Comments: Bishop Philip North declines the See of Sheffield

I'm so sad and angry about this...

Those of us who debated and voted on the final legislation for the admission of women to the episcopate knew we were making a compromise that wouldn't always be comfortable. For me, the red line was ring fencing a place in the College of Bishops for a man holding the, frankly ludicrous, theology of male headship. I was not particularly troubled by the thought of the continued consecration of traditional Catholics.

I know Philip North a little - a very little - and he gave one of the best sermons I have ever heard on my first visit to Walsingham. The text spoke of the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well and Philip spoke movingly about the grace shown to her in a way that was music to my feminist ears.

Many people have spoken out about Philip's gifts and how good it is to work with him, including women clergy from Blackburn Diocese. I have no doubt that the CNC came to a prayerfully considered conclusion that God is calling him to lead the Diocese of Sheffield.

The legislation that Synod debated and approved was intended to validate and facilitate the active vocations of ALL people called to be bishops. I am a little ashamed of some of those I stood alongside during that fight for equality that they have been instrumental in frustrating Philip North's vocation now.

Badly done, my friends, badly done...

Posted by Amanda Fairclough at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 6:11pm GMT

There'll be no Bishop Martyn Percy in future either; but this chap could never 'unify' in Sheffield because he denied the given basis of a large chunk of the ministry. So it makes a mockery above suffragan level of this supposed 'flourishing' for those who cannot accept women priests and bishops. They lost those battles and should accept the consequences and end the delusion of their own apparent equality.

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 6:32pm GMT

Regret and sadness at Bishop Philip's decision are my emotions, too. Though we must all respect +Philip's decision, he has, effectively, been hounded out of South Yorkshire by an unChristian campaign. It is sad too, that a consequence of what has happened, we shall be deprived, at least for the time being, of +Philip's prophetic voice in General Synod.

Posted by David Lamming at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 6:57pm GMT

This is a desperate day for many of us who belong to the Diocese of Sheffield. Such a shock and yet I feared it coming. The campaign spearheaded by a few individuals has led to vicious and personal attacks against a good man who could have given so much to the church in South Yorkshire. I rejoice for the church in Blackburn as they retain a bishop of his quality. It is hard today to feel, as Catholic Anglicans,that we are welcome or belong in the Church of England.There are probably 30-40 parishes in our diocese, Anglo-catholic and conservative evangelical alike, that will have real concerns for the future. How can any replacement candidate be parachuted in and become a unifying force in the diocese?As a catholic anglican who has moved,albeit slowly,to an affirmation of women priests, I feel betrayed and believe that the mutual flourishing that I would have wished to see will not be extended to churches of my integrity.Honestly I could weep.

Posted by Michael at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 7:00pm GMT


The Church should be ashamed. So much for 'see how these Christians love one another'.

Stupid, tiny-minded narrowness of vision.

The Church has already recognised women priests and bishops. That was not under attack.

Philip North could not have 'unrecognised' anyone if he had been people's bishop. He was simply appointed for integrity and pastoral qualities, which someone can have, even if they hold different views to our own.

I am very disappointed in us all as a Church. All that was needed was grace and kindness.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 7:11pm GMT

This is the second time a campaign against Bishop North has been successful. He would have made a fine Bishop of Whitby had bigoted voices not been raised against him. Once again the CofE has shot itself in the foot and looks nasty and narrow-minded. The Church claims to respect gay people - but won't marry them. It respects bishops who can't accept women clergy - but makes it difficult to appoint them What a farce.

Posted by FrDavidH at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 7:36pm GMT

It feels like some evil hybrid creature born of the opponents of Jeffrey John in 2002 and a kind of reverse form of the 1993 Act of Synod has come to preside over mutual decay in the Church of England.

When we fought passionately in favour of the ordination of women we did so on gospel principles, and on the basis that the truth shall set us free. We also did so recognising that at our best those who were for and those who were against were all on Jesus' side, and that our real opponents were ignorance, poor argument, bad theology, and institutional drag. And we recognised that there must be a place in the church for those who reflect what the church has taught for much of its history, just as some of the earliest advocates for the ordination of women were forced to live as a minority in a church and world that ridiculed them.

