Large Anglican evangelical churches in the Reform network are now seeing highly capable young men whom they have supported into ordained ministry finding it increasingly difficult to get appointed as vicars because of their opposition to the ordination of women.
Even when applicants are not being explicit about holding to ‘male headship’ in the family and the church, they are reportedly having it ‘flushed out of them’ during the appointment process.
Reform’s declaration of faith – its Covenant – states that the network’s ‘understanding of God’s way of life for his people’ includes: ‘The unique value of women’s ministry in the local congregation but also the divine order of male headship, which makes the headship of women as priests in charge, incumbents, dignitaries and bishops inappropriate.’
One minister who recently expressed interest in an incumbency in an urban parish with a large Muslim population was told by the diocesan bishop that his ‘male headship credentials’ would not fit. This minister did not need to be ‘flushed out’ because he had been open about his Reform membership.
Arguably, the most disturbing aspect of this recent development in the Church of England is that support for female ordination is now being treated as a first order issue in appointments. For some curates – that is ordained ministers in time-limited training posts in parishes – this potentially means homelessness if they cannot find an incumbency.
Given the reality for applicants who hold to the ‘complementarian’ view of the equality yet difference between the sexes, curates would surely be advised to be honest about where they stand. Why wait to be ‘flushed out’ if you truly believe the male headship stance is an honourable one with substantial biblical support?
The end of a three- or four-year curacy in tied accommodation is of course difficult, particularly for a minister with a young family. The temptation to downplay an appointment handicap is entirely understandable. But surely it would be a very unusual archdeacon unable to spot from a CV a complementarian applicant when he or she saw one.
If you believe our Lord Jesus Christ by His Holy Spirit has inspired those parts of the New Testament that speak of male headship for the good of His church, then what have you to be ashamed of? Would not an unburdened conscience ease the anxiety of the appointment process?
Meanwhile, do not large, well-resourced Reform churches have a moral responsibility financially to support these excellent young ministers of Christ’s Word and Sacrament, now being barred from incumbencies because of their biblical convictions?
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