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 Issues | Ministry | Woman Bishops

An Open Letter to the Bishops of the Church of England

June 2005

Why an Open Letter

The Church of England is currently being torn apart by division caused by departure from Biblical teaching and historic Christian practice. In July the General Synod will vote on whether to call for legislation to permit the consecration of women as bishops. This change will further divide the Church since many believe it to be contrary to Scripture. However, in the letter we have sought to get back behind this one issue and address how the Church of England now permits changes in doctrine and practice. Obviously more could be said but we have tried to keep the letter reasonably brief and to the point.

Text of letter
Dear Archbishop/Bishop ……,

1.              We are addressing this letter to you out of a double concern, both about the growing separation between Church and nation in our country, and also about the increasing degree of division and conflict in the Church.  These two ills have developed alongside each other, and the second has disabled the Church from doing all that is necessary to remedy the first.

2.              Because Archbishops and Bishops have such a high profile in the nation, we would ask you, in your public utterances and actions, to display an unmistakable loyalty to the Scriptures, the Creeds, and the Historic Formularies of our Church, and to make the preaching of the gospel your chief priority.

3.              Having been set aside for oversight in the Church, we would ask you to exercise your influence in the following ways:

(a)              bearing in mind the priorities highlighted in ‘Mission-shaped Church’, to set a new priority for the Church not of internal reorganization, but of evangelism and recovery of the lost laity;

(b)              to hinder premature change and further division by recommending that a three-quarters majority overall should  in future be required on highly controversial issues, like women bishops, in the same way as it was on the highly-controversial Anglican-Methodist scheme 36 years ago; and

(c)              to recommend also the abandonment, in regard to future decisions, of the modern idea that ‘reception’ by the Church at large can follow controversial action, instead of preceding it.

4.              We believe that a decision at this stage to consecrate women as bishops will further rend the Church and we do not believe that any of the provisions for opponents set out in the Rochester Report will be for the benefit of gospel witness in this land.

5.              We note the lead given by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the February Primates’ Meeting and ask every English Bishop to give his loyal support in upholding publicly the Lambeth 1998 resolution on human sexuality and in refraining from action or teaching which will further damage the unity of the Communion.

May the God of peace equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ.


The letter was signed by some 1100 clergy and laity.

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