EN caught up with Susie Leafe, the recently appointed first full-time Director of Reform, just before their leaders conference and asked her a few questions.
EN: Tell us about your own conversion.
SL: I grew up in a nominally Christian home, so I went along to Sunday School at our parish church and learned a few Bible stories.
It wasn’t until I was in my early teens that friends at school made me realise that there was more to being a Christian than going to church. I went along with them to a Luis Palau mission at Wimbledon Theatre, heard the gospel explained clearly and ‘went forward’.
My teenage years were a testament to God’s faithfulness, as he consistently provided me with Christian friends, helpful churches and the regular pattern of a Scripture Union summer camp, and my unfaithfulness as I sought to live with one foot firmly planted in the world. I guess I was about 21 when I finally decided, as an adult, that the evidence for God’s goodness was overwhelming and that I could trust him in every area of this life as well as for my eternal salvation.
EN: Please could you explain to the uninitiated what Reform is and does?
SL: Reform is a network of churches and individuals that have bound themselves together in fellowship to uphold, defend and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the original doctrines of the Church of England.
Members of Reform are encouraged to engage with the pastoral and doctrinal issues that are currently bubbling away in the Church of England. We produce papers and articles to inform and stimulate discussion. Members are involved in pioneering new ways of doing ministry and we actively encourage and help candidates as they go forward for ordination.
Members of Reform represent the interests of conservative evangelicals within the structures of the Church of England at diocesan and national levels. There are many members of Reform on General Synod and we seek to support one another through prayer and discussion as we consider how best to speak and vote when we have the chance.
Rod Thomas, our Chairman, is a gifted networker who has worked hard to ensure that our views are understood by those with power to make decisions that affect the future direction of the Church of England.
EN: What is your role as Director of Reform?
SL: In short, my role is to deliver the objectives set by the Reform Council. So I work closely with Rod Thomas and Johnny Lockwood, our part-time administrator.
Keeping the network connected
Since its inception in 1993 the Reform network has grown to the point that it has become too large to work effectively without someone on hand to keep the different elements of the network connected. So, since being appointed in July, I have sought to build relationships across the network. At a simple, personal level, this has meant meeting or phoning members to discover the opportunities and difficulties facing gospel ministry in their ‘patch’.
One of the exciting things that has come from these personal contacts is that it has made it possible to identify the common issues and potential solutions that the Council needs to examine and address.
I am also responsible for representing the views of Reform members in different settings. This might involve sitting on a Steering Group — such as General Synod’s latest attempt to find a way forward on women bishops — or responding to requests from the media. There is also a need to build relationships with other gospel-focused groups both inside and outside the Church of England so that we can work more effectively with one another.
EN: What are the challenges for the future?
SL: Reform faces the same challenge as every other Christian: the challenge of continuing to be faithful witnesses to the whole counsel of Scripture.
At Gafcon2, Mike Ovey gave a very helpful address entitled ‘The Grace of God or the world of the West’ which outlined the dangers we face from cheap grace, the growth of individual entitlement and spiritual narcissism. I thoroughly recommend it to all those who missed it as it provides a helpful analysis of the culture in which we live.
Means of salvation
In the Church of England, as in other denominations, we face ongoing debates that on the surface appear to be about gender equality or sexual morality. In fact, at a deeper level, these debates question the nature of God, the church and the means of salvation. For example, if it is not possible for men and women to be equal in status and different in role then it starts to undermine the very nature of the Trinity. If it is impossible to be equal and different then the Father, Son and Spirit must play identical roles in order to be equal, which plays havoc with the idea of substitutionary atonement.
The Pilling Commission on Human Sexuality is likely to report to the House of Bishops in the next few months. We pray that the bishops will recognise the importance of upholding lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual marriage as the only relationship in which sexual activity is permitted by God, but fear that this is improbable.
Anglican evangelical leaders from Reform and other groups are meeting to pray for God’s mercy on our land, to consider how best to react to these challenges and to make plans for our future ministry. We would value the prayers of the readers of Evangelicals Now.
For more information about Reform, see their website www.reform.org.uk