Maidstone Commitments Issued to Complementarian Churches
The Rt Revd Rod Thomas, Bishop of Maidstone (Provincial Episcopal Visitor for Complementarian Congregations) has issued a series of Commitments to be followed by all complementarian “Resolution” churches. This came about in the wake of the Thirtyone:8 findings after the Fletcher controversy in 2021.
Thomas set out the purpose in the Foreword. We reproduce the most salient portions for our readers.
“Our aim was to do what we could to help ensure our churches are safe places and our church cultures are healthy environments. I do not believe that conservative evangelical churches are necessarily more at risk of abusive cultures than other types of church, but I firmly believe we should be willing humbly to learn lessons, wherever they may be found, that will help us to be more Christ-like in our leadership and in our ministries.
These Maidstone Commitments are one way I hope to help the parishes in my care at this time. They are not intended to be a comprehensive application of New Testament teaching about church life and pastoral ministry. Rather, their focus is on ways in which accountability and self-reflection can be improved. I will be writing to all incumbents and PCCs of ‘resolution parishes’, and asking them to consider first making these commitments and then working diligently to meet them. I will, of course, do everything I can to assist them as they do so.”
Commitment 1: To Act with Impartiality and Justice
“Despite the biblical injunction to ‘show no partiality’ (cf James 2), concerns have been raised as to how people are sometimes treated unfairly. Particular issues include the extent to which women’s voices are heard appropriately, the existence of ‘inner circles’ in church life, and the extent to which members of staff or key volunteers are consulted, listened to, and treated fairly.”
Since advocates of complementarianism may be particularly vulnerable to accusations of sexism and/or misogyny, complementarian churches need to demonstrate the equal worth given to men and women, however distinctive their roles.
Areas of church life that should be considered include (but are not limited to):
- pay-scales and terms of employment for locally-employed staff
- opportunities for training and ministry
- impact on decision-making
The PCC should satisfy itself that any distinctions or differences are in keeping with the biblical mandate to act justly and to show no partiality
Commitment 2: To Signpost Safe Pathways for Raising Concerns
“Safeguarding concerns should always be dealt with via the relevant Parish and Diocesan policies, and it is the responsibility of the PCC to clarify for their congregation and wider church community that the passing of a resolution under the House of Bishops’ Declaration does not affect safeguarding policy in any way.”
“In the exceptional situations where relationships between the parish and the senior clergy of the diocese are strained almost to breaking-point, it is nonetheless important that dioceses are able to identify low-level or recurring problems as they occur. For those parishes, where the PCC conclude that complaints or concerns would not readily be raised with the senior clergy of the diocese (eg because of pastoral breakdown), the Bishop of Maidstone commends the use of ‘Say So’, an external speak-up service.”
Commitment 3: To Ensure Awareness of a PCC’s Convictions over Men’s and Women’s Ministry
“PCCs should state their complementarian position in an open and transparent manner. Various possibilities may be appropriate, but two in particular would seem important.
“First, a sentence on the church’s website (perhaps in a section headed ‘leadership’, or ‘about us’) will be a helpful clarification, and might also contain a link to the website of the Bishop of Maidstone.
“Secondly, a poster could be displayed on an internal noticeboard, giving details of the Bishop, his role and his contact details, and clarifying that the Bishop of Maidstone is able to offer pastoral care and to undertake various services in the church, with the agreement of the Diocesan Bishop.
“It would also be helpful if parishes receiving the pastoral oversight of the Bishop of Maidstone clarified the nature of that episcopal ministry, so that any confusion about his role and that of the Diocesan, Suffragan or Area Bishops in the diocese is minimised.”
Commitment 4: To Foster Positive Working Relationships Within Dioceses
“The fourth Maidstone Commitment encourages clergy and PCCs to engage positively with senior diocesan clergy, to ensure that working relationships – especially in cases of pastoral breakdown – can be as effective as possible. In this way, the responsibilities that senior clergy in the diocese have for parishes in their area of responsibility is properly acknowledged, and parishes are able to access effectively any support they might need. In situations where it is not immediately clear how this might best happen, the Bishop of Maidstone would be pleased to be consulted.”
Commitment 5: To Review Carefully a PCC’s Own Church Culture
As part of a church that believes in always reforming itself, and in light of the way that our sinful hearts can deceive us (cf Hebrews 3), all ‘resolution parishes’ are urged to review carefully their own church culture.
The Bishop of Maidstone specifically commends the Church Cultures Review Questions produced by CEEC (available from the CEEC website), and encourages all ‘resolution parishes’ to refer to this when reviewing their own church culture. This may be done as a PCC exercise over several months, as a review carried out across the whole church community, or in any other way that has been determined locally.
The entire text can be read on the Bishop of Maidstone’s website.