Comments: More responses on the Sheffield bishopric

Excellent riposte from the Archbishop of York in response to the "unwarranted attack" by the Dean of Christ Church on the next Bishop of Sheffield. It is good to see that + Sentamu Eboracensis and + Paul Dunelmensis (2nd and 4th in the hierarchy of the Church of England)both support this inspired and inspiring appointment.
"Hills of the North, rejoice!"

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 26 February 2017 at 5:37am GMT

'You have my word – female clergy will not be undermined by new Bishop of Sheffield'. What an extraordinary claim to make. How would he know? And he seems to have missed the significant number of women and men - clergy and lay - Sheffield and beyond - who already feel undermined by this appointment.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 26 February 2017 at 1:29pm GMT

What does it mean to be 'in favour of women’s leadership and [...] actively promote it' when you don't accept the validity of their ministry or orders? I genuinely don't understand.

Posted by Jeremy Fagan at Sunday, 26 February 2017 at 3:07pm GMT

Fr David and others - please read Martyn Percy's article. He is not attacking Philip North but is asking some pertinent questions about this appointment and indeed broader issues about how the five principles are working out. There are many questions still to be answered - not least about what +Philip actually believes!

Posted by Charles Read at Sunday, 26 February 2017 at 4:46pm GMT

I so look forward to the ABY putting into practice the same principles and applying them to lgbti people in the church.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Sunday, 26 February 2017 at 6:10pm GMT

Readers will have to bear with me in reading this comment. A few years ago an Indigenous lawyer, Noel Pearson, gave a very moving eulogy at the funeral of former Australian PM, Gough Whitlam. Whitlam was of patrician bearing, an upper middle class white man who had never personally suffered discrimination. Pearson spent the first ten years of his life on an Aboriginal mission, in very oppressive conditions. Whitlam changed so much within society for Pearson. They had nothing in common, on paper. Except their shared humanity. By all accounts that I've read Philip North is an outstanding churchman.

Posted by Pam at Sunday, 26 February 2017 at 8:36pm GMT

One of the consequences of this may perhaps be that every future vacancy-in-see committee meeting will state as a requirement that their next diocesan bishop must be someone who ordains both women and men. Did the Sheffield v-in-s committee forget to insist on that, so that the CNC was not bound by it?

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Sunday, 26 February 2017 at 8:45pm GMT

Yes, Simon, I made a similar suggestion on an earlier thread. It does seem to be one of the most likely ways of dealing with this flaw in the 2014 legislation. But is it the case that the CNC is bound to comply with the wishes of the diocese? I would have thought that they could be overruled in the interests of the wider church.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Sunday, 26 February 2017 at 9:21pm GMT

It is illogical (and unjust) for those who support equal marriage in church, and equality for LGBTI people generally, to oppose equality for those with a different view about ordination (and one which is still the majority view of the world's christians). I would like to see the former; I don't see why the church can't accept those willing to perform 'same-sex' marriages as well as those unwilling to. So how can I or anyone object to a bishop who is unwilling to ordain women, much as I disagree with him? There is a lot of liberal arrogance around which amounts to 'I want an inclusive church as long as it only includes those who agree with me.'

Posted by David Emmott at Sunday, 26 February 2017 at 10:58pm GMT

"It is illogical (and unjust) for those who support equal marriage in church, and equality for LGBTI people generally, to oppose equality for those with a different view about ordination..."

This kind of thing sounds very good, but you are mistaken. It is neither illogical nor unjust. The common denominator is a patriarchal male institution that presumes to qualify who is a person based on marginal differences. You are confusing institutional (self serving) policy with the ground of discrimination (sex/gender).

"...one which is still the majority view of the world's christian..." Ah yes, the tyranny of the patriarchal majority. Get back to me when either the pope of the patriarch or Cansantiople are either female or openly gay.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 12:10am GMT

"I want an inclusive church as long as it only includes those who agree with me."
This reminds me of nothing more than Sister Monica Joan's perceptive comment in a recent episode of "Call the Midwife" - "I find two opinions are always better than one, particularly if one is mine."
It is good to hear of the support for the Sheffield appointment being given by the female occupants of the Suffragan sees of Dorking and Repton who obviously agree with the strongly held views of Ebor and Dunelm.
It would be enlightening to know the views of Newcastle (who will soon be serving as a colleague of Bishop Philip as two diocesan bishops within the Northern Province) and those of the Bishop of Gloucester, both of whom, along with the Bishop of Burnley, have past connections with the diocese of London. Do they agree with the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Durham, who are supportive of this new appointment to Sheffield, or do they agree with the renegade Dean of Christ Church? It no good Dean Percy beginning a recent twitter comment with a "Sigh" - he has thrown his stone into the pond and must face up to the consequent ripples that have been caused as a result of this unwarranted stone throwing. Correct me if I am wrong but I don't recall Dean Percy raising any objections to the very similar situations which pertain (until the recent retirement of the diocesan bishop)in the diocese of London and currently occur in the diocese of Chichester? Once the current fuss has died down and the Enthronement has taken place, it will very soon become apparent that Philip North will make a fine diocesan bishop for all those who serve within the diocese of Sheffield.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 6:32am GMT

"It is illogical (and unjust) for those who support equal marriage in church, and equality for LGBTI people generally, to oppose equality for those with a different view about ordination (and one which is still the majority view of the world's christians)."

The word 'equality' is used but it is often an inapt shorthand for something quite different. The question, I think, is simple: was man alone made in the image of God, or were both men and women made in God’s image? If both, then both being the image of God then there can be no difference between men and women in spiritual terms. That applies to all sacraments - equal marriage, equal ordination etc.

So for me, it is not about minorities or a majority but simply about do I proclaim Good News to men and women equally both being made in the image of God? It took me a very long time to get there. I was conservative for most of my life. But once one realises that the ordination of women and equal marriage are simply consequences of the fundamental question of whether women were also made in the image of God then the realisation strikes that denying either is the denial of half of God's creation and suddenly it is no longer about equality. I object to Philip's appointment because for me his theology fails to recognise that women are made in the image of God too. I support equal marriage for the same reason - because spiritually men and women are identical.
There is nothing illogical about my position - so far as I can see.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 8:55am GMT

And what of the lay members of the diocese?

The House of Bishops has recently asserted that setting out correct teaching and doctrine are part of the episcopal role. So how should a lay member react to the woman who is the regular celebrant of Communion in his/her local church? Should s/he follow the teaching of his/her bishop and now see the celebrant as incapable of leading a service, or should s/he ignore the teaching of his/her bishop?

The Church has really not thought through the consequences of this. It is a straight choice: either ministry by women is invalidated or episcopal teaching is proven to be unreliable. The ABY ignores such questions and inconsistencies. Again.

We wonder why mission is a struggle. Seriously? We are saying to the good people of Sheffield, trust in the teaching of your bishop on same sex marriage but ignore him - if you want - when it comes to the validity of the minister who has just led the funeral for your father. CofE is so brimful of contradictions is it any wonder people find it hard to see our mission message as credible?

