Thinking Anglicans

Discussion continues about the See of Sheffield

Updated again Tuesday

Continued from here.

The Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows has issued: Pastoral Letter for clergy and licensed lay members of the Diocese of Sheffield.

Arun Arora has written in the Yorkshire Post Why the CoE must be a broad church when it comes to new Bishop of Sheffield.

And in the same newspaper, a letter from Malcolm Grundy Bishop’s opposition to women priests should rule him out

Giles Fraser wrote in the Guardian Sheffield’s new bishop is a slap in the face for the women of steel.

The Church Times has a lengthy roundup: Women Bishops rally round Philip North in Sheffield row

Andrew Lightbown Sheffield’s very own gordian knot

The Sheffield Action on Ministry Equality website has links to many other items:

The Sheffield Diocesan statement of needs that informed the CNC selection process is still available on the diocesan website.

Updates

Richard Peers wrote Oh for the wings of a dove: the Bishop of Sheffield and the betrayal of communion

The BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme has a lengthy report, available here, starting at about 31 minutes in.

Louise Haigh MP writes open letter to the new Bishop of Sheffield

Martyn Percy Abstaining: A Lenten Reflection (on Sheffield)

Joanna Collicut Splitting: a psychological reflection

Janet Morley A single church or a partnership?

Jonathan Clatworthy a three part series:
Sheffield’s women: who should tolerate what?
Sheffield’s women and church fudge
third part to come…

WATCH Looking for balance.

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John Wirenius
Guest

Arun Arora’s piece is surprisingly weak, coming from the C of E’s Director of Communications. Extrapolating what he claims Martin Percy “implies,” Arora never addresses what Percy actually wrote, nor does he address the fundamental issue that has driven the discussion: how can a bishop pastorally support a group of priests whose orders he a priori believes to be invalid?

rjb
Guest
rjb

A few weeks ago, Archbishop Justin Welby was quoted by Thinking Anglicans – in quite another context – as stating the following: “In these discussions, no person is a problem, or an issue. People are made in the image of God. All of us, without exception, are loved and called in Christ. There are no ‘problems’, there are simply people called to redeemed humanity in Christ.” It would be nice to see the spirit of this pronouncement expressed more clearly by those who perceive the new bishop-designate of Sheffield as a problem, or even the embodiment of a theological Gordonian… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

A truly outstanding piece of writing from Andrew Lightbown. It presents (most of) the issues on both sides with clarity and, I suggest, genuine balance. I also applaud him for paying tribute to Bishop Philip. That is important. This is quite such a mess because Bishop Philip does appear to be a highly commendable bishop. The one issue I think Andrew Lightbown overlooked is that the underlying difficulty is not just the failure to resolve the theology of episcopacy but the failure to resolve the theology of the nature of women. I think the latter is now becoming critical to… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

We should all pray for one another’s flourishing, even when we hold different views. And we should avoid picking on people, or ad hominems, or labelling people as a means of dismissing who they are as human beings. Philip, in his calling and service, is entitled to hold positions of conscience, and to do so with integrity. Which I believe he will. I believe strongly that there is a place in the Church of England for a wide diversity of conscientiously-held views. And I believe the challenge is to find ways of grace and love, as we interact and try… Read more »

Mark Hart
Guest

Off the question around Bishop North’s appointment, I noticed this from the Sheffield Diocesan statement of needs (p5): “Although attendance as a percentage of the population is low (1.4% in 2014), as a diocese over the past five years we have moved from numerical decline to stability and small growth, with an increase of 1% between 2014 and 2015 in average weekly attendance.” This is not true, according to the C of E report ‘Statistics for Mission 2015’ – see p.40 for a plot of attendance for the diocese over the past 10 years. There was a decrease between 2014… Read more »

Fr William
Guest

I hope that Philip is being well supplied with tlc. What an ordeal.

Pam
Guest
Pam

If feminist means “an advocate of women’s rights on the grounds of sexual equality” then I am a feminist. The women of steel referred to in Giles Fraser’s article are feminists in that sense. Maybe they are strong enough, and humble enough, to care about having a “Bishop for all” who is gifted and compassionate, but may not be a feminist.