There is an narrow-minded spirit that must be cast out of the church. Prayers for bishop Philip, the people of Sheffield who will now be without a leader for some time, for the CNC, and for the election for a new CNC.

A few weeks of sackcloth and ashes are in order.

Posted by Peter S at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 7:58pm GMT

Susannah, for once, you and I are in absolute agreement. 'Shameful' is exactly the right word.

Bishop Philip, you and I are on opposite sides of the issue of the ordination of women, but my thoughts and prayers are with you tonight.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 8:26pm GMT

Very sad news.

Posted by Pam at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 8:27pm GMT

Perhaps this could be London's gain.

Posted by T Pott at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 8:28pm GMT

As a Catholic Anglican of Philip North's persuasion, I was really heartened by the warm comments uttered by several women bishops in support of Bishop Philip in a genuine effort to live out mutual flourishing. And yet the genuine willingness of the vast majority of the Church of England to promote one of its most gifted younger pastors has been wrecked by the negative intolerance of a deeply ungenerous minority. As Susannah says, 'All that was needed was grace and kindness' but, when put to the test, there wasn't quite enough of either. What a terrible day for Anglican comprehensiveness.

Posted by Nigel Aston at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 8:34pm GMT

If I might disagree...

Philip North is a senior member of an organisation which either refuses to accept the legitimacy of female bishops and holds to a theology of taint, or is so unclear and obfuscatory in its statements that this position cannot be excluded.

It is nonsensical, "mutual flourishing" not withstanding, to have senior members of a church refusing to accept the legitimacy of other senior members (which North definitely does) and even more nonsensical to have senior members of a church refusing to accept the legitimacy of other senior members solely on the basis of who appointed them (which North may do, it's impossible to tell). If a subsequent Archbishop of Canterbury or York were to be a woman, or to be a "tainted" man, what would North do? Refuse to accept his or her legitimacy. There's a word for that, and the word is "schism", and no amount of "mutual flouishing" can fix that.

More immediately, it is not remotely clear, for all the shouting from the floor, that North accepts the legitimacy of female priests of any degree and, even if he does, it is clear that he believes that there should be a glass ceiling for them. The statement I have seen made that there should be no glass ceiling for "traditionalists" is hypocrisy of the first water: North wants to impose a glass ceiling on women, so if the effect of that is a glass ceiling on his career, then sauce for the gander is very literally sauce for the goose. It's hard to imagine a position that smacks any more of male entitlement: he wants a free hit on women without any risk to his own career.

At each point, it has been entirely open to him, and his claque, to make his position clear. Rather than hiding behind code - designed, rather like Justin Welby on homosexuality, to permit everyone to take away their own desired meaning - he could have explained, in words of as few syllables as possible, where he stood and what the practical effect of that position was. Instead, rather than focusing on how he would act in office and support women in his diocese, he was put forward on the basis of "one for them, one for us".

If he now feels bullied and hard done by from being excluded from a job he wants to do, then it might give him a moment's empathy towards the women he wants to exclude from the very same job.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 8:41pm GMT

What is the process by which the Archbishop of York now has the appointment in his gift?

Posted by peter kettle at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 9:14pm GMT

So intolerant, self-righteous and mendacious liberals have their way. There can be little doubt that the C of E is no more than a Protestant sect. Elsewhere on TA I recently hoped that
Philip was being supplied with tlc. His acknowledgment that the attacks on him have been hard to bear makes for shameful reading. Jesus wept.

Posted by Fr William at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 9:16pm GMT

This is shameful on the church. We've broken our promises. It's also now going to be an impossible job for whoever is nominated to the see: but who can that be? Unless it's another who takes +Philip's position (with which I profoundly and deeply disagree) then we establish a principle that a personal vendetta is an acceptable way to veto future appointments. The church will be much poorer for this.

Posted by Stuart at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 9:24pm GMT

"There is clearly much to be done on what it means to disagree well and to live with theological difference in the Church of England."

Yes. That work needs to happen to make the "unity in diversity" work. It's all more comprehensive and LGBTQI inclusion isn't separate.

There has to be an understanding that exclusive views (from the leadership) are extremely painful to those excluded. It can have nasty effects on girls and LGBT teens in particular. And somehow there has to be a way for female clergy to feel supported by their boss. So those pains have to be acknowledged and successfully addressed, pastorally, theologically, and in the body politic. It is not good enough to work in the abstract with meaningless words of "mutual flourishing." That doesn't help suicidal teens (in the case of LGBT exclusion) or make girls feel empowered.