Posted by Kate at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 9:24am GMT

There is a blatant flaw at the heart of your analogy, David Emmott. If two otherwise unattached people of the same sex get married in a church, no one is harmed or discriminated against. If, however, a non-ordaining bishop is appointed to a diocese, two groups of people are greatly harmed and discriminated against - the women priests and any male priests who were ordained by a woman bishop. They now have to swear canonical obedience to someone who does not believe that they are really priests, even if he has made mealy-mouthed and ultimately obfuscatory statements about accepting that they are legally and canonically priests and that he supports and encourages female *leadership* (not priesthood, you will note).
The equality in that case is only for the bishops, not for those who serve under them.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 10:53am GMT

Rod Gillis and Kate both make persuasive points about the theology of 'equality'. I agree, but isn't it arrogant in the extreme to unchurch those with a different view? Especially as that view was the universal tradition of the church until recently. The C of E at the moment closely resembles the Labour Party, in that no faction seems to want to concede ground to another. At least conservative anglo-catholics, unlike many conservative evangelicals, are willing to co-exist with others.

Posted by David Emmott at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 11:08am GMT

If one church marries same sex couples and has same sex married priests, it affects no-one else.
If a Diocese has a bishop who does not recognise the ordination of his own priests, those priests are affected, as are all their parishioners.

There is orthodox theology for and against same sex marriage.
There is no orthodox theology for bishops not being in Communion with priests they are responsible for.

That's the difference.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 11:29am GMT

Kate,
"trust in the teaching of your bishop on same sex marriage but ignore him - if you want - when it comes to the validity of the minister who has just led the funeral for your father."

I'm not sure that's entirely correct. The official teaching of the CoE is that women can be priests and bishops. The church has created a space for people who do not believe that, but not believing it cannot be elevated to Teaching.

Apart from that, you're right of course. While accommodation happened for the very best of reasons, it really is repulsive for people outside the CoE.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 12:11pm GMT

Re: David Emmott, :...but isn't it arrogant in the extreme to unchurch those with a different view? " No one has to be "unchurched". (Is there a ceremony for that? You know the "unchurching" of social conservative guys, something like the reverse of the sexist "churching" of women?)

It's not about arrogance, as if seeking equality and justice transparently makes victims of discrimination "uppity".

"...the universal tradition of the church until recently." A "universal" view in an institution dominated by patriarchy. A dominance only in the early stages of reform in Anglicanism and one still very much entrenched in the all male celibate hierarchy of Rome and the Orthodox.

The only way to avoid a dysfunctional church is to put in place bishops who firmly believe that female presbyters are female presbyters.

What is interesting, as a related issue, is that it appears to be that only females who are onside with opposition to same sex marriage are offered the chance to become bishops.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 12:40pm GMT

It is good to know, Fr David, that you welcome views other than your own. On your penultimate point, I would point out that the C of E agreed significant changes in its polity in 1992 and again in 2014. The positions of +Chichester (and, until after tomorrow, +London) are clearly anomalous against the post 2014 polity, but they are hangovers from the pre 2014 polity, which will in the fullness of time be corrected. I presume that neither the Dean of Christ Church, nor others holding more liberal views than your own, would wish to force an earlier correction. But the creation of a fresh anomalous situation in Sheffield, and the perpetuation of discrimination for at least another 20 years, is another matter entirely.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 12:49pm GMT

Sorry to sound like a stuck record, but one vital element is being conveniently ignored in this (and previous) discussions. Philip North's appointment is a direct and logical consequence of the legislation the General Synod (and parliament) approved to allow women to become bishops. Earlier attempts, which would have prevented it, were thrown out and deemed too mean and uninclusive. We cannot now throw our hands up in horror and bang on about discrimination and injustice after the event. This is what we voted for, folks, and we have to be mature and generous enough to live with its consequences. As someone else has already said in a previous thread, if you don't like it, bring a new motion to the Synod. But, for heaven's sake, do not stamp your feet, bleat on about how wrong it is, and fuel a witch-hunt against a man who will bring new energy and, in so many other ways, a much more socially and theologically inclusive complexion to the Diocese of Sheffield.

We were told that admitting women to all three historic orders is a legitimate development of Christian tradition. I believe that and celebrate it. We were also told it would change the way the church behaved. It certainly has. I can't ever remember such a graceless, public, web-based campaign to undermine a bishop (and for the second time), after a perfectly legitimate and rigorous process of selection. Have any who constitute the 'rising opposition' actually met with Bishop Philip and explored their concerns with him? Or are they just making assumptions and jumping to hysterical conclusions? Miserere nostri, Deus. How timely that we will have some space for reflection, and then to be resourced for repentance and reconciliation, on Wednesday.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 1:25pm GMT

This is depressingly similar to what happened to Jeffrey John when he was put forward as bishop of Reading. Focusing all the bile of a church dispute onto one person. And as it's a bishop he's fair game, so much so that those doing this will not see themselves a bullies as they see themselves (in this case) as standing up for an oppressed minority, so are excused the normal niceties.

Lets all take a deep breath and ponder: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another"

Posted by Amos at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 1:49pm GMT

Erika: 'There is no orthodox theology for bishops not being in Communion with priests they are responsible for.'
That's how I see it too. But presumably those bishops (and their supporters) don't see it like that and would claim to be orthodox.
Since the C of E has been living with difference for at least the last 500 years I think a little more give and take might help us. I don't know that I would like to be in a church where everyone agreed with me. And while we are still talking of +Philip North surely everyone agrees that his priority is the mission of the Gospel and being the Church of the poor. Differences about ordination and even gender pale into insignificance in that context.

Posted by David Emmott at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 2:07pm GMT

David,
I agree in principle. But I do believe that it is that lack of orthodox theology that is causing the current uproar.
Whatever we may think of it - and there are valid voices on both sides here in this thread... this will remain a crunch point until the theology has been done.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 3:25pm GMT

I don't think Martyn Percy is being all that unreasonable here. I don't read that he is calling for +Philip to turn down Sheffield diocese. He's calling on him to choose between acting as a focus for unity in Sheffield and remaining on the Council of Bishops for "The Society". I don't actually think that's unreasonable. It is difficult to see how +Philip can inhabit both roles at once.

I disagree with whoever it was on a previous thread who said that +Philip should just change his mind on the issue of ordination of women. That is clearly an unrealistic demand. But I don't think it's unrealistic to ask him to step away from an organisation whose whole raison-d'etre is to promote and enable the traditionalist position that women may not be ordained. There is a very reasonable argument that continued involvement with such an organisation is not compatible with the role of a diocesan bishop.

+Philip would then be in a position much more similar to that of +Richard Londinium. His views on the ordination of women would be well known but he would never be part of any official "campaign".

Posted by Cantab at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 3:38pm GMT

@Amos is absolutely right. Replace Martyn Percy's name with Philip Giddings's, along with the threats to bankrupt the Diocese of Oxford, and we have a re-run of 2003. Miserere, indeed.

Posted by Will Richards at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 4:00pm GMT

I have held off revealing this, but think I can do without revealing the identity of the person concerned.