R Dewhurst
Guest
R Dewhurst

It’s an interesting side effect of this current debate that everyone is talking about validity of priestly orders. There have been and are Bishops in the Church of England who do not believe that *anyone* has ‘valid orders’ in the sense catholics understand that. How does that fit into the debate for those who question Bishop Philip’s appointment on this basis? The Faith and Order Commission’s 2015 report “Senior Church Leadership” speaks of “mistaken attempts to read back the three- fold order of bishops, priests and deacons wholesale into the New Testament” (para 64). In doing so it not only… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

The limitation of unity in diversity has been demonstrated. Different traditions can co-exist but not when it crosses the identity of a group. Bishop Philip can be a suffragan: he will not be accepted as a diocesan unless he renounces some of his other allegiances and views. So traditionalists know now that the same must and will happen if they allow openly gay bishops and clergy: any traditionalist is likely to then face the same challenge if promoted to diocesan level and cannot accept gay clergy . Equally, it must be clear that no openly gay bishop can become a… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

But Kate, we already have two women diocesan bishops. All the empirical evidence suggests that both Gloucester and Newcastle dioceses are flourishing in consequence. Both those dioceses contain some parishes who look to the SSWSH for episcopal ministry.

Victoriana
Guest
Victoriana

Kate — this is completely inaccurate: “if a woman bishop became a diocesan,” since there are already two dioceses (Gloucester and Newcastle) already having bishops-who-happen-to-be-women.

You have a point about the limitations of mutual flourishing in the current impasse.

However, Philip North could simply withdraw from SWISH (or whatever they call themselves now), thus breaking part of the problem away.

Father David
Guest
Father David

Many thanks to the Bishop of Repton who spoke out so boldly and so strongly on the Sunday programme in favour of Philip North becoming the next Bishop of Sheffield. From different perspectives she said how well they worked together in the Norwich diocese when she was Archdeacon and he was doing an exceptional job at Walsingham. Presumably there was more than one candidate short listed for Sheffield and after interviews and much prayer +Philip was deemed to be the best qualified candidate for the post? So isn’t it about time to lay off the persecution and allow this fine… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

The fundamental point is that the Church of England as a whole entity has decided recognise women priests. Where a woman priest finds herself in a diocese with a diocesan bishop who does not (in conscience) believe in women priests, that is an interface for both parties to work through with grace, prayer and love. But nevertheless, the Church of England as a whole DOES recognise women priests, so their ministry is not invalidated by the individual conscience of a bishop in their diocese. Their ministry is validated, if you like, by an authority higher than the diocesan – namely,… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

“But Kate, we already have two women diocesan bishops. All the empirical evidence suggests that both Gloucester and Newcastle dioceses are flourishing in consequence. Both those dioceses contain some parishes who look to the SSWSH for episcopal ministry.”

But much the same arguments apply as with Philip North. A woman Bishop cannot be the focus of unity for the whole diocese. As people are pointing out, that is a requirement.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

Are we witnessing a further retreat from a territorial approach to ministry? It has long been possible for the ordinary citizen of one parish, subject to certain conditions, to associate himself instead with the church, and priest, in another. It is also possible for a resident of England to associate, not to the Church of England, but to the Church of Rome or anywhere else, or a non-geographical free church. Society priests are free to associate themselves with an alternative bishop, and perhaps lady vicars in Yorkshire will also deserve that right. Perhaps all priests will get to choose which… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

Arun Aurora and others seem to have forgotten that Chichester has had to live with this situation for some years now, much to the concern of those of us who hoped against hope that the ghettoisation of Chichester might at last be broken by the Crown Nomination Committee.

Fr John E Harris-White
Guest
Fr John E Harris-White

Fr David, Thank you for your fine words. My sentiments exactly.
Fr John

Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

So, there’s still no answer to the question “how can a bishop not be in communion with all the priests in his diocese?” then? Other than “Philip is a nice man”.

Whilst I agree that this is a better answer than “Over in Diocese X, Bishop Y isn’t even a nice man”, it still won’t do.

And still no answer to “isn’t this an absurd departure by the C of E from catholic order?” other than: “well, we (or they) voted for it, so what can we do now?”.

