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Topical Tuesday: Bishop Rod Thomas

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Posted by Lee Gatiss, 5 May 2015

The Revd Rod Thomas has been announced this morning as the new Bishop of Maidstone.

I am delighted that Number 10 have this morning announced that Rod Thomas is to be the new Bishop of Maidstone.

Rod is the Chairman of Reform, and I have known him for many years in that capacity. As a fellow member of the Reform council and the planning group for the ReNew conference, I have always been impressed by his clarity of thought, his strength of leadership, and his commitment to the Lord Jesus. I am sure he will make a very fine bishop, bringing to the role a love for Scripture, a love for all God’s people, and a close working knowledge of how the Church of England functions.

Rod is the only complementarian evangelical to be made a bishop since Wallace Benn in 1997. This appointment is part of the package of compromises agreed recently by General Synod, through which women bishops have been introduced into the Church. It is a great pity that despite Synod’s overwhelming approval of the first Pilling Report, Talent & Calling, in 2007, which called for more conservative evangelicals to be considered for such roles, there has been no such appointment until today.

The Five Guiding Principles of the House of Bishops, which are intended to maintain the Church’s delicate stability on the women bishops issue, commit the church to the “flourishing” of those who find it difficult to reconcile the introduction of women bishops with the Bible. It may be asked whether a single isolated new bishop is mere tokenism. Surely ‘flourishing’ implies rather more than the reluctant toleration of one among more than a hundred bishops?

I remain hopeful that we will flourish, thrive, prosper, and grow within the life and structures of the Church of England. There are many excellent and able conservative evangelical ministers who are willing and able to serve in Diocesan and suffragan roles for the health of the whole church. Our constituency is vibrant and dynamic, and growing. We pray that despite being a minority, they will not be discriminated against in any future appointments process, if some may be tempted to say ‘we have one complementarian evangelical now and should not have any others.’ The large number of lay people in the Church (and around the world, in all churches) with complementarian convictions evidences the appropriateness of having several more such bishops to pastor, lead, and represent them in the House of Bishops, as we have said before.

So while we warmly welcome the appointment of Rod Thomas as Bishop of Maidstone, we consider it an excellent further step in the process of full inclusion for conservative evangelicals within the leadership structures of the Church of England.

Revd Dr Lee Gatiss is the Director of Church Society

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