For those who think that this about tolerating "different views" you are NOT getting it. It is about the lived experiences of people, not tolerating views.

I am so sorry that +Philip endured personal attacks, that is uncalled for. It certainly is easy enough to engage passionately in the positions without attacking the person.

I find his note to be very gracious and honest. I have no doubt that God is calling Bishop +Philip to serve in other ways. Maybe there will be a way for ordained ministers of all stripes and beliefs to serve for the benefit of all. But it is NOT going to come out of political agreements, it will come when we all deal with one another as real people, not "views."

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 9:26pm GMT

Goodbye asking for diversity....... another own goal

Posted by S Cooper at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 9:37pm GMT

The Crown Nominations Commission, in filling a vacant See, must settle on two names. Before Gordon Brown's reform, these two names were sent to the Prime Minister who was able to select either of them (or ask for two more) and advise the Crown to nominate one of them. Post Gordon Brown, the CNC still selects two names, but only one of them (chosen by the CNC) is sent to the PM who advises the Crown to nominate this person. The second name is held in reserve in case the first choices declines the offer or fails the medical. So there is already a second name sitting in the Wash House, and the Archbishop can approach this person to see if they are prepared to accept the offer. If so, then this name goes to the PM who advises the Crown.

And -- expressing an opinion -- it seems to me that this person might be well-advised to decline the offer. Let the CNC meet again and come up with a name, so that the nominee is less likely to be seen as second choice.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 10:15pm GMT

Echoing the comments of previous contributors, this is a sad day for the Church of England. Where is "mutual flourishing" now? Bishop Philip is a gifted pastor and evangelist, but he wasn't even given a chance by his detractors in Sheffield and beyond. Those individuals should now be feeling ashamed of themselves.

Posted by Benedict at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 10:17pm GMT

A shameful episode, it isn't Philip North who should be taking time out to reflect on what his Christian calling means. This is mob rule, not the church.

Posted by David Keen at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 10:30pm GMT

I can't help thinking that the seriously waged online and offline campaign that forced Jeffrey John to 'change his mind' some years ago has enabled this kind of thing to happen. That was a pivotal moment for the Church of England from which we have never quite recovered. Hindsight is always a wonderful thing, but had that ordination gone ahead so many things would have been different: we wouldn't be in the mess that brought forth the ill judged bishops report that came to General Synod and Philip North would be going to Sheffield.

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 10:38pm GMT

Watching this from Chicago, as an English priest serving in TEC, has been thought-provoking. A former diocese to the south of Chicago (Quincy) was rent asunder by litigation following parishes breaking away to join ACNA. The 'faithful remnant' reunified with the diocese of Chicago. Having always dismissed the theology of flying bishops, etc, I now recognize that it minimized fall-out from the C of E in a way that did not happen here. But OTOH the electoral process here really means it is most unlikely to be the case a diocese ends up with a bishop who is so divisive.

I can't imagine the personal agony that +Philip now finds himself in. I'm disappointed, however, that his statement does not go beyond personal hurt to the theological/ecclesiological questions that were the thrust of Martyn Percy's remarks. But that is probably for another time.

Posted by Dominic Barrington at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 10:42pm GMT

So, the end of an era. Never again will a “Traditional Catholic” be appointed as a diocesan bishop. After the shameful way that Bishop North has been treated, no one in their right mind would accept such an appointment: indeed anyone who did would, by doing so, make themselves wholly unsuited to the post of bishop (“I know most of you hate me, but I’m going to be your bishop anyway Hahahahahaha!”)

But, brothers and sisters, be not afraid.

The task of the church, and its faithful priests, is not high office, position, or influence, but the humble imitation of Christ. Anglo Catholics did this for many years when the though of one of them being bishop at all would be laughable.

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant”

Posted by De Paz at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 11:09pm GMT

As one who agrees with the ordination of women, I am ashamed at how Bishop Philip has been hounded out of this position by a noisy and vociferous minority.

If any good is to come out of this, then as he is apparently respected by many in the diocese of Blackburn, and supportive of the women clergy there, perhaps a woman could be nominated as the next Bishop of Lancaster.