Jane Charman
Guest
Jane Charman

It’s worth reminding ourselves in the context of this discussion that, whatever he may say to the contrary, +Philip won’t be out of communion with the female priests of the Diocese of Sheffield or with anyone else in the Church of England. He won’t be because he can’t be – it’s an ecclesial impossibility. Colin Podmore sets this out helpfully in ‘Aspects of Anglican Identity’, a book he wrote long before he became Director of Forward in Faith. ‘It is important to remember that (as the term itself suggests) ecclesial communion is a relationship between churches, because this shows that… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Kate — this is completely inaccurate: “if a woman bishop became a diocesan,” since there are already two dioceses (Gloucester and Newcastle) already having bishops-who-happen-to-be-women. You have a point about the limitations of mutual flourishing in the current impasse. However, Philip North could simply withdraw from SWISH (or whatever they call themselves now), thus breaking part of the problem away.” But the quid pro quo was that there would be no ceiling on the promotion of traditionalists. People are now seeking to renegotiate that. I understand why. But that isn’t what traditionalists signed up to. Initially my view like you… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Kelvin, yes, it’s a theological mess. Just like the nature of the Eucharist, the sacraments, priesthood, and everything else Anglicans disagree on.

But what, practically, should England do about it? Relitigate equal consecration, after a hard-won compromise? If so, there’s no telling how much damage may be done, or how such an effort could retard equality for LGBT people.

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

Jane, Is your analysis of communion challenged by the paper on “Communion and Catholicity in the Church of England” issued by the Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda? According to your description of Colin Podmore’s analysis, communion happens between churches, not between individuals. It is an individual Christian’s membership of a church that defines his or her state of communion. but is that analysis consistent with this statement offered by the society: “Because we are unable to recognize some of those whom the Church of England has ordained as bishops and priests as standing within the historic succession of… Read more »

Jules
Guest
Jules

I’m interested in Kelvin Holdsworth’s comment regarding the integrity of catholic order, though usually when I ask this everyone goes quiet and talks about something else. But the question for me is that surely it is the purpose of the likes of +Philip and the Society to maintain catholic order – it’s his concern for that very concept that makes him unable in conscience to ordain women. Whatever your view on the rights and wrongs of the ordination of women, surely it’s undeniable that catholic order was compromised as a concept if the Church of England at the same time… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Re: Father David, “…the Bishop of Repton who spoke out so boldly and so strongly on the Sunday programme in favour of Philip North becoming the next Bishop of Sheffield.” Perhaps an example of the kind of thing Colin Coward’s article, A Tale of Two Bishops, addresses? (TA Opinion March 4).

Marian
Guest
Marian

I guess for me the crunch question is whether each Maundy Thursday Bishop Philip would be willing and able to preside at a Chrism Mass in which both male and female priests are treated on exactly the same basis. If he is so willing then I think he ought to be given the benefit of the doubt. If he isn’t willing then I don’t think he can with integrity fulfil the role of diocesan bishop to be a focus of unity.

Flora Alexander
Guest
Flora Alexander

Arun Arora’s piece in the Yorkshire Post is seriously misleading. He must know that his ‘score of ten to one’ is not a fair representation of the situation.

JKR
Guest
JKR

What would be gained if +Philip stepped aside? Might it simply be the case that one sense of pain and sadness and confusion would be succeeded by another?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

I may be going to get myself out of my theological depth. As I understand it, the people who are most upset about women priests are concerned about remaining in communion with the Roman Catholic church. They see women priests as unacceptable to the RCC, and therefore a block on some hypothetical reconciliation. Which is slightly odd, because women priests are the least of the problem here, given the RCC holds that the ordination of all priests in the Anglican Church is invalid. CofE ordained women are no less invalid than CofE ordained men in the eyes of Rome. And… Read more »

Peter S
Guest
Peter S

I don’t want to dodge the key questions Martyn Percy, Linda Woodhead, Kelvin Holdsworth and others on this site are asking about this critical matter, but I think part of the answer lies in some more thought is needed as to what precisely being a “focus of unity” means. There is a real danger in that coming to mean “lowest common denominator” (with great respect to straight white male married bishops who ordain women and men). (There is also an equal danger in the “best person for the job” mentality because it’s not just a job, it’s a spiritual office.… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Marian, at the splendid Chrism Mass in the diocese of Chichester presided over by the diocesan bishop – both male and female priests are in attendance to renew their priestly vows – no distinction is made. I would presume that the same will apply in future in the diocese of Sheffield. How about that for church unity and mutual flourishing! Unfortunately, that is something that doesn’t apply in most other dioceses where in addition to the Chrism Mass with the diocesan bishop alternative Chrism Masses are the order of the day presided over by a PEV.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Whatever your view on the rights and wrongs of the ordination of women, surely it’s undeniable that catholic order was compromised as a concept if the Church of England at the same time maintains that it is part of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?” No. The Reformation occurred because many believed that the Catholic Church could no longer be trusted to elucidate and follow catholic order. Which is why the 39 Articles contain dismissive material like this: “The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints,… Read more »