Some time ago, a member of the exec committee of WATCH was offered a senior post but was told they had to resign from the WATCH committee to take it up. Both of which they did.

Now of course they could carry on believing all the things WATCH supports etc. - no-one can legislate for change of mind. And other WATCH members have been appointed to senior posts without WATCH membership having been an issue (though no committee member falls into this category as far as I recall).

Draw a parallel with the issue here....

And note that what I have just written does not say anything about +Philip's suitability as a bishop (that was decided at his consecration) - it is to redirect the discussion to the specific things Martyn Percy has pointed to, which points are often lost in the assumption that this is about "whether +Philip is a good bishop."

Posted by Charles Read at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 4:18pm GMT

Re:Cantab, Canon Percy's complete three thousand word essay is worth a full and careful read (available via link to pdf, see the TA post Update 6:00 pm Friday past).

Reading the Yorkshire Post piece by Archbishop Sentamu, these bits from Percy's essay immediately came to mind: "There is a problem, then, for any church that wants to talk about ‘two integrities’ coexisting
within its life - especially when they are opposed to one another. The Church
of England took a decision in 1993 to adopt precisely this position in relation to
gender (the infamous Act of Synod), enshrining the rights and affirming those who
conscientiously object to women being ordained." (p.1)

And again: "... diversity,
disagreement and differences cannot simply be managed into consensus.The political, synodical or managerial solutions that have been proffered so far have singularly failed to inspire and galvanise most of the debaters." (p.5)

Percy's reference to Yves Congar on the matter of renewal is astute. It also has the flavour of delicious irony on the matter at hand.

Percy's essay maps out the long view, the strategic issues. Sentamu's rejoinder simply highlights how short term managerial politics are quickly revealed as a kind of Faustian bargain.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 5:17pm GMT

Its not analogous to the 2003 Jeffrey John debacle because a significant number of bishops made it clear that they opposed John's appointment. In this case the only bishops saying anything wish to affirm Philip North's appointment. Their public declarations of support could do with a little more theology instead of relying on sound bite style rhetoric around 'affirmation,' etc. Maybe they coud carefully unpack the various issues in a more constructive manner to establish just how this appointment really does add to the notion of mutual flourishing.

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 7:43pm GMT

Rod Gillis..I seem to remember John Austin Baker Bishop of Salisbury making much the same theological points as Martyn Percy in an article in the Church Times at the time of the debate around the Act of Synod...alas I cant find it.I suppose the real problem is that the C of E is both catholic and protestant and the two co-exist in an uneasy symbiosis. Have we ever had a coherent ecclesiology?There have been several "anglicanisms". The ambiguity attributed by Bill Pickering to Anglo-Catholics really extends to the whole enterprise.It was Simon Jenkins' father the Congregationalist theologian Daniel Jenkins who in "The Nature of Catholicity " said you could argue that the C of E isn't a church at all but an attempt to try and solve the problems bequeathed by the English Reformation.But I have come to feel the centrifugal forces are gathering strength and in a situation of numerical decline,financial enfeeblementand sharpening discord we may not be able to limp along altogether indefinitely.We have paid a high price for institutional unity.

Posted by Perry Butler at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 8:37pm GMT

Re: Perry Butler, "We have paid a high price for institutional unity." True enough, I'm sure. I'd suggest however that the price of unity is more costly to some than to others. In the current instance, for example, the female presbyters in the diocese of Sheffield are likely going to carry an inordinate share of the tab. And, in light of Dean Percy's analysis one could ask those who hold to the views expressed by Archbishop Sentamu ( he is not alone in his defense of the managerial status quo I'm sure) if standing on managerial principle is worth the cost that will be exacted from female clergy?

"Have we ever had a coherent ecclesiology?" You know, I don't know if there is an answer, in theory, to the question of coherence. I'd prefer to ask a slightly different version of the question, one that i think is not too far from Percy's essay, i.e. does the current situation hold out the possibility of a successful ecclesiology?

The one thing I'm convinced of is that our problems with sex and gender are in the first instance not the result of competing theologies whether catholic or protestant or whatever. Our problems are the result of two radically different anthropological starting points, the one essentially mythologically based, the other essentially empirically based. Your conclusion, that the institution is in a fragile state, is correct I believe. If that is true, then we will lurch from one crisis management scenario to the next until the whole show fizzles out altogether. But, on the long shot that there will be pieces to pick up, I think Percy's view is the better bet.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 10:46pm GMT

Perhaps someone knows the answer to these questions? Would a bishop who does not recognise the ordination of women license a female priest to a parish? Can he share the cure of souls that is his with a female priest?

Posted by Mary Hancock at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 10:51pm GMT

Yes, Society bishops do this all the time. I personally attended just such a service recently, involving the Bishop of Wakefield. There is a photo of the Bishop of Burnley on FB (or Twitter, or both) doing so just a couple of days ago.

I have also been present at such a service involving the (just about to retire) Bishop of London.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 27 February 2017 at 11:07pm GMT

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to believe!

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 28 February 2017 at 6:38am GMT

Your question, Mary, and Simon's answer, remind me of the anecdote told earlier in one of the threads on this topic, where a bishop was asked if he believed in infant baptism. He replied, 'Madam, I have seen it done!'

Non-ordaining bishops clearly *can* do these things, but the deeper question, implicit in your questions, is 'Can they do it with integrity?'. The Dean of Christ Church, whose excellent essay sparked off this latest debate, clearly feels that they cannot, and I, and many others posting here, completely agree with him.

But, unless I am mistaken, a suffragan bishop who does these things does so, not in his own right, but as commissary for the Ordinary, the diocesan bishop. It is to the diocesan that canonical obedience is sworn, and with whom the cure of souls is shared. That is why it is a relatively minor matter, up to his own conscience, for a non-ordaining suffragan to act in this way, but for a non-ordaining diocesan to do so is a much more serious matter, raising fundamental issues of integrity, ecclesiology and catholic order.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Tuesday, 28 February 2017 at 9:59am GMT

If any good has come out of this debate, it might be the fresh theological voices from contributors such as Alice Whalley and Thomas Matthew Sharp, who reveal a commitment to love and companionship that is sorely missing in much of the more jaded commentary.

If any learning has come out of the debate, it might be recognition of the ridiculous amount of power and authority Anglicans peculiarly want to invest in their diocesan bishops, power far greater than what is experienced by those who actually hold posts as ordinaries in the church. The diocesan bishops I know take all too seriously their accountability before God - and, as has been oft pointed out in the last 60 years of debate on the ordination of women, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, a sovereign lady no less.

Posted by Peter S at Tuesday, 28 February 2017 at 11:09am GMT

Everything suggests that Bishop Philip would make an excellent diocesan bishop. Had he, up to this point, been more low key about his beliefs on female ordination, 'don't ask don't tell' might have been sufficient. Of course, had he taken that approach he would also have been one of the diminished bishops of which we already have too many.

I think Philip has greater integrity than most bishops and that he himself will not accept the appointment unless he believes he can be the focus of unity which is such an essential part of the episcopal duties. I think those that support Philip's appointment should welcome the intervention of Martyn Percy and WATCH. They are helping to highlight what Philip needs to do to be a focus of unity and it is far better that comes from outside the diocese than from within. The points raised are valid and Philip needs to address them. I hope he does.

