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Reform talks of making one English diocese its beacon

17 October 2007

by Rachel Harden

Chairman: Rod Thomas

Chairman: Rod Thomas

THE newly appointed chairman of the conservative Evangelical network Reform, the Revd Rod Thomas, has backed the idea of making one Church of England diocese a “beacon” from which to campaign.

Speaking in London on Tuesday, between sessions of Reform’s annual conference, Mr Thomas said that proposals from the Revd William Taylor, Rector of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, in London, to create a beacon diocese for Reform were an option.

He said that it was “high time” that a conservative Evangelical was appointed as a diocesan bishop, as recent research (the Pilling report) had revealed that such Evangelicals were discriminated against.

“There are a good many bishops who would support us on some issues, but are not actually members of Reform. Nine bishops signed a letter opposing the appointment of Dr Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading because of his sexuality.”

But for such a diocese to become a focal point, he said, more Reform members and supporters might have to stand for the General Synod and then be elected to the Crown Nominations Commission.

He would not be drawn on which diocese would be the best campaigning base, although he said that one priest in Chelmsford diocese, the Revd Richard Wood, had already made a stand by refusing to take communion with the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd John Gladwin, because of his patronage of the pro-gay Christian group Changing Attitude. (News, 3 August).

Mr Thomas said that the current pre-Lambeth Conference climate was a time of serious testing for Reform; but the group had no intention of splitting away from the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Addressing the meeting, he said that the Archbishop of Canterbury could still restore unity to the Communion by rescinding the American bishops’ invitations to next year’s Lambeth Conference.

“Failure to do this will seal the division of the Communion, end all idea of a Covenant, leave the Archbishop’s role in tatters, and rapidly spread fractures through the Church of England. There are just days left to stop this happening.”

The liberal challenge in the Church of England was “likely to become more overt and persistent”.

  Reform issued a statement on Tuesday in which it condemned proposals for a new law making “homophobic incitement” an offence. “Nobody, least of all an Evangelical, wants to incite or express anything but love to people irrespective of their sexuality. But these new proposals may well threaten our ability to explain to others what the Bible teaches. It is an affront both to free speech and to freedom of religion.”

  Mr Thomas also said that Reform would continue to campaign against women bishops. “We have no problem with women being priested, but scripturally men should be leaders: it is about headship. Therefore women cannot be bishops.”

  He said that Reform would be encouraging its lay members to stand for election to the General Synod.

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