Philip Hobday
Guest
Philip Hobday

Very interesting point from Jules. As I’ve said before I agree with equal ordination wholeheartedly. But in ordaining women as well as men we moved away from ‘catholic order’, at least as defined by Rome – just as we already had by renouncing papal jurisdiction in the sixteenth century. Presumably many ‘traditionalists’ oppose women’s ordination, at least in part, because it represents a further distancing of the CofE from that order. But that position was decisively rejected in 1992 and 2014 – the CofE (rightly in my view) decided that it had authority, notwithstanding the views of the Eastern /… Read more »

Tim S
Guest
Tim S

I worry that this whole sad situation has focussed too much on +Philip rather than the Society. Whilst I know that +Philip is part of that group, I worry that his whole approach and theology is bound up with that one single issue with all its ramifications whereas actually, +Philip is and should be one of the key strategic leaders of the church in mission in the coming years and clearly has a vocation to Episcopal Ministry. I agree that some disassociation with some of the practices and policies of the Society would be far more helpful. They bring a… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

“It’s worth reminding ourselves in the context of this discussion that, whatever he may say to the contrary, +Philip won’t be out of communion with the female priests of the Diocese of Sheffield or with anyone else in the Church of England. He won’t be because he can’t be – it’s an ecclesial impossibility.” Term-parsing misses the point though. I think that the Synod decisions of 1993 and 2014 can be unpacked like this: every member of the Church of England is required to accept institutionally the ministry OF female presbyters; no member of the Church of England is ever… Read more »

Michael Mulhern
Guest
Michael Mulhern

The Bishop of Repton for President! I thought her contribution to the item about Sheffield on the BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme was excellent. Not only did she remind us that this is the situation we voted for; she also reminded us that, by voting for this legislation it means that, if we are to have Rachel Treweek in Gloucester and Christine Hardman in Newcastle, we must also have Philip North in Sheffield. We made promises, she said, and if we don’t keep those promises, it reveals that those who favour equal ordination cannot be trusted to keep their word.… Read more »

Jane Charman
Guest
Jane Charman

Simon, all good questions. Colin Podmore wrote this at a time when he was in a better position to be objective than he may be now. It sets out the Church of England’s theological and legal understanding of ecclesial communion which to the best of my knowledge hasn’t changed. I’m familiar with the statements of SSWSH about this and as far as I can see they fall into exactly the error which Colin Podmore pointed out. At various times, including during the discussions leading up to the formulation of the 5 Guiding Principles, SSWSH has tried to say that things… Read more »

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

There is a longish piece on Radio Sheffield, about 1 hour 10 mins in, here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04szr7r

Long interview with Ali Dorey about why many in the diocese are concerned and a shorter piece with Eleanor Robertshaw taking a different view.

Father David
Guest
Father David

Interested to hear the two women priests being interviewed on Radio Sheffield – one in favour and one against Philip North’s appointment as their diocesan bishop. It has oft been quoted that one third of the clergy in the diocese of Sheffield are women – it would be interesting to know what percentage of this 33% are in favour or opposed to this significant appointment. Then again, what percentage of the remaining male two-thirds are pro or anti?

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

Jane, Thank you for your interesting and helpful response. It confirms for me something I was going to post here a few days ago but did not. Now I wish I had done. In Martyn Percy’s original article he was not critical of Philip North becoming Bishop of Sheffield as such, but of Philip North’s becoming Bishop whilst still occupying a leadership position in SSWSH. It was the actions and statements of SSWSH that were a problem, as much as Phillip North’s selection for Sheffield. Nearly all of the comment arising from Prof Percy’s article has focused only on Phillip… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“What about asking Philip North?”

The press and media are as available to him as to anyone else.

“Thomas Sharp’s blog would be a good place to start.”

Indeed. It says that the claims that North and his friends don’t hold to a theology of taint are at best disingenuous, at worst flatly dishonest, and that is _exactly_ their position.

