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?
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 knot.
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 the Church of England. If women like men are made in the image of God then they must be entitled to ordination - and conversely, we should only ordain women if we accept that we are made in the image of God. The same applies to same sex marriage: if both men and women are made in the image of God that in all ways which matter spiritually marriage must be agnostic to the sex of the participants.
The Church of England has tried to duck this issue and consequently is getting itself into more and more of a mess. We desperately need a definitive understanding of the theology of episcopacy, sex and I suggest the effectiveness of ordination if the candidate is in any way impaired.
What is most disappointing, however, is that it falls to bloggers like Andrew Lightbown and academics like Martyn Percy to articulate these issues. It seems to me that our archbishops like to lead when doing so is easy but are frequently silent on the deep theological issues affecting the Church and, what comments we get, tend to be political platitudes rather than confident explanations of theology.
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 to cope with our variety and differences.
I shouldn't want to underestimate the strength of feeling some people have, that women in ministry will be marginalised if a bishop believes (in good faith) that the priesthood should be male-only. As a Church we've agreed to disagree on that point. But the Church also recognises the ordained ministry of women, and so... in this interface between conscientious beliefs... what we need is not domination of one group, and exclusion of another group from episcopacy, but rather the love, the grace, the goodwill, to care for eachother.
If we want a Church that is broad enough to accommodate a whole range of theologies and convictions, it should be open... right to the highest positions... to all members of that Church. With the proviso, in this case, that as the Church as a whole has recognised women priests, their ministry in Sheffield diocese will be recognised as well.
And beyond everything else, we should pray. We should pray, opening our hearts to God's grace, for the well-being of all our women priests, and their sacrifice and service, and for the well-being of Bishop Philip.
May we pray for one another, and learn how to love the difference in each other, and pray for all the people we long to reach, to help, to comfort, to serve.
We need so much grace.
That, in my view, is more important by far than 'who is top dog' in a diocese. No-one said love was going to be easy, or that the agreement to disagree on women's ministry was going to be easy, or free from hurt... but with goodwill, mutual kindness, and genuine empowerment, there is a way of grace through this situation... and we grow strong through the exercise of that grace, and the challenges of uncomfortable love.
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 and 2015 (not that one year is enough to draw a conclusion about the trend), and there has been continued decline over the last 5 years, not stability.
I hope that Philip is being well supplied with tlc. What an ordeal.
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.
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 contradicts but entirely fails to engage with the 1662 Ordinal-- which all clergy acknowledge in our Declaration of Assent and which says,
"It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons."
If there were no bishops, priests, and deacons in New Testament times, obviously no priests' orders would be 'valid', male or female. I hope the Commission's report was badly worded and did not mean somehow to cast doubt on an important principle of ecclesiology in the C of E. It seems to me beyond question that C of E doctrine remains that which I quote above from the ordinal.
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 diocesan bishop because of the impact on traditional parishes and clergy. It is very uncertain whether the church would avoid fracture if a woman bishop became a diocesan.
The limit on mutual flourishing / unity in diversity is apparent: no individual who cannot be a focus of unity for both liberals and traditionalists (and the various flavours of those overly simplistic terms) should be a diocesan bishop. At that point, people have authority over clergy with very different views and that seems to be the red line. All wings of the church need to digest that and decide whether they can live with it. If they can't, the church will fracture.
But make no mistake: if Bishop North cannot become a diocesan then no woman can either and, were that imbalance attempted, I think many traditionalists would walk out. There is a clear glass ceiling beyond which women, LGBTI, non-ordainers etc cannot proceed without risking the house of cards which is mutual flourishing. I am not saying that is right or desirable, but what is sauce for the goose must be sauce for the gander: if women cannot accept Philip North as a diocesan bishop (and I can see why they cannot), many of the same arguments would apply to any woman taking general responsibility for a diocese. How could a woman support a candidate for ordination who did not believe himself to be in full communion with her?