If he can't then I think he will decline the appointment. It is the right thing to do and I think Philip is actually a cleric who believes very strongly in doing the right thing - as he sees 'right' of course.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 28 February 2017 at 11:26am GMT

@Rod Gillis:

"Our problems are the result of two radically different anthropological starting points, the one essentially mythologically based, the other essentially empirically based."

Which is which?

Posted by Bernard Randall at Tuesday, 28 February 2017 at 4:01pm GMT

I think that this thread is trying to do two different, albeit related, things: to defend Philip North's appointment and to debate the issues raised by Professor Percy. I use his academic title advisedly because he is clearly doing his job when he applies a careful and thoughtful analysis to the situation in Sheffield.To many people both within and without the church, such analysis is deeply threatening. It seems that some commentators have read reports of Professor Percy's essay rather than the actual essay which I have now read carefully twice. Even Alice Whalley refers us to Harriet Sherwood's account in 'The Guardian' rather than the essay itself. In no way does Professor Percy attack the person of Philip North but rather he explores the issues and the implications and contradictions of his appointment, especially for the women clergy in the Diocese of Sheffield. We don't have enough of this kind of serious analysis and I don't see any grounds for dismissing Professor Percy as a 'renegade dean'. It is undeniable that this appointment raises a whole host of questions which need to be properly considered rather than Archiepiscopally managed into the 'long grass'. We have already seen the consequences of trying to manage away difficult issues at the last Synod. I agree wth Perry Butler that the centrifugal forces are now so strong that there is a great danger of the CofE blowing itself to bits. The anti-intellectualism of the current College of Bishops is unhelpful.

Posted by Daniel Lamont at Tuesday, 28 February 2017 at 5:01pm GMT

Re Michael Mulhern (yesterday) I can't deny that we have to live with the legislation that has been enacted. But this legislation, like all new legislation, is inevitably imperfect and incomplete, so that issues will arise, particularly in the early years of implementation - unintended consequences or things that simply weren't thought of at the time. These need to be addressed as they arise, wherever possible. In this case, the shortcoming seems to arise in the way a diocese indicates its preference for a new bishop. As has been teased out on another thread, Sheffield certainly didn't ask for a non-ordainer, but has been presented with one nevertheless, causing the shock and dismay bravely voiced by Sue Hammersley at the head of this thread.

Surely no-one can now deny that the CofE has firmly decided that all three orders of ministry are open to either gender, and that that view represents the position of the vast majority of the people? At the same time, provision has been made for the minority of people who cannot receive the ministry of women.

At the parish level, this has been handled sensibly, before and after 2014. If a parish wishes to align itself with the minority position, it needs to make a declaration to that effect. If it doesn't, it is assumed by default to hold the majority view and to be willing to accept a male or female priest.

At the diocesan level however, newly from 2014, the same sensible principle has not been followed. A preference may be expressed for a bishop who will, or will not, ordain women. But if no preference is expressed, no default in favour of the majority position is assumed. Surely this can't have been intended? If a diocese wants a non-ordainer, it should say so, and if it doesn't say so, it should be assumed that it wants a bishop who will ordain equally. Whether this can be achieved through legislation, I don't know. If not, vacancy-in-see committees need to keep their wits about them.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Tuesday, 28 February 2017 at 5:11pm GMT

Having thought about this I conclude that +Philip does not really believe that women cannot be priests or that the female priests of the Church of England are not in fact priests and therefore not efficacious channels of the Church's sacramental ministry.

By 'does not really believe' I mean that he does not believe it so fully or profoundly or unequivocally that he feels the need for this conviction to shape his decisions and actions as a soon to be Diocesan bishop. Indeed he could not now be appointed as a Diocesan bishop if that were the case.

While the personal and professional flourishing of individual ministers of differing opinion on this matter is clearly important, and is provided for in the Five Guiding Principles, the central ministry of a bishop is to ensure and guarantee the flourishing of God's people. The vows which bishops make at their consecration are among the most solemn and binding that could be made by any human being. ''Remember always with thanksgiving that God has entrusted to your care Christ's beloved bride, his own flock, bought by the shedding of his blood on the cross'.

It is inconceivable to me that +Philip, whom I have always heard spoken of as a man of loving integrity, could knowingly entrust a significant portion of Christ's flock for which he is personally answerable to our Lord, to ministries that he holds to be fundamentally unsafe or ineffective. That would be an act of very great cynicism and pastoral negligence. The alternative is that this is not in fact exactly what +Philip believes but that he has yet to give a coherent contemporary account of what he now believes.

I am not among those who have suggested that +Philip should not accept the nomination to the See of Sheffield. Under the Five Guiding Principles he is entitled to be nominated and to accept the nomination. However I do think that for the settling of consciences, including perhaps his own, he needs to set out with some greater clarity than he has done yet his theological understanding of the basis on which he will inhabit the role.

Posted by Jane Charman at Tuesday, 28 February 2017 at 5:28pm GMT

Re: Bernard Randall's question 'Which is Which?"

Traditional approaches to moral theology, labeled variously as "biblical" morality or "revealed" morality and so forth approach or otherwise join the anthropological question(s) from the ground of biblical myth--even when the trajectory is intended as a climb from myth to theory.

The alternative is an empirical approach to the anthropological question i.e what does the evidence indicate, suggest or reasonably hypothesize? Empirical in this instance meaning what does the evidence suggest, or what hypotheses makes best sense of the empirical evidence,about the relationship of things, not just to us, but to each other. It is just a starting point, of course, and various starting points sometimes can lead to convergence.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 28 February 2017 at 7:38pm GMT

The "About Us" page of the Society under the patronage of SS Wilfred and Hilda has the following:

"The Society is intended to become an ecclesial body, not another catholic society among the many catholic societies of the Church of England. Membership of the Church is conferred in baptism (and initiation is completed in episcopal confirmation and first communion). It costs nothing to join the Church.

Therefore, the Society is not a membership organization. The members are those baptized members of the Church of England who worship in parishes and institutions that receive episcopal oversight from the bishops of the Society and ministry from priests whom they have commended."

Would this then imply that all in Sheffield are to be regarded as part of this society - presumably they receive episcopal oversight from the diocesan bishop, and he will commend all the priests in his diocese, or won't he? Will there be some he does not commend?

Posted by T Pott at Tuesday, 28 February 2017 at 8:10pm GMT

Yes. @Malcolm Dixon, I get all that. But you simply cannot turn round and say 'This is the legislation we voted for; but, if we knew Philip North was going to become Bishop of Sheffield, we would not have voted for it. And now that it has happened, under the Five Guiding Principles, we need to change them.' You seem to want to have your cake and eat it.