It’s easy for Philip North to state, clearly and unequivocally, the legitimacy of the orders of his own clergy. He hasn’t done that.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Thanks Simon
There’s some exciting writing and ideas on Thomas Sharp’s blog. I have some study ahead!
Kate

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

An analysis of controversial appointments usually finds that the appointing organisation failed to apply the ‘press announcement’ test, that common sense test which asks ‘how will this appointment be received’? Will the intelligent and interested person on the Clapham omnibus understand exactly why the appointment has been made when the news breaks? I say ‘interested’ because obviously in the scheme of things CofE bishop watching is becoming something of a minority sport these days. Now this is not a charter for making appointments so bland that the dangers of controversy are removed altogether, but it does presuppose that at the… Read more »

Jules
Guest
Jules

Father David –

This figure of 33% of clergy in Sheffield being women is erroneous, but seems to have taken on a life of its own. I think it started with Martyn Percy’s article and it sounds pretty good in the media. The truth is that 27% of Sheffield clergy are female, so closer to a quarter than a third.

Father David
Guest
Father David

Anthony Archer’s comments are, as always, interesting to read. His reference to the CNC’s temptation of making “appointments so bland that the dangers of controversy are removed altogether” reminds me of nothing so much as Churchill’s oft quoted comment about William Temple being the only “sixpenny article in a penny bazaar”. Let’s face it we have had more than enough bland managerial appointments to the bench of late! It seems to me that talent, like cream, inevitably rises to the top and it would appear that the CNC in their interviews and prayerful deliberations separated the cream from the milk… Read more »

Alan Mitchell
Guest
Alan Mitchell

It is fascinating to follow this thread. Most contributors are wringing their hands and expressing their outrage, and now playing into the hands of the Wash House by suggesting we avoid ‘controversial appointments.’ What we are also getting is a stout refusal to acknowledge the elephant in the room (raised by only one contributor) that this is where the Church is at. This is the reality we have agreed to accept as the consequence of voting for the ordination of women to the episcopate, and keeping those who have theological objections on board. This is the cost of unity in… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Alan Mitchell – the voice of reason and good sense. I notice that Lord Hague is encouraging his successor as Leader of the Conservative Party to hold a General Election sooner rather than later. If that is the case then the Act of Parliament formulated under the last Coalition Government regarding Fixed Term Parliaments will have to repealed. That being the case then surely – if there are to be no more Traditionalist bishops appointed – then similarly the General Synod will have to repeal the Five Guiding Principles and turn their backs on mutual flourishing. For, as Alan Mitchell… Read more »

Mother Hubbard
Guest
Mother Hubbard

Anthony Archer: “But in this case what made his nomination the overwhelming favourite? We will never know …” At several public consultations up & down the Diocese during the vacancy in the See of Chichester the ABC’s Secretary stated that “the more often a single name comes up, the more likely he will be your candidate”. It is also a known fact that SSWSH and their sympathisers are very well organised and resourced, and they all mentioned the same name out of their comparatively small pool. I am reminded of the Question of the Week in the Church Times a… Read more »

John Wirenius
Guest

I don’t think it’s a question of trying to re-litigate the compromise leading to the consecration of women as bishops in the C of E to ask, as Percy did, the “how” questions–how will a bishop be a pastor to the one-third of his clergy whose ministry he believes to be invalid? What provision will he make for their well-being and flourishing as clergy? Will they receive preferment within the Diocese? We’re talking about a bishop, in a position of authority over women whose ministry he a priori rejects. How he plans to minister to them, and deploy them are… Read more »

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

Alan -no not quite. The normal procedure is that the legislation cannot be reintroduced. New legislation can be and was. As for ‘this is what we voted for’ – well maybe not. There were so many loose ends in the 2014 package that it was not clear what we were voting for if we are talking about specific matters like the manner of conducting consecrations. I don’t see many of us who voted yes in 2014 saying we don’t want to see opponents of the ordination of women ordained at all – but working out how it will work out,… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Re: Chrism Masses. Let’s not make a big deal out of Chrism Masses, which have suddenly, over the last couple of decades, become trendy among bishops and (some of) their priests. There is nothing sacramental about them (other than that they are a celebration of the Eucharistic sacrament), and they have no particular significance in the life of the church.

As for concelebration, this too is (to put it mildly) a fringe thing in the Church of England, and certainly not something to be encouraged, in the opinion of this writer anyway.