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.
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.
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 bishop to get on with his ministry ministering with love to all the people in his new diocese in Yorkshire?
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, by the decision of the Church of England as a whole.
What remains, is the need for grace and love and decency, and sincere desire for one another's flourishing in whatever way they each see fit to carry out their service.
I can see no reason why Unity in Diversity cannot be embraced... whether over female priests or gay marriage blessing... unless individuals are so recalcitrant that they insist their view should dominate another's.
In which case, I fear those people (on whatever side of divides) fall at the hurdle, and have decisions to take. There is a way of grace, that leads to a diverse church with space for diverse consciences and expressions of sincere faith.
In writing to 50 bishops (20 more this weekend) it is clear that some are now recognising that Unity in Diversity... the grace to agree to disagree but still love and care for one another... is perhaps the only way the Church can go.
I have little doubt that Bishop Philip (whatever his conscientious views - that I respect but don't share) sincerely wants to love and care for everyone engaged in service of Christ in the diocese of Sheffield.
We are, in a way, facing a challenge to 'grow up' as a Church... to stop trying to dominate and crush one another... to acknowledge uncomfortable love at times... but to rise to a challenge of grace... instead of 'I am right'... the challenge to find the grace to love one another, and serve one another, and seek one another's flourishing, even when we hold diverse views.
Perhaps, through its lengthening history, the Church of England has been made distinctive through its accommodation of differing traditions. Perhaps God is trying to teach us something?
"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.
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 bishops they want.
Are we becoming, in effect, a franchise of quasi-independent congregational churches?
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 David, Thank you for your fine words. My sentiments exactly.
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?".
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 it is not for individuals or pressure groups to declare themselves to be in or out of communion either with other individuals or groups or with whole churches. People are ‘in communion’ in this sense because of their membership of a church that is ‘in communion’. The only way for individuals to change the relationships of communion that they are in is to leave the church to which they belong.’
+Philip has three options, either he’s in communion with another Church, or he’s not in communion with any Church, or he’s in communion with the Church of England. So far as I know, he believes himself to be a Bishop of the Church of England. He could hardly become Bishop of Sheffield if he says he’s not. So, he's in communion with everybody in the Church of England.
The comforting thing about this is that no one need have any doubts about receiving +Philip’s episcopal ministry – he’s just an ordinary bishop of the Church of England who’s good at mission and evangelism and lousy at ecclesiology. His refusal to ordain female priests serves no ecclesial purpose, all it does is make the rest of his ministry more difficult to receive, which many of us think is a very great pity.
"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 was that Bishop Philip could just withdraw from the Society but where does that leave the accommodation for traditionalists if, in order to accept advancement, they are forced to withdraw from the society for traditionalists?
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.
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 apostolic ministry, visible communion is diminished. But it is not non-existent: it is torn, not torn apart. Christians who are separated with regard to the Eucharist, apostolic succession and ordained ministry nonetheless share a high degree of communion by virtue of their common baptism and profession of the apostolic faith. This helps us to understand the sense in which we are in communion with those who ordain women as bishops and priests, the women so ordained, and those whom they will ordain – despite our differences of conviction."
It would seem that one's state of communion depends upon one's individual status or belief, as much as on one's church membership.
Yes all members of the diocese of Sheffield are in communion with their Bishop, but women priests would be in a state of "diminished communion . . . . torn but not torn apart" because of their individual gender. And is that state of diminished communion acceptable or sufficient?
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 maintains that it is part of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? The other members of that Church have explicitly stated that the decision to ordain women to the priesthood deepens division and puts further barriers in the way of reunion.
I just find it a little odd that concern for catholic order is secondary when it comes to the fundamental issue going back to 1992 (or even 1987), but suddenly central to the argument against traditionalist bishops. It's rather perverse to attack traditionalists for not upholding the catholic order in a church that rejected the notion of catholic order all those years ago. In what sense are women priests part of the catholic order?