Meanwhile, I will be praying for forgiveness, tomorrow, for all the spiteful, unfounded hysteria that has been dumped on Philip North's doormat; and praying that God will make a new creation of us all.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Tuesday, 28 February 2017 at 8:15pm GMT

I see that the Lambeth Palace rebuttals unit, aka cofecomms, has been working overtime, but it's hard to know where to start on a reaction to their 'User Guide'. Let's try this:

So the bishops of Chichester and (still for a few hours) London have been supportive of women's ministry in their dioceses, have they? That would be why those two dioceses have the lowest proportions of women priests in the country then.

The claim that those who oppose this nomination have done so because they disagree with the 5 principles is breathtaking in its unqualified boldness, since it is the exact opposite of the truth. As Professor Percy makes clear in his forensic analysis of the first principle in his article for the Yorkshire Post, it is the defenders of this nomination who conveniently ignore the first two principles, whilst focussing only on two words in the fifth principle. If it's about 'mutual flourishing', anything goes apparently, and that is central to the whole thing, they say. If it was that important, you would think that they would have put it first. Instead what they have put first in the principles is a comprehensive proscription of any kind of discrimination by gender in any order of ministry. And the second principle is a requirement for anyone who ministers in our church to assent to that first principle. What does the User Guide have to say about those principles? Absolutely nothing. Funny that!

It is precisely because some of us do not believe that anyone who is a member (still less a leader) of SSWSH can possibly claim to be in accordance with these principles that we oppose the nomination.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Tuesday, 28 February 2017 at 9:11pm GMT

No, you don't get it Michael, otherwise you wouldn't be attributing things to me which I didn't say. I don't want to change the 5 principles - I want them all to be observed, including the first two, which you seem to overlook.

And you continue to suggest that all those of us who oppose this nomination are conducting a personal vendetta against +North. I don't think you will find a single post in any of the three threads which does that. I consider him to be a fine priest and bishop, and he would in many ways make a fine bishop of Sheffield. I just don't think he can be said to be conforming to the first two principles whilst he remains a member of a society which asserts that women cannot be priests or bishops, and he can't with integrity be bishop of a diocese which has women priests sharing his cure of souls. Do you get that?

Oh, and isn't it the general idea in Lent to seek forgiveness for your own sins rather than those you carelessly attribute to others?

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Tuesday, 28 February 2017 at 11:37pm GMT

"But you simply cannot turn round and say 'This is the legislation we voted for; but, if we knew Philip North was going to become Bishop of Sheffield, we would not have voted for it. And now that it has happened, under the Five Guiding Principles, we need to change them.' You seem to want to have your cake and eat it."

While I agree with Jane Charman (above) that Philip can accept the position subject to setting out his position more clearly (and I think resigning from the Society), those who take a harder line will find support in the Synod transcripts. I can't recall which archbishop (or whether it was 1993 or 2014) but one stated very clearly that the legislation was intended to be broad brush only and details would need to be worked out on a case by case basis. It is not in unreasonable to suggest that someone who is, or has been, prominent in her Society is unsuitable to be a diocesan bishop, but other (quieter) non-ordainers might be suitable. It is essentially similar to many conservatives feeling Jeffrey John should not be a bishop because of his prominent views but Nicholas Chamberlain is accepted as the Bishop of Grantham. That is, people might reasonably object to Philip North under the Five Principles not because he is a non-ordainer but because he has been so prominent in the Society.

As I say, personally I think he has potential to be an excellent bishop (notwithstanding his views on same sex marriage) but he needs to allay fears first.

The person who comes out of this with no credit at all is the Archbishop of York. He needed to show much greater leadership when the selection was announced to explain how things will work instead of offering one of his vacuous messages to the Yorkshire Post.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 2:39am GMT

I used the word "renegade" advisedly to mean "rebel" or "rebellious". Without doubt in sparking off this deluge of criticism against the appointment of +Philip North as the next bishop of Sheffield the Dean of Christ Church can indeed be seen to be both a rebel and rebellious. Without the dean's "unwarranted" intervention, which was and is the catalyst for all the acrimony being heaped upon the Bishop of Burnley's head the protests would have been decidedly more muted.
I attended the Glastonbury Pilgrimage last year at which Bishop North preached. In 40 years of ministry it was one of the finest and best delivered sermons I have ever heard. Sheffield is indeed a most fortunate diocese to have been blessed with +Philip as their next Father in God. Not only is he a faithful Catholic with a pastoral heart and a deep love for the people of God but he is also a considerable evangelist and a superb preacher.
The theme of the Glastonbury sermon was the turning of water into wine. I look forward to the way in which +Philip Sheffield will transform his new diocese into a diocese of love. The sooner he is placed upon the cathedra of Sheffield cathedral the better. Then let him get on with his calling to ministry and mission by seeking to extend the Kingdom of God in that Northern diocese.

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 5:58am GMT

Rod Gillis,

you gave the answer I pretty much expected. The trouble is, I can't see how it can be supported.

Any morality of equality based on being created equally in the image of God (the basis for ordaining women for most people, I think) is based on the "myth" of humanity's creation in Genesis. Likewise, any discussion of "gender" in the terms commonly used in current debates is involving social and linguistic constructs - the stories we tell about gender; similarly, "patriarchy" is not an objective fact observable in the world, but rather a story to explain features of the world; these are myths (because "myth" means "word" or "story," it doesn't mean "untrue story.").

On the other hand, to distinguish male from female is a clearly empirical route (try visiting a maternity ward to see an objective example of how the differences play out).

This is not to say that one side is right and another wrong. That's precisely my point: myth vs empirical is a false dichotomy. Both sides in these debates use both types of reasoning.

Posted by Bernard Randall at Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 9:51am GMT

@Malcolm Dixon, I do get it, actually, because I am not taking each of the Five Guiding Principles in isolation but accept them together. What I don't get is the idea that we can do our theology of church, ministry and sacraments on the basis that those who complain loudest get what they want, even if it means undermining long-debated decisions reached by consensus. As a supporter of equal ordination, I find this situation extremely ungenerous. It also makes me wonder whether those who voted for this legislation did so with their fingers crossed, or simply didn't understand what they were voting for?

You will also notice, in my original reference to Ash Wednesday, that I use the plural - miserere nostril - which, surely, includes me as much as it does everyone else!

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 12:43pm GMT

Father David, ‘Renegade’ has a more precise meaning that just ‘rebel’ or ‘rebellious’. Its full meaning is either a deserter from one faith, cause, or allegiance to another or an individual who rejects lawful or conventional behaviour. I do not think that Professor Percy can properly be accused of any of these things nor is it fair to accuse him of being the ‘catalyst for the acrimony’ which Bishop North’s appointment has attracted – the fallout had begun before he published his essay. Nor can his intervention be called ‘unwarranted’. Professor Percy is an ordained Professor at Oxford University and it is the job of such a person to do the kind of analysis that he has done and to explore the difficulties that this appointment has raised. As someone has already pointed out, it is often the case that, until legislation is applied, its flaws are not revealed. Nowhere has Professor Percy vilified Bishop North; indeed he has paid tribute to his qualities. I do think that he is right to explore the complications of a diocesan bishop belonging to ‘The Society´ especially as one of the co-leaders. The impression that I have is that it is seeking to establish a church within a church, which is reinforced by Thomas Matthew Sharp’s contribution. I am defending Professor Percy’s right to make the kind of intervention that he has, indeed I am arguing that he has a duty to do so, not because I know him or have met him, but because I am defending the principle of academic freedom and the importance of reasoned contributions to debate and discussion. We need alternative points of view and we mustn’t drive dissent underground. The CofE is more and more resembling a political party whose adherents are ‘whipped’ into line, especially the College of Bishops, with disastrous results. I write from the perspective of an ‘Affirming or Liberal Catholic’ - a position which, in an earlier thread, Father David questioned as being possible. The late, great David Jenkins wouldn’t get a look in these days but he did persuade non-churchgoers to think about Christianity. People need to read Professor Percy's essay itself and not newspaper reports of it.

