The scope of the role of the Independent Reviewer

Posted on the 11th Apr 2024

The Independent Reviewer has rightly restated that, following a submission to her from Women and the Church (WATCH) regarding the appointment of diocesan bishops in the Church of England and in line with the Church’s Five Guiding Principles, being a traditionalist is not a bar to becoming a diocesan bishop.


However, Forward in Faith also notes with concern that the Independent Reviewer has recommended in her report that consideration be given to re-examining the scope of her role. It is not clear to Forward in Faith from the contents of the report exactly what deficiency in the current arrangements would be met by such a change.


As WATCH has demonstrated in its referral on the appointment of diocesan bishops, any individual or interested party can make a referral to the Independent Reviewer. The Independent Reviewer can then assess the points made in those referrals.


The critical question must always be how those referrals relate to the 2014 House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests. If there has been any breach of that Declaration, from whatever part of the Church it might have come, then it needs to be addressed directly and transparently. However, simply not agreeing with, or feeling uncomfortable with, the contents of the Declaration can never be, and should never be, grounds for a referral to the Independent Reviewer.


The direction of travel being opened up by the Independent Reviewer runs the risk of undermining the Declaration, which quite rightly seeks to promote the flourishing of all parts of the Church and to uphold and protect the minority position in the Church of England, which in part occurs through the work of the Independent Reviewer.


Forward in Faith remains strongly of the view that the Church of England benefits from the breadth of its witness, including the catholic teaching and practice which it holds in common with the universal Church.