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).
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.
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.
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?
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 of course, it's not as if ordained women are the only massive bars on ending centuries of schism: original sin and transubstantiation are hardly minor matters.
But that said, it's likely that someone opposed to women priests not only holds their ordination to be invalid, but probably also holds Roman Catholic views on the nature of communion and bapstism. So when women priests give communion - communion he will not himself accept - what does he think is happening? Because it hardly seems a massive leap to think "he sees people who aren't priests performing offices that have no validity" and in the Catholic world, those offices are not efficacious for salvation (of course, the requirements for salvation are another massive stumbling block, but bear with me).
So if Philip North doesn't regard a service conducted by a woman as effective for his salvation, will he stand idly by while false priests perform empty rituals to the detriment of the salvation of the people of Sheffield? And if he will, what does this mean? That he holds his soul as more valuable? That the offices women perform are sometimes valid (perhaps for other people)? What?
I'm seeing Martyn Percy on Saturday. Perhaps I'll ask him.
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. What's God's call?)
So doesn't focus of unity mean embodying disunity as well as unity, and being a sign of the human tension of dwelling with both at once in this fallen but redeemed world?
What I'd look for, then, in a woman appointed to lead a diocese which has members who do not believe a woman can be fit for this office, is the capacity to embody and lead the diocese through that disunity, not in spite of it, not pretending it isn't there, not just putting up with it.
The question remains, what about the reverse situation, which is what we're seeing here.
What did Jesus do?
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.
"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, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God."
For Anglicans, catholic order is defined by Anglicanism not by Rome. The ordination of women was not, therefore, a departure from catholic order but was simply highlighting how far the Catholic Church needs to progress before it can be considered to have restored itself to catholic order.
It is, however, clear that some Anglicans see catholic order differently and do see it being set in Rome. Bishop Philip North would appear to be one who follows a different version of catholic order. The term "catholic order" is used freely in the discussion above, but if you look carefully there are at least two distinct meanings of the term so some of the apparent contradictions aren't contradictions at all but just reflect different understandings of what catholic order is.
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 / RC churches, to decide who could be admitted to its orders.
So arguments for or against anything on the basis of appeal to 'catholic order' can only hold very limited weight in our church.
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 whole new meaning to the phrase "card carrying Catholic"!
+Philip needs our prayers as he is away on retreat.
"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 personally required to accept ministry FROM a woman.
The problem is that nobody thought through what that means in relation to traditionalist diocesan bishops. In particular, is sharing responsibility for cure of souls a case of accepting the ministry OF women or FROM women - or a bit of both? None of the dramatis personae seem sure. If people can agree it is OF then Bishop Philip can have a clear conscience and the women of Sheffield should accept him. If some or all of those involved think FROM is engaged, there is a genuine problem.
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.
By the way @Interested Observer, it's all very well you asking Martyn Mercy. What about asking Philip North? There seems to be far too many people on this blog presuming to know what Philip believes or does not believe; and I would bet good money that they are all off-the-mark.
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 have changed and their position is now the position of the Church of England on ecclesial communion, but that’s not the case. The Church of England still believes that all its members are in full ecclesial communion with one another. As an example, if +Philip were to decide tomorrow to receive the sacraments at a Eucharist celebrated by a female priest or share in the consecration of a female bishop, there would be no reason at all for him not to do so.
It always feels a little churlish to be pointing this out. If SSWSH has come up with a way of thinking and talking about ecclesial communion that enables traditional catholics to remain within the Church of England with a good conscience, which is the outcome all of us wanted, then why say anything that might call that into question?
The problem is that SSWSH’s ideas, if followed to their logical conclusion, also create doubts about the validity of the ministry others are receiving, and from time to time that comes to the surface, as it has done over the question of +Philip’s appointment to the See of Sheffield. So it is important to be clear that what SSWSH says about this is not what the Church of England says. As a corollary to that, if I thought for one moment that +Philip were not in full communion with the Church of England I also would be saying that he should not become the next Bishop of Sheffield.