Posted by Daniel Lamont at Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 1:27pm GMT

Re: Bernard Randall,

The notion that equality is best described as a myth based "morality" is problematic. Sexual equality ought not be based on "being created in the image of likeness of God" as found in Genesis. Equality is based on the positive that sexual differentiation ought not to be social destiny, and against the negative that deprivation of equality is grounded social oppression. Arguing that equality is derived in the first instance from a reading of a biblical myth is as mistaken a premise as arguing from the same myth that women cannot be priests.

"the basis for ordaining women for most people, I think" Some advocates for equality proceed from that point; but I disagree with that. Myths are reflexive, not propositional.

Regarding patriarchy as a "story", one needs to be careful not to confuse terms. Patriarchy is not an empirically verifiable phenomena in the way that , for instance, a confirmed medical diagnosis is; but it is, not so much a construction, but theory about social construction that attempts to make sense of available evidence. It is a politco-social hypothesis, and not a story in the sense that Cain and Abel or the myth of Sisyphus are stories.

"...to distinguish male from female is a clearly empirical route" One can make some distinctions based on empirical evidence; but one can also assert commonalities as well. Let's visit your maternity ward. Let's observe the mom. Let's observe the baby. There are obvious differences between the two but there are also commonalities. Yet both are homo sapien,and both are persons under the law and so on.

Back to starting points. Perhaps mom and/or child, have a manifestly apparent medical condition. Mythology might "explain" this as a the result of "sin", or perhaps possession by a "demon". What is required however is not a faith healing nor an exorcism but a diagnosis and a care plan. Neither God nor an army of priests laying on hands and anointing with oil is going to correct a chromosome based condition. Those types of liturgies may at some point become part of pastoral care plan; but the empirical reality is prior.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 3:19pm GMT

This debate has run for a long time and will continue to run. There was always much speculation as to whether, post 1992, and thereafter, post 2014, there would ever again be a non-ordainer nominated to a diocesan see. The Guiding Principles make no specific reference to episcopal appointments, but clearly the House of Bishops was never going to declare that in future all appointments of diocesans should be of those who will ordain women as priests, although many like me wish they had, common sense position as it is. It is open to a diocese to state that it does not wish to appoint a non-ordainer. This nomination has come about because (a) the Sheffield vacancy-in-see committee didn't include that requirement in the statement of needs; and (b) the CNC decided that +Burnley was the preferred candidate and the person whom God was calling to the see, and nominated him notwithstanding his traditionalist views. Everyone had their eyes open. My view is that both the vacancy-in-see committee and the CNC made a gross error of judgement, which is not the same as being personally critical of the successful candidate. Jane Charman's contribution is hugely helpful. +Philip needs to demonstrate exactly what he means by not apparently accepting the sacramental ministry of women, yet being supportive of women in ministry. He needs to demonstrate what bearing this will have on his episcopal ministry. He must have been grilled on it by the CNC, so perhaps they should accept their considerable share of responsibility and provide assurance to the diocese. In effect ++Sentamu already has. There are lessons to be learned here, particularly for the new CNC which will consider London in the autumn. The probability of a non-ordainer to follow Bishop Chartres was fairly low, but must now be almost non-existent.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 3:58pm GMT

Rod Gillis,

I think you've rather missed the point of what I'm suggesting, which is that we make a serious mistake if we contrast "myths" with "empiricism," and think live by the latter nowadays, in contrast to people of former times who lived by the former. We all live by myths/stories/linguistic constructions/worldviews most of the time.

So you say that equality ought to be "based on the positive that sexual differentiation ought not to be social destiny." I'm sure this is true, but on what basis do you assert it? Certainly not an empirical one, given that an empirical "is" cannot entail a moral "ought." The "ought" can only come from the story we tell about values and meanings. I'd tell a story which says the empirical commonalities outweigh the empirical differences - but I'll recognize the fact that I'm ultimately telling a story about how I think the world ought to be viewed.

I'd note that if "patriarchy" is a "theory about social construction" then it is a story about a story - i.e. a metanarrative. I'm glad they still have a place in our post-post-modern world.

Finally, the medical comparison is not well made, I'd suggest, in that no medical diagnosis or care plan can solve sexual inequalities or patriarchy. It is precisely a "pastoral care plan" which is required if we wish to help people tell other, better, stories about themselves and the possibilities of this world.

Posted by Bernard Randall at Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 4:01pm GMT

Re Bernard Randall. "...we make a serious mistake if we contrast 'myths' with 'empiricism,' and think [we] live by the latter nowadays, in contrast to people of former times who lived by the former. We all live by myths/stories/linguistic constructions/worldviews most of the time."

Do we? We may well find myths insightful but we do not live with the mythic consciousness of the ancient world, to do so would be to operate out of a false consciousness. The example I gave, picking up on your suggestion, about the maternity ward/medical diagnosis I think a clear example of the difference between one form of consciousness and another. By the by, It is not a comparison or analogy between sexual inequalities and a medical diagnosis. It is a direct correspondence with regard to human nature and the anthropological starting point. I have to begin with the human person and what may be known about the human person.

"...an empirical 'is' cannot entail a moral 'ought.' " The is/ought bifurcation often comes up in this type of argument. It is misplaced.

Clearly, empiricism left as mere empiricism eventually stalls out as a form reductionism (Lonergan). That is the risk one must work to overcome in investigating the anthropological question from an empirical starting point. The countervailing insight is that a mythological starting point has to overcome the risk of superstitious thinking, especially the role of superstitious thinking that buttresses a taboo in the service of one group oppressing or controlling another. For example, refusing to consider the evolution of marriage for same sex couples or ordination for females are both examples of an entrenched taboo.

Even sophisticated rationale for a taboo grounds a taboo nonetheless.


Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 5:44pm GMT

One of the problems as I see it is the end to end integrity throughout the process from selection for training for ordination to ordination itself and beyond. A candidate is sent off for selection and then to college under the sponsorship of a bishop who has satisfied him / her self that A) the candidate has really been called to serve in the church as a minister of both word and sacrament and B) there are no legal reasons why the candidate cannot be ordained. How can a bishop sponsor something (in their own personal capacity) and then decline to solemnify the very thing they believe to be true: i.e. that the calling is both real and legal? If the bishop doesn't believe that the original calling can be real on the grounds that only men can be ordained then how can a bishop with integrity personally sponsor a candidate?