Posted by Stephen King at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 11:10pm GMT

Am I thick, or just missing something obvious? It is said that a male bishop with +Philip's views can't be a focus of unity: well maybe. But how can a female bishop whose orders are not recognised by a proportion of her flock, be such a focus either? This looks to me like the unacceptable face of liberalism.

Posted by David Emmott at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 11:23pm GMT

When did the TA comment section turn so conservative? Feels like one is reading the Daily Mail ranting about "labour/liberals"

Posted by etseq at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 11:38pm GMT

Thank you, Interested Observer, for putting forward the other side of the debate, and for doing so lucidly and, I believe, fair-mindedly.

Those of us who opposed the WO compromise as hopelessly flawed, and who called for better at the time, will be intrigued at how it is working out in practice.

There is a human cost today--but there is a human cost to every form of discrimination. Today we can name a bishop who declined his promotion. I'm sure the women priests in his diocese-that-would-have-been have names as well.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 11:44pm GMT

Cynthia, there'd have to be a catastrophic breakdown of empathy for anyone here to be unaware of how painful and unjust it's been for those who were, for so long, denied ordination on the basis of their sex. I've said before that the CoE hasn't gone near far enough in acknowledging its wrongdoing in delaying for decades after it accepted the principle of equal ordination, and should offer practical atonement, such as financial compensation and accelerated preferment, to women who should've been ordained back in the '70s.

Justice was delayed, and thereby denied.

That grave injustice isn't, however, remedied by driving North from his post. A clear promise was made to traditionalists, also people with lived experiences (or, to avoid the tautology, simply experiences), and it's now been broken. Doing so is likely to prolong injustice and discrimination for LGBT people. You don't heal one injustice with another.

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 11:49pm GMT

This is mob rule, not the church.' As one of the first female priests in the Church of England, I could not agree more.We had an agreement which many of us had discovered could work, provided we listened to each other. There is a continuing debate to be had but never, never,like this.

Posted by Vanessa Baron at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 12:27am GMT

It seems that Philip North is an honorable and decent man. But it also seems to me that he and his supporters have not grappled with (or have even obfuscated) the obvious questions:

If he does not believe women are legitimate priests, how can he allow them to provide Communion to any congregations in his see? Isn't that an inconsistency, knowingly allowing "false" priests to serve?

How can he put women in the diocese forth for ordination?

how can he recognize male priests ordained by women bishops?

It seems that the language of hurt and victimization covers up some legitimate concerns. Forgive my Yankee cynicism, but conservatives are very good at this kind of displacement.

Posted by IT at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 4:49am GMT

This is terribly sad. I am desperately sorry that +P has had to put up with highly personal attacks. That is inexcusable. But the discussion threads I have been following have not been personal at all. Quite the opposite. We were clear than in every other way he would be an exemplary Christian leader. But I feel some of the responses here are just as personal and this is not helpful. This was the first time the Principles had actually been tested. The actual concern was around issues of theology and ecclesiology that underpinned the idea of 'mutual flourishing'. How can a bishop who does not believe women can or should be ordained be their bishop and be a focus of unity and flourishing? In what way can that ever be mutual? I am sure of man of such integrity had a clear theological understanding of how this could work. I am not alone is needing help to get my head and heart around that belief. It would be nice to think that the Bishops who put the Principles together had thought this through too. But we have yet to hear from any of them what that thinking was. It is still needed if the Principles are to work at the level of diocesan leadership.

Posted by David Runcorn at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 6:40am GMT

Can someone please point me to all the personal comments you're deploring here? I have genuinely not seen more than one or two, here on on the Facebook pages I follow.

There have been questions about whether the Five Principles had been applied appropriately, there have been other theological questions, and there have been questions to Bishop North to answer some of those concerns.
There have been people who said "this is what we voted for" and others who said that they didn't think they had.
There were explorations of just what recognising the ordination of women means, theologically and in practice. And of whether women were right to feel discriminated against or whether they were complaining too much.

There were debates of what "mutual flourishing" means, in theory and in practice.

Does that already constitute "hounding"? Is asking questions already "shameful"?

Or have I missed a big personal campaign against Philip North?