The Canons of the Church of England state that if any uncertainty arises over who is in communion with whom then it is for the Archbishops to give a direction. I’m sure they are very much hoping not to be probed on this but if any clarification is necessary, they are the ones to go to.
There is a longish piece on Radio Sheffield, about 1 hour 10 mins in, here:
Long interview with Ali Dorey about why many in the diocese are concerned and a shorter piece with Eleanor Robertshaw taking a different view.
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?
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 North, discussing the rights and wrong of his selection for Sheffield. It is a great pity that a similar effort has not gone into analysing and discussing the theology, statements and actions of members of SSWSH.
Thomas Sharp's blog would be a good place to start.
It is a pity that this blog did not receive much attention when first posted on TA.
"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.
There's some exciting writing and ideas on Thomas Sharp's blog. I have some study ahead!
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 key steps in the process the right questions are asked. Why is this candidate emerging as the preferred finalist candidate? Are the downsides, however great, so massively outweighed by the upsides that they can be discounted in full? If they can’t be, then what plans exist to demonstrate that the appointment can still be justified and the fallout be endured by all concerned, not least the candidate? The fallout in this case is considerable and may not be over. Questions of whether Fr. North might withdraw his nomination remain. The Percy argument is that by severing his connection with SWSH he will essentially have removed the ‘conflict’ or ‘taint’, at least in part. I am not qualified to comment on that, but I can see every advantage in it, at least symbolically. The better solution is of course to take a leaf out of the Bishop of Horsham’s book, but that seems unlikely. The fact is that at many stages of the process the problem could have been mitigated or removed altogether. The vacancy-in-see committee could have made it a requirement that their new bishop not be a non-ordainer. They did not. London stipulated that they wanted someone who would ordain women, in both 1991 and 1995, and got ++Hope and +Chartres, but that was then and this is now. No CNC would today countermand such a condition. The CNC itself could have decided that this was a deal breaker, but did not. Fr. North himself could have ruled himself out, despite being invited for interview. He has only been Bishop of Burnley since 2015. When I was a central member of the CNC we used to regard five years as being the normal period of service as a suffragan, barring exceptional circumstances, of which there have of course been some recently. But in this case what made his nomination the overwhelming favourite? We will never know, as confidentiality of deliberation is a cardinal principle, but (without taking away his evident gifts) it cannot say much for the other candidates. Furthermore, the CofE is stuffed with clergy talent. So something happened to make the CNC believe that God was calling Fr. North to the diocesan see. In the final analysis his nomination is purely a matter for him and the diocese and I hope and pray that the way forward is clarified one way or another. As to the lessons to be learned, the CNC would do well to apply the ‘press announcement’ test in the future and all vacancy-in-see committees would be very well advised to state, out of common sense, that all future diocesans should be prepared to ordain women as priests. London please take note. If they don’t, then future CNCs need to reflect deeply on all this. Of course there will be new CNC central members elected in the summer.
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.
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 in making this inspired appointment. If Anthony Archer's five year rule applied to appointing Archbishops from the pool of diocesan bishops then we would not have had ++ Carey, which would have been a great blessing nor indeed ++ Welby about whom the jury is still out.
I am so pleased that Bishop Philip is wisely on retreat at the present time and hopefully blissfully unaware of the maelstrom which is raging over Sheffieldgate in the unseemly and unpleasant form of a tidal wave of criticism! Those critical of this inspirational appointment are quick to point out what a good bloke Philip North is with considerable gifts and many talents and then pour much opprobrium upon his head. This un-Christian Percy-cution has gone on long enough and simply has to stop in order to allow the next Bishop of Sheffield to get on with his ministry to the people of God (and others not yet claiming to belong in that fold) in the diocese of Sheffield.
