flying bishopBy Julian Mann, VOL:

When the facts on the ground change, a servant of Christ has to follow the spiritual logic and that may involve changing one’s mind. I now have. Conservative evangelicals in the Church of England could do with a prophetically-minded ‘flying’ bishop.

I wrote on VOL in December that no conservative evangelical should agree to become the ‘headship’ suffragan Bishop of Maidstone whom the Archbishops are generously wanting as our representative in the College of Bishops. I had been concerned that Maidstone would turn into a quasi-union delegate and would get sucked into a collegial plausibility structure that prized theological diversity over biblical faithfulness.

But what has changed since then? The fact that at February’s General Synod it emerged that since January the Bishops are requiring all ordination candidates to sign their internally contradictory five guiding principles on women in the episcopate. The principles are to be ‘held in tension’ and are designed to ‘create space’, conservative evangelicals are being told. But the first principle clearly commits signatories to agree with women bishops contrary to their understanding of Scripture:

“Now that legislation has been passed to enable women to become bishops the Church of England is fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, and holds that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience.”

Conservative evangelical ordinands who rightly refuse to assent to all five, having spent three years in theological training, could find themselves jobless and even homeless in June. They undertook theological training on the basis that they would not be required to deny their theological integrity.

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