I don't doubt that some people really very vicious and played the man rather than the ball. But I am slightly surprised by the tone of comments here.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 8:50am GMT

My prayers too are with Phillip North whose competence is not in doubt. But experience has shown in other Dioceses that it is necessary to put overtly into the Satement of Needs that a Diocese wants a Bishop who will ordain women, it is not possible to think that 'it is obvious'. But at the next election at General Synod for members of the CNC it would be foolish to vote for any candidate who has not made it clear that they accept women as bishops, unconditionally.

Posted by Anne at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 10:12am GMT

Does this debacle at least provide an opportunity for abolishing the Diocese of Sheffield? I have heard that it's justifiability has been questioned before now.

Posted by Barry at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 10:18am GMT

As someone who was perturbed by the proposal of Bishop Philip for Sheffield, not on personal grounds but on theological grounds, I am even more perturbed by most of the comments made in this place. We did not attack Bishop Philip personally:we asked how, given his theological stance he could appoint and work with people whose sacramental status he denied. How could he appoint to administer the sacraments and celebrate the Holy Eucharist people whom he considered ontologically incapable of being priests or bishops? This would mean that he considered a third of his diocese not to be in receipt of valid sacraments. That is equivalent to asking a Roman Catholic bishop to appoint Anglican priests to RC parishes, without, in his eyes, valid ordination. The theological stance of the so-called Society is unsustainable. It is in effect an attempt to have a church within a church.

Posted by gerry reilly at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 10:19am GMT

My experience of the public debate has been much the same as Erika's. There might have been a 'campaign' but only in the sense that Forward in Faith or The Society is a 'campaign'.

I have no doubt Bishop North has received personal abuse and individual attacks - as anyone who has ever spoken in public has. Those who attacked should be ashamed of themselves and I hope they have been reported to the appropriate authorities.

But regardless of how personally supportive he has been of women generally and female priests in particular, I haven't seen anyone explain how a diocesan bishop can either affirm the ministry of priests in his care when he believes they have mistaken their calling, or how he can minister to congregations by allowing them to have potentially invalid sacraments. They are safeguards in place for parishioners who wish to ensure they receive true sacraments, but no such safeguards for female ordinands who wish to receive the sacrament of ordination from their diocesan.

Perhaps this was a fudge we voted for, and perhaps it only ever worked as long as no one looked too closely at it.

But comparisons to Jeffrey John seem entirely misplaced. Have there been threats to withold parish share and calls for Philip North to denounce his own supposedly immoral behaviour, despite the fact he's obeying the rules? Has dog poo been sent to anyone in this case? Has anyone said Philip North's appointment is a sign the church is under satanic attack? Has the 'campaign' against Philip North been waged based on his personal morality, his sexual orientation, or his teachings? All I've seen has been a question (unanswered) about how he reconciles his refusal to ordain women with the duties of a diocesan bishop. Jeffrey John answered his critics about how he maintained church teaching while holding personally divergent views - he just wasn't believed.

Posted by SB at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 10:24am GMT

Erika I don't think people have meant to say hurtful things about an individual, or to bully or "play the man". Nonetheless, this has been a controversy about the appointment of one person to an office.

Christian theology is personal - because it always comes back to a person, Jesus. In Anglican polity, episcopacy is personal - bishops are people. And in this situation, rightly or wrongly, a person's beliefs about a single matter came to be the sole criteria on which that person was judged. That's personal. It comes with the territory in Christian leadership, but it's still hard to bear.

Ecclesiologically I think the Church of England faces two big questions in addition to working out what the General Synod really meant in 2014 when it talked about mutual flourishing.

First, what does it mean to say a bishop is the focus of unity? (As per my comment on an earlier thread, a bit of deconstruction is helpful here - being a focus of unity cannot mean being all things to all people, or playing to the lowest common denominator, or being just plain boring - it has to mean something more, such as embodying disunity and division and wearing that cross.)

Second, when is a bishop really a bishop? Much of the commentary has clearly assumed a major difference between a suffragan and a diocesan bishop because of the layers of authority involved. I would rather we followed the Ordinal and let liturgy be our teacher; a bishop is a bishop or not. Perhaps it is time to return to only appointing bishops to diocesan sees.