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 diversity. We didn't hear any howls of injustice from traditionalist clergy in the Stockport Episcopal Area when Libby Lane's appointment was announced; nor am I aware that campaigns were launched to derail Rachel Treweek and Christine Hardman's appointments.
I simply do not get why there is so much outrage. When the legislation was passed, the Archbishops sat in Parliament explaining to parliamentarians exactly what the consequences would be. Did we not believe them? Or did we just assume that they would not keep their promises?
We cannot have it both ways. Philip North's position is not where I am coming from. But he has been legitimately appointed Bishop of Sheffield under the terms of the legislation our representatives in Synod voted for. Let's not forget, either, that if this legislation had not been introduced when it was, we would still be waiting for women bishops. When the November 2012 proposals failed, the normal procedure would have been to wait until a new Synod was elected.
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 so correctly points out Philip North "has been legitimately appointed Bishop of Sheffield under the terms of the legislation our representatives in Synod voted for."
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 few years ago that asked whether the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament had done the right thing allocating a huge sum of money to the Ordinariate. Several hundred apparently voted in favour, a number that vastly exceeded any total cast in any other question over the preceding years (max 250). The case led to the CT introducing a subscriber log-in which blocked multiple-voting.
For interest, here the link to the Society’s declaration of priests: http://www.sswsh.com/jscripts/tiny_mce/plugins/imagemanager/files/PriestsOfTheSocietyDeclaration2015.pdf. There is a separate one for ordinands (usually sponsored by a sister organisation), “distinctive” deacons, and transitional deacons. Will they introduce one for bishops? However much they call the “theology of taint” a smear, the 4th point of the declaration spells the opposite.
As a point of interest: even 30 years ago in RC heartland RC priests shared the altar with non-RC priest quite happily at a Eucharistic celebration. It did require a special dispensation from the Vatican, but even Rome never found it necessary to re-consecrate the altar post VII. So much for catholic order.
The way a non-ordainer gets around the (Chrism) mass “problem” is by being the sole celebrant. Does he con-celebrate with men of the Society? Perhaps someone on here is brave enough to give that answer. By contrast, at a RC Chrism Mass you will find all priests of a Diocese con-celebrating even though they do not all fit behind the altar.
As someone mentioned elsewhere, +North did a good job in Walsingham. He would make an excellent PEV, and by all accounts is a decent suffragan, and he is actually already flourishing - a fact many seem to miss. As for Diocesan: I struggle to see why he would want to be one, representing, as he currently does, a sectarian group.
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 relevant--critical--questions that Arun Arora brushed aside by recasting Percy's questions as an attack on "mutual flourishing." It seems to me that the focus should not be on "whether" but on "how."
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, as in this case, is another matter.
Why is there so much outrage? I can tell you in one word: identity cards.
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.
I like Simon Kershaw’s chrism masses comment! I agree. Good to stock up on oils, though, which is why I sometimes go. When I was an ADDO in Derby diocese (about 2009) I went to an Ebbsfleet Andrew Burnham chrism mass as a matter of policy and because I have sympathy with the so-called traditionalist position (it’s not they who changed, but the church around them). We priests were sat in the chancel, and flapped our arms around at moments in the liturgy. I suppose that counts as concelebration, though demented hens come to my mind. I see no justification for chrism masses other than to have a gossip, and absolutely none at all in Anglican theology for concelebration.
"We didn't hear any howls of injustice from traditionalist clergy in the Stockport Episcopal Area"
Chester diocese does not use the Episcopal Area system. But, even in the case of female diocesans, traditionalists did not howl because they had got their howling in first and arrangements are already in place for them to use alternative bishops more to their liking. In the case of the lady vicars of South Yorkshire no alternative is available. They cannot demand a bishop more to their liking.
Another difference is Society priests do not recognise the bishops, for the lady vicars of Yorkshire it would be the bishop who does not recognise them. It is not the same.
'Why is there so much outrage? I can tell you in one word: identity cards.'