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 5:59pm GMT

'we make a serious mistake if we contrast "myths" with "empiricism," and think live by the latter nowadays, in contrast to people of former times who lived by the former. We all live by myths/stories/linguistic constructions/worldviews most of the time.'

Thank you.

Ash Wednesday blessings. Ashes of empiricism given meaning by the worldview of Christian biblical construction.

Posted by cseitz at Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 6:29pm GMT

There is a difference when a Bishop is appointed because he is a traditionalist and when a Bishop is appointed because he is the right person and he happens to be a traditionalist.
When we in Blackburn Diocese had a traditionalist appointed to Burnley we knew that part of the reason was ensuring adequate provision of tradtionalist bishops, that the northern flying episcopal visitor was at full capacity and that our new bishop would be part of the wider church traditionalist networks (SSWSH, FiF etc). We knew that this was part of the deal with the 5 guiding principles, although there was the question as to why we were the diocese having a traditionalist again. We got Bishop Philip who has been inspirational for the whole diocese to flourish and we have all lived quite easily with the compromised theology.
Bishop Philip is be made a diocesan not because he is a tradtionalist, but because he is inspirational. The compromise in theology is greater with a diocesan, and he still will be a leading light of the tradtionalist networks, which may attract more traditionalist clergy to his diocese and put off other clergy. This may be a price to pay, but, as we have found in Blackburn, the rewards may be great too.

Posted by Nancy Goodrich at Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 7:52pm GMT

Re: cseitz, ""Ashes of empiricism given meaning by the worldview of Christian biblical construction."

Ash Wednesday, a particular kind of ritual reenactment of biblical mythology mediated by meaning.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 9:50pm GMT

Well said, Nancy Goodrich in putting a positive spin on this "inspirational" (truly - inspired by the Holy Spirit)appointment to Sheffield.
Well said, Anthony Archer in clearly stating that "the CNC decided that +Burnley was the preferred candidate and the person whom God was calling to the see". I am certain that this decision was made by the CNC within the context of much prayer, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I only wish I could say "Well said" to Daniel Lambert's recent comment as he seems to be descending into the realms of Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland - "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less." I repeat that in using the word "renegade" I meant rebel and rebellious.
As for the use of the word "unwarranted" - Daniel will have to take that one up with the current Bishop of Durham. However, I do agree with Daniel's comments about a former Bishop of Durham - "the late, great David Jenkins"; at whose consecration and enthronement I was privileged to attend. Going even further back would Michael Ramsey (Durham, York, Canterbury)"get a look in these days"? What about Hensley Henson, yet another great Bishop of Durham? As the Dean of Hereford pointed out in a recent letter to the Church Times - there was a similar controversy when HHH was appointed as Bishop of Hereford, prior to his translation to Durham. Hensley Henson was criticised for believing too little of the Nicene creed whereas Philip North is perhaps being criticised for believing too much!

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 2 March 2017 at 6:20am GMT

Rod Gillis,

you say "I have to begin with the human person," but there is no such empirical thing as a human person - and modern Western medical science certainly knows of no such thing. It knows of organs and hormones and all sorts of observable phenomena, which can malfunction and be restored to normal operation. That these bits go together to form something we call "a person" is a story we tell (rightly I'd say). It is therefore a myth in the sense that it is not empirical.

Certainly, "we do not live with the mythic consciousness of the ancient world." That is not so much because we tell different stories (which we certainly do), but because we are not sufficiently aware that we, and all human persons, live by stories; something they well knew. I suggest we should become more not less conscious of our story telling (try reading some Terry Pratchett for insights on this). Aren't stories one of the key things which distinguishes us from animals?

Why is the is/ought bifurcation "misplaced" in this type of argument? I would have thought it is useful precisely because it makes us work harder at explaining our thought processes.

And aren't "superstition" and "taboo" really just labels for myths/stories/worldviews we disagree with? To dismiss another culture's stories with a pejorative term just looks like paternalism, doesn't it? We may have very good reasons for telling a different story, but we need to explain why our stories are better. And for a Christian, surely that will mean that a better story enables us better to love God and our neighbour.

Posted by Bernard Randall at Thursday, 2 March 2017 at 9:42am GMT

It pleases Father David to accuse me of being Humpty Dumpty in my use of of language. My definition of "renegade" was drawn from the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The OED backs this up defining the word as "a person who betrays a country, an organisation or a set of principles". Interestingly, the original meaning was to describe someone who abandons religion. Given the nature of this site, I think we need to use language accurately, especially before criticizing other people. Knowing Father David, I took the precaution of looking up the word before I posted.

Please note that there's no 'b' in my surname. I am happy to use my name in full.

Posted by Daniel Lamont at Thursday, 2 March 2017 at 10:19am GMT

Re: Bernard Randall, :...no such empirical thing as a human person - and modern Western medical science certainly knows of no such thing. It knows of organs and hormones and all sorts of observable phenomena, which can malfunction and be restored to normal operation..." I think this line of argument is an attempt at rationalizing an exclusion from a dogmatically held starting point.

By the by, modern medicine has been criticized, and continues to be critiqued from within, for the kind of reductionism you describe here. (I did point out the risk of reductionism above.) You might be interested in reading some current perspectives in health care and the shifts in evidence informed care. But I digress.

"...we are not sufficiently aware that we, and all human persons, live by stories..." I'm not exactly certain what you mean by this, especially when you tend to conflate "world view", "story" "myth". While myths are insightful (for example in psychoanalysis, in theology, in modern literature) The development of critical theory makes living out of a mythic conscious untenable.

I spent part of Ash Wednesday listening to an interview with Marie Collins who has resigned form the Pontifical Biblical Commission For the Protection of Minors. Yet another chapter in the sad story of how the institutional church fails in the face of its own malfeasance.It was ironic that news broke on Ash Wednesday. Clearly the Vatican suffers from a kind of corporate splitting i.e, between the myth of salvation proclaimed liturgically and the verifiable suffering of its abuse victims, many of whom have suffered lives in which they have become lost to themselves.


Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 2 March 2017 at 3:02pm GMT

Apologies to Daniel for getting his surname wrong. Now if anyone looked like Humpty Dumpty it was certainly "Daniel Lambert" from Leicester.
Just as the meaning of certain Biblical passages can be interpreted in several different ways nowadays - similarly, so individual words can bear the weight of several definitions. Again, for the third time - when I used the word renegade I meant it to mean rebel or rebellious. Thank you for informing me of yet another definition for renegade as one which Daniel describes as "the original meaning" which is "someone who abandons religion". That's interesting! Now, I wouldn't describe those of a liberal bent as abandoning religion but those who seek to promote what is often described as "the liberal agenda" certainly attempt to change the received tradition in accordance with their way of thinking.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 2 March 2017 at 5:22pm GMT

I suppose the situation of a male Anglican Bishop's non-recognition of a fellow female Bishop might be compared to the Bishop of Rome's non-recognition of an Anglican Bishop - except that the latter are in different Churches!

BUT, the present Pope seems not to highlight what his Church thinks about the validity of Anglican Orders - e.g; on his recent visit to the Anglican Church of All Saints in Rome.

