THE first bishop for Evangelicals opposed to women bishops will
be Prebendary Rod Thomas, Vicar of Elburton, and chairman of the
conservative Evangelical pressure group Reform.
Prebendary Thomas's appointment as Bishop of Maidstone was
announced on Tuesday morning by Downing Street. The Archbishop of
Canterbury's proposal to fill the vacant see of Maidstone with a
bishop who holds the conservative Evangelical view on headship had
been approved by the Dioceses Commission in December (News, 12 December
Archbishop Welby introduced Prebendary Thomas to the media at a
press conference at Lambeth Palace immediately after the
announcement. He described him as "a tireless and effective
contributor to the life of the Church, not only in his own parish
but also through his work on the General Synod".
As a well-known leader of Evangelicals opposed to women bishops,
Prebendary Thomas had engaged on the issue "very firmly and
constructively and, invariably, extremely graciously", Archbishop
During the final negotiations before the vote on the
women-bishops legislation last year, the Church of England
committed itself to appointing a "headship Evangelical" to the
College of Bishops, to minister to any parish that could not accept
a woman bishop. This promise had now been kept, Archbishop Welby
said. "Rod clearly emerged as by far and away the best
Prebendary Thomas said that it was a "privilege and a challenge"
to be asked to become Bishop of Maidstone. He said that he would
support conservative Evangelical parishes in both Provinces, and
hoped to become an assistant bishops in some dioceses.
"There is much that can be done to foster the process of mutual
flourishing, and I think I can play a positive role in that," he
said. A key part of his role would be to encourage headship
Evangelicals to continue to put themselves forward for
"I do think there has been a nervousness over the last year or
so among some of those who would be considering ordination, because
of uncertainty about how the future will pan out for them. I hope
my appointment will be encouraging to them to play a full part in
He said he had no worries about working with female colleagues
in the College of Bishops: he had always had good relations with
everybody regardless of their convictions. He singled out the
Bishop-designate of Gloucester, the Ven Rachel Treweek, as someone
he admired and was friendly with, despite having opposing views on
When asked if he would lead conservative Evangelicals in playing
a role in the shared conversations on sexuality, which began in
some dioceses last week, he would only say that Evangelicals should
engage with the issue when it came back to the Synod next year.
Reform has been critical of the framework of the conversations (News, 10 October
He was also asked whether he would build bridges with dissident
Anglicans in England affiliated with GAFCON rather than the C of E
February, 17 April). "I
want to encourage local church growth within the Church of
England," he replied.
Prebendary Thomas is a member of the executive committee of the
Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), a group of non-C of E churches
aligned with GAFCON, and AMiE's general secretary, Canon Andy
Lines, has welcomed his elevation to the see of Maidstone.
"The appointment opens the door to a new era of co-operation
between AMiE and the Church of England," he said in a statement on
Women and the Church (WATCH) said in a statement that the
appointment raised questions as they did not believe "headship" and
mutual flourishing could co-exist in the Church.
Archbishop Welby said it was vital that the House of Bishops
kept the promise it had made to Evangelical opponents of women
bishops. "This says that we take seriously as a Church our desire
for every part of the Church - united in love for Christ, even if
divided on other issues - to flourish and grow."