Actually, that's two words - but I totally agree. The idea of a Society in which you carry around a card that proves you have not been 'tainted' by a woman, or a man ordained by a woman, is deeply abhorrent to most of us. That Philip North should be considering whether or not to remain a member of this 'Society', given that he's about to be appointed a diocesan bishop, would seem a no-brainer to 99% of the rest of the population - but we are talking of the Church of England. If he is appointed, without having to leave "The Society,' (ridiculous name, by the way, and more than slightly sinister) I suggest the female clergy of the Diocese of Sheffield should immediately apply for Alternative Episcopal Oversight.
Steve Morgan -
Why are these cards so objectionable? Aren't they the logical outcome of traditionalists being given an "honoured" place in the Church of England? If the CofE has said their views are legitimate and "within the spectrum of Anglicanism" then one cannot object to what is possibly the only way they can actually practice that conviction- that they only receive sacraments from priests of an unbroken male succession.
Perhaps the real question this has thrown up is whether or not the Church of England was kidding itself when it thought it ever could live with a traditionalist faction. It seems that it can't in my view. The Church seems to be in the middle of a cultural war between those who see it as an agent of sociological justice and those who see it as the guardian of certain values that can't change.
Unstoppable force meets immovable object.
The Church of England already has identity cards for clergy. They're called letters of orders. Overseas (read colonial) clergy still have to produce them to get vetted, and for decades the Church of England rejected these "identity cards" if they belonged to a woman, were signed by a woman, or signed by a man ordained by a woman.
I've been staggered by much that I am reading on this thread, but no more so that @Charles Read's 'we didn't know what we were voting for' plea. I can imagine this being said in those deprived areas of the country that voted strongly for Brexit when we eventually leave and the financial implications hit their pockets.
The legislation was absolutely clear, and so were the promises enshrined in it. The Archbishops - and the CNC - have, rightly, stuck to their guns. God knows, there is enough mistrust in the Church of England at the moment, without the senior hierarchy promising one thing and then reneging on it (like they have done in Wales, I gather).
I think the nub of the issue is this: turkeys voted for Christmas in 2014. I can only assume this is because they were desperate for gender-equal ordination at any price; or, there was a moment of revelation and they realised that their previous stance had been mean and profoundly un-Anglican. Now that 'Advent' is almost over, and the parousia long-promised in the legislation is being fulfilled, there is consternation that something (and someone) they hadn't expected is becoming a reality. I hate to suggest it, amid all the hysteria, but may be the Kingdom of God has got more space than we imagine for those who are not like us. May be, as the Rule of St Benedict teaches us, the person we find least attractive, is often our best teacher.
This debate seems to me charactised by an insistence on rigorous logic: a Diocesam bishop who does not accept the validity of female orders must logically be believing that 33% (or 27% or whatever) of the souls entrusted to him are being deprived of the sacraments he believes are important; that, logically, is an impossible position for a Bishop; and therefore, logically, he should either rescind those views or not accept that role. That logic is unassailable. But isn't our whole faith based on truths that defy logic? Logically, it is not possible to be both God and Human. Logically, it is not possible for one who has died to live again. We embrace those truths without being able to make sense of them logically. Is there not scope for saying, well, if Philip North can make it work, let's just embrace that (and him), even if we don't understand how it works in theory?
This newfound passion for Catholic doctrinal orthodoxy is hilarious. There are countless numbers of clergy and bishops who do not believe in priesthood at all. Philip North's view of female clergy as validly ordained ministers (rather than sacrificing priests) is probably no different to the majority of Anglican bishops around the world.
Don't people realise that there are absolutely no practical consequences to Philip North's views? Last year in Sheffield the Bishop of Sheffield ordained the deacons, the Bishop of Doncaster ordained priests, and the Bishop of Beverley ordained the traditionalists. This will be exactly the same set up under Bishop Philip. No change.