I guess it all boils down to what is meant by 'recognition'. At least Pope Francis seems to be quite sure of his fraternal relationship to the bishops of our Church. He does not deny their capacity for episcopal leadership in their own context. In fact, he seems to welcome the prospect of SHARING their oversight role.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 2 March 2017 at 11:41pm GMT

Rod Gillis,

I'm not sure what "exclusion" you're meaning. I was highlighting the reductionism of modern medicine, if taking an empirical starting point. This is precisely what I'm challenging - a dogmatic belief that we do things empirically nowadays. Empiricism is sterile without the stories we add about what being "human" (i.e. a person), rather than the organism Homo Sapiens, entails.

And yes, I precisely conflate "world view" "story" and myth" (although if I'm being strict, stories/myths are used to give expression to a worldview). That's my whole point. It won't do to dismiss myths of the kind I think you mean (i.e. ancient stories we don't find useful anymore) simply for being stories, without realizing that we have to replace them with stories that we do find useful (e.g. patriarchy). The only alternative is the kind of reductionism we both agree is mistaken - but empiricism taken alone can only give us reductionism.

The fact that our modern stories tend not to be character driven (in the way the Greek myths are, for example) doesn't stop them being stories. Perhaps it does make them harder to spot. I'm just naming them for what they are, so that we can think about them more cogently.

Posted by Bernard Randall at Friday, 3 March 2017 at 9:47am GMT

«Well said, Nancy Goodrich in putting a positive spin on this "inspirational" (truly - inspired by the Holy Spirit) appointment to Sheffield.»

You are conflating two things I think: inspiration by the Holy Spirit and that the appointment of a traditional diocesan is 'a good thing'. I have learned the hard way that guidance is a very slippery thing. I suspect discernment is too. It is quite possible for instance that the Holy Spirit has inspired the selection of an outstanding candidate only to prove that it is impossible for a non-ordainer to be successfully appointed as a diocesan bishop. It is all to easy with guidance / discernment to see it as approbation of our own hopes and aspirations when all it is doing is indicating an act in the here and now the flowering and purpose of which might be radically different to our own expectations.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 3 March 2017 at 9:56am GMT

The Pope's apparent recognition of the oversight role exercised by bishops of the C of E, is not quite the same as recognising this oversight as being episcopal in the specific technical meaning of the term.

Many in the Church of England do not regard Bishop North's episcopacy as valid in the sense I think he does, as being tied up with notions of apostolic succession absolutely essential to the nature of the church. The Supreme Governor, as a member of the Church of Scotland, presumably rejects the idea that bishops and episcopal ordination are essential to valid ministry.

Bishops are state appointees and for a British citizen to criticise or oppose a state appointment is hardly an act of rebellion.

Posted by T Pott at Friday, 3 March 2017 at 2:34pm GMT

Re: Bernard Randall, "...highlighting the reductionism of modern medicine, if taking an empirical starting point." This is the central issue in our disagreement. Modern medicine uses the empirical method; but that does not make it "reductionist"; it is simply at risk of being so.
The doctor who asks, "What is the work up for the heart in bed three?" is guilty of reductionism and depersonalization. So too is the evangelical pastor who blurts out, 'It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." So too, I would suggest is the male cleric who cites a scripture based theology as evidence that women lack the right stuff to be a priest.


However, the notion that the empirical method only allows atomized findings on a person in terms of biological systems is preposterous.
Person centred care has a long standing pedigree in contemporary medical care. (Consider T. Lidz on The Person, for instance).

"I precisely conflate 'world view' 'story' and myth....That's my whole point." Then you have missed mine. I have been referring specifically to the the mythology of the ancient world taken up into scripture and into the stream of theology. (See Paul Ricoeur, for example, tragic myths, the Adamic myth and so forth). The question of moving from mythic consciousness to theoretical or critical consciousness is one of the major problems in philosophical theology. (See Lonergan, for example, on myth and metaphysics).

A myth and a world view are not equivalent. A world view dominated by mythic consciousness is one thing. A modern world view which may advert to mythology from time to time alongside, for instance, critical theory, is quite another.

I have to start with a contemporary phenomenology of the human person, weigh and analyze the evidence and theories, see what further questions may arise from this starting point. I can't, for example, start with Paul's understanding in the letter to the Romans. As a person living in the 21st century, I have work to do before I am likely to find him meaningful--if at all.


Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 3 March 2017 at 6:31pm GMT

Rod Gillis,

I think we have to agree to disagree on all this. Of course person centred care is an important aspect of modern medicine, but it has to work by considering the stories we tell about what human flourishing looks like i.e. it is not an empirical approach.

I would suggest that a "scripture based theology" is the only show in town, has been for two thousand years of Christianity (see e.g. Gregory of Nazianzus, Thomas Aquinas, any of the Reformers), certainly is for Anglicans (see Hooker), and surely must be for anyone who is aware of the danger of making God in humankind's image. This doesn't mean that we don't wrestle with scripture's meaning btw.

And I'm sorry, but anyone who thinks the Biblical worldview is anything like the Graeco-Roman or Egyptian worldviews in terms of how their myths function hasn't bothered to read past the first half dozen chapters of the Bible (if that much) or spent time engaging with the ancient world.

Ricour's "mythic consciousness" is a myth, and I submit, a not very good one; a "contemporary phenomenology of the human person" is also going to be a myth, and if it thinks that ancient people had no insights into human nature, also not a very good one.

But of course, you're entitled to tell a quite different story from me about human beings and their relationship to God (the same yesterday, today and for ever).

Posted by Bernard Randall at Saturday, 4 March 2017 at 3:41pm GMT

Re: Bernard Randall, we began with your question to me i.e. which is which? At this juncture, with regard to the position I've attempted to map out as best as a comment board permits, I concur that "... we have to agree to disagree on all this."

Gleaning from what you've posted, the basis of my disagreement with your position is that, it fails to make necessary theoretical distinctions in every field. For example, regarding the concept of person centred care (which I've been using as simply illustrative of the larger point), it is not merely empiricist. Tt contains significant components. The empirical method is one component, but a crucial component notwithstanding. It illustrates a conceptual framework that any of us attempting an authentic theological anthropology could learn from.

The remaining points you make ( which tacitly, or perhaps not so tacitly, assume what I may or may not have engaged) labour under the same challenge i.e. a struggle to contend with differentiated consciousness.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 4 March 2017 at 6:39pm GMT

"How free is Bishop Philip to make up his own mind about women priests? How appropriate is it for a diocesan bishop, not a suffragan bishop, to be aligned with a group which denies the priestly orders of women?" - Sue Hammersley -

Very pertinent questions, in a situation where the diocesan bishop does not believe his women clergy are valid priests! How can he live with the conscience of the organisations he is connected with that deny women can be priests?

How can Bishop Philip's conscience adapt to these conflicting circumstances? Should he not at least resign from the relevant organisations that deny the validity of women's ordination?

Furthermore, this is not a matter concerning one bishop's beliefs. It impacts on the whole premise of the Church of England's ordinal - that validates the ordination of women.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 6 March 2017 at 7:20am GMT
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