will be 67 next year and in February by Translation and Confirmation of appointment He will have been Archbishop of Canterbury for 10 years. With the decrease in energy that comes with getting older as well as the very nature of the Job of Archbishop and the demands of Office, I would not be at all surprised if he came to a decision to retire next year. If that is the case he will not want to be making any long term decisions like appointing a New… Read more »
I do not understand. How does someone with a defined geographic suffragan title, become one exercising such a limited ministry?
Explained above by others. From his website he is also an Assistant Bishop in 15 dioceses so, in that sense, it is far from being a limited ministry. He says he has conducted over 100 Confirmations, and at least one Ordination at Christ Church, Oxford. There’s a photograph of this.
It would be interesting to know if in the dioceses he is an assistant bishop he performs any duties outside his constituency. In this diocese there was a “dual” confirmation when one suffragan confirmed non Reform parishes candidates and +Rod confirmed candidates from Reform parishes. Justified I suppose on the grounds of mutual flourishing?
Answer to Alastair: I suspect ( I may be wrong) that the call went out for a diocesan to appoint a headship evangelical as a suffragan and no one would oblige, so the Abp felt he had better revive the see of Maidstone for the purpose.
I think it likely that this constituency will grow as more women become diocesans and there will be pressure for a headship bishop in the northern province.
My first spiritual director advised me to have as little to do with bishops as possible, I wish I’d listened to the advice much earlier in my ministry. What on earth do we need more bishops for? There are far too many chiefs already at a time when we’re haemorrhaging clergy and laity at an alarming rate of knots.