As a bishop he, like his predecessors, will never be in a position of not receiving communion from a woman (or anyone for that matter), because as bishop he will always be the celebrant at the Eucharist. Again, no change.
He has stated that he will continue to license women clergy to parishes, just as his predecessors did. No change.
The only change that will take place is that he's said he will promote women to more senior positions- which has NOT happened under his predecessors. For example, I think we can almost certainly expect the next Archdeacon of Doncaster to be a woman.
It seems to me therefore that this entire argument is purely academic. The only difference will be that unlike now, where about 20% of the diocese is under alternative episcopal oversight (so much for Steven Croft being a focus of unity!) once Philip North is in post he will be bishop to all. In this sense he is MORE a focus of unity than his two predecessors.
Peter S wrote 'The Church of England already has identity cards for clergy. They're called letters of orders. Overseas (read colonial) clergy still have to produce them to get vetted, and for decades the Church of England rejected these "identity cards" if they belonged to a woman, were signed by a woman, or signed by a man ordained by a woman.'
Exactly. Only a few years ago I tried to get authorisation for a female colleague (a UK citizen, if that made any difference) ordained in the USA, to preside at a wedding. It was refused until she could provide cast-iron evidence that her ordaining bishop was a man. So there is no difference of principle here: if some people are slower to catch up, what's the problem?
Today is International Women's Day. I came across this piece about the Bishop of the Diocese of Gloucester and the same.
" 'As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am passionate about every person knowing that they are created in the image of God, that they are loved, valued and precious, that is why I have been speaking out against all the messages in our society that say that our value comes from our external appearance, that is particularly an issue for lots of girls,' Bishop Rachel said."
The Bishop of Sheffield controversy shines a light on the choices of the C of E has made at the level of "company policy" in what in any other context would be called a human resources policy which all managers must be prepared to support if they wish to be managers.
Interesting to place that in juxtaposition to the sentiment expressed above by the good bishop. Raises some interesting questions of credibility not mention questions about the viability of "mission and evangelism" in modern society. The good news, in this instance for women, would seem to be truncated and qualified by the Sheffield controversy.
"As a bishop he, like his predecessors, will never be in a position of not receiving communion from a woman (or anyone for that matter), because as bishop he will always be the celebrant at the Eucharist. Again, no change."
When I lived in Sydney and attended one of the few Anglo-Catholic churches, the bishop on his thankfully rare visits only concelebrated as, being an Evangelical, he would have been completely lost in celebrating using the Sarum rite. I was always amused to see him cross himself, something he would never do elsewhere in the diocese. I was never there when the Archbishop visited as I could not bear to be in the same room as him. Even when the bishop visited, I exited by another door rather than shake his hand. I do not care how wonderful this Philip North might be, his views are beneath my contempt. I told one elderly lady of his views who is a stalwart of our cathedral (Dunedin, NZ) where the first woman diocesan was consecrated that there was a bishop who would not receive communion from a woman priest and she looked amazed. I would not tell my mainly non-Christian friends as it would confirm their opinion that the church is a backward organisation long past it's use by date. A view I am increasingly coming to share. I worked in Education and a person with such views would never get promotion these days and an organisation that continued to openly discriminate against women would be heavily fined. It is time the church was put under the law of the land. The Commission in Australia is revealing the pure evil of child abuse that occurred, not just in the Catholic church but also the Anglican and even the sainted Salvation Army. They thought themselves above the law, hiding perpetrators even if they were personally horrified. Thankfully in Australia and NZ the church holds no established position and increasingly is being put in its place under the law of the land where it belongs.
"It seems to me therefore that this entire argument is purely academic. The only difference will be that unlike now, where about 20% of the diocese is under alternative episcopal oversight (so much for Steven Croft being a focus of unity!) once Philip North is in post he will be bishop to all. In this sense he is MORE a focus of unity than his two predecessors."