Posted by Peter S at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 10:35am GMT

As with comments above, I've not seen any personal attacks against Philip North, only concerns expressed about his leading position in the Society and how he could hold that with honest affirmation and support of all the priests in his diocese in their ordained ministry, regardless of gender. He has been invited many times to explore this tension but has not done so.

I'm also confused with the equivalence being drawn between having a non-ordaining bishop and having a woman bishop, in terms of unity. In the second case, some parishes don't recognise the bishop is a real priest, and so ask for alternative oversight, but the bishop still accepts that the priests of these parishes are real and doing God's work, even if they disagree theologically.

With a non-ordaining Bishop, all priests in the diocese believe the appointee is a real bishop and priest, doing God's work that they were called to despite theological differences. However, here the bishop does not believe all his priests are called to ordained ministry.

It seems to me that there is a power discrepancy here in terms of what unity (and indeed talk of exclusion/inclusion) means in each case. I have no insight on how to resolve the imbalance, but it should be explored honestly.

Posted by Stephen at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 11:21am GMT

"First, what does it mean to say a bishop is the focus of unity?"

The answer to that is in flux, I think, which is part of the difficulty. Historically, especially in the Catholic tradition, respect for the office was sufficient for almost any bishop to be the focus of unity.

The Internet has made the world smaller. The populace knows more about individuals now than at any time since the early Church. We are therefore reverting to the situation in the early Church where the individual themselves, through their actions and beliefs, had to personally command unity.

Twenty years ago, Philip North could have been a focus of unity. Today, he can't because society has changed. No votes in Synod can change that. No pleas from bishops can change that. There is a greater transparency and now, to be a focus of unity, a bishop has to genuinely believe we are united and not see (or at least be seen) to stress differences between black and white, male or female, straight or gay.

It is a change and challenge the Church will struggle to accept.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 11:42am GMT

Hard to see how it could not be personal. This was not a generic discussion of "whether someone holding traditionalist views could become a diocesan bishop". It was a (successful) attempt to persuade a particular person who holds those convictions to either adjust them or to withdraw from a post to which they had been properly nominated.

Perhaps the Church of England is less generous, less willing to live generously with differing (and difficult to reconcile) views than many of us thought. I find that sad, because I think such generosity is one of the most appealing things about Anglicanism.

I disagree with Bishop Philip about the ordination of women. But I had thought our church was wide and open enough to proceed with women's ordination (which I support) while giving generous space for those who had theological reservations about it. And I thought that this was precisely what the 2014 package was designed to achieve - to allow men and women to become bishops while making generous space for those whose theological convictions meant they could not support that development.

Posted by Philip Hobday at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 12:20pm GMT

We will never know how the Sheffield CNC deliberated and I, for one, even when the outcome is controversial, would wish confidentiality of deliberation to be remain sacrosanct. However, we can now make some observations from the outside. There are lots of papabile clergy around, so what was it that made +Burnley the favourite? Did someone of influence on the CNC sponsor his candidacy aggressively? If, as seems clear, the diocesan representatives wanted him, who addressed the crucial question as to how his nomination would go down in the diocese? Members of the vacancy-in-see committee are now trying unconvincingly to say that the consultation in the diocese was thorough. But it could not have been. Fr. North's statement makes it clear that he now realises that his 'leadership would not be acceptable to many.' That is a central question that a CNC needs to ask about every candidate, and there cannot be reliance on the interview to elicit the answer. It requires the whole CNC machinery to function well to address that. Furthermore, Fr. North's episcopal ministry was set against the controversy at Whitby, another example of failure to consult. Surely lessons would have been learned? In addition, to translate a suffragan after only two years is highly unusual, and only usually done in exceptional circumstances. So why the rush for his further promotion? This is all suggestive of a dysfunctional process and lack of measured succession planning. Had the consultations been conducted properly, the diocese would have stipulated that it was seeking someone who would ordain women, hardly revolutionary. It did not do that and has paid the price. It then could not even rely on the CNC to make the judgement for it that a traditionalist bishop would not be acceptable to the diocese. A forensic post-mortem is required. This was about judgement and discernment and the CNC has been found wanting.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 1:05pm GMT

This is a tragedy, not just for the diocese of Sheffield but for the whole Church of England.

I disagree with Bishop Philip on the issue of women priests (and on many others), but if this is what "mutual flourishing" is supposed to look like, I don't want any part of it.