I happen to believe that somehow, some way, Philip's appointment ought to be made to work (if he doesn't decline), but that has to be by recognising the very real grievances and dealing with them thoroughly, not downplaying them.
Have you ever sat down and had a truly deep conversation with someone who has changed his/her gender presentation? I had a friend, let's call her Maud, (who sadly passed a few years ago) who was sad beyond belief that her wife could not accept her as the woman she truly was. In fact, her family buried her as a man without any reference to the last few years she lived as a woman. Practically it would have made no difference whether her family accepted her as a woman, but to Maud it was everything.
So the cisgendered presbyters of Sheffield and their (largely) cisgendered allies struggle to articulate why it matters: but it does.
It is why maximum flexibility or pastoral accommodation is not the answer for same sex marriage. Issues of identity are not about practicalities. They are all about recognition of identity.
And unless a bishop is willing to accept communion from a woman priest that IS a very serious issue regardless of the practicality.
In reply to Alan: please respond to what I said not what you think I said! The legislation was clear in its outline but left many details unsettled. The Synod debates indicated concerns held by many people and we were told in effect that the bishops et al should be trusted to sort out the details.
Two issues which were raised were:
1. If we create a headship bishop, that person should not base their male headship beliefs on subordinationism as this is outwith orthodox trinitarian theology. What we got is a bishop who does just that and this creates immense doctrinal issues.
2. Bishops opposed to / unable to accept the ministry of ordained women should be consecrated in separatist services but should be consecrated like any other bishop. (Though we acknowledge that without women bishops laying on hands.) What we got was Philip North consecrated by a small (select?) group of bishops with all others being told not to lay on hands. (NB Rod Thomas was not consecrated like this.)
This is what I meant by us not voting for things that have happened since 2014 which are being justified by reference to the 2014 legislation.
Peter S said: "So doesn't focus of unity mean embodying disunity as well as unity, and being a sign of the human tension of dwelling with both at once in this fallen but redeemed world?"
This is the most intriguing statement I've heard. This embodiment of disunity would be stronger if CoE wasn't so wretched on LGBTQI inclusion. It would have a greater feeling of true inclusion holding the diversity of God's Creation. Similarly, in issues of social justice, if CoE put that front and center and didn't worry so much about being a gatekeeper for God, then the differing views on WO and SSM would not be as powerful.
Until that happy day... It's tough on the self esteem of girls as well as the women clergy.
Doh! My point 2 above has a vital word missing and should read:
2. Bishops opposed to / unable to accept the ministry of ordained women should not be consecrated in separatist services but should be consecrated like any other bishop.
Charles Read wrote:
What we got was Philip North consecrated by a small (select?) group of bishops with all others being told not to lay on hands. (NB Rod Thomas was not consecrated like this.)
Philip North was consecrated in an unusual service, at which the Archbishop of York delegated presidency to the Bishop of Chichester, and the only other bishops who laid hands on Philip were the Bishop of Beverley and the Bishop of Pontefract (as he then was, now Wakefield). Plenty of other bishops attended but took no active part. Not even the Southern Province PEVs were allowed to lay on hands. One of them told me, as we left the building at the end of the service, how cross he was about this.
Hard to keep track, I know, but I think the WATCH article "Looking for balance" of 5 March is missing from this list: http://womenandthechurch.org/news/looking-for-balance/
This paragraph seems especially pertinent:
"The House of Bishops’ Declaration does have a clause that allows a diocese to state that they would like a bishop who does or does not ordain women. One of the questions we and others have asked of the Prime Minister, and the Independent Reviewer, is whether this was clearly explained to the diocese of Sheffield when the statement of needs was drawn up. Many in Sheffield did not know that addressing this question should have been part of the process. So far we have had no replies."
Perhaps my comment above, that the diocese couldn't read their own attendance statistics, was not off-topic after all.
Thanks, Mark, I had indeed failed to add the WATCH article, omission now remedied. It's hard to keep up...
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