Posted by rjb at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 2:13pm GMT

"But I had thought our church was wide and open enough to proceed with women's ordination (which I support) while giving generous space for those who had theological reservations about it."

It's easy, of course, for a man to throw women under the bus in order to make life easier for other men.

Philip North wants to be a bishop, but does not believe that everyone ordained by the CofE, over whom he would have authority, is legitimate. He believes that any woman minister in his diocese, were he to be a bishop, has mistaken their vocation and should be forbidden from progression. It's easy for a man to say that the refusal to accept the legitimacy of the orders of women in Sheffield is a price worth paying for unity with other men, but yet again we are reduced to quoting MLK, writing about the man who "prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice".

I wonder if the Archbishop of York would accept the idea of white supremacist bishop being given the right to deny the validity of black vicars in order to keep the peace and prevent racists from leaving the church? Would he happily, when he was younger, have served under such a bishop?

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 2:13pm GMT

This is unbelievable. Over the past few days Bishop Philip's personal theological integrity has been questioned over and over again. And now the people who did the questioning are saying that it 'wasn't personal'? I'm sorry, that just doesn't wash with me.

And anyway, I've learned often from this website that the subject of the conversation gets to decide whether or not the attacks are personal. Bishop Philip has said that he found them both personal and hurtful. That's good enough for me.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 3:09pm GMT

"This was about judgement and discernment and the CNC has been found wanting."

Or God has called someone the people of Sheffield have decided they don't want....

Posted by primroseleague at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 3:11pm GMT

So now the five guiding principles are in tatters, and the Episcopal bench is sitting on its hands saying nothing. Not even our Archbishops apparently can rally around in defence of the great mechanism which was supposed to allow us to put the past behind us.
The first occasion on which the principles are tested, they fail. Will it be back to the Drawing Board, or will future generations come to see this as the straw that broke the camel's back? Schism beckons now, especially as we now see the uselessness of Bishops at defending their own principles.
However, I can't, like most people here, blame Fr Philip for doing what he has done, in the face of so much threat. He is a rare example of a pastor who has become a bishop - most pastors, however good they are, would run a mile rather than get involved in the greasy pole of episcopal politics. We have the Bishops we deserve, not pastors, but politicians.

Posted by Richard Brown at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 3:18pm GMT

"A forensic post-mortem is required."

The problem is obvious; the solution is much less clear.

There are 43 dioceses in England. 1/43 = 2.33%

To avoid getting bogged down in precise nuances, let us just define "traditionalist" to mean "opposed to the appointment of women bishops", without worrying about the precise nature of that opposition.

It is likely that, if you polled both the laity and the ordained, nationally, there are substantially more than 2.33% of each who are traditionalist.

So by that logic, if you decide that diocesan bishops should be representative of the range of opinion in the church at large, at least one diocese in England should be in the hands of a traditionalist.

However, within any given diocese, it is unlikely 51% of people are traditionalist, and there will be a significant number of people strongly in favour of women bishops who regard the appointment of a traditionalist bishop as entirely unacceptable.

So which diocese will volunteer to take the traditionalist? For the good of national unity, many argue, _some_ diocese needs to take a traditionalist bishop. But which diocese is so overwhelmingly traditionalist that a traditionalist bishop will not cause dissension on a grand scale? None, that's which.

Where in the country is there sufficient support for _national_ balance they they are willing to have 100% of their diocesan bishop be traditionalist?

Nowhere, that's where.

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 3:40pm GMT

This whole episode is a sorry one, and nothing can excuse comments directed at the person of the nominated bishop; one can only feel sadness at his resulting distress. But the questions originally posed by Martyn Percy were fair and reasonable ones, and it is only right to note that he explicitly did not call on +Philip to withdraw. The various fudges inherent in the 'Five Guiding Principles' are responsible, it seems to me, for the confusion. Forward in Faith's commentary on the Principles explicitly commends the view that the (I thought) clear statement of the first principle, that that those ordained to the priesthood and episcopate are 'true and lawful holders of the office', should be interpreted by distinguishing between 'office' and 'order', and concluding that one can 'assent' to the principle without agreeing its evident and obvious meaning: which feels like rather squirmy equivocation. But if that kind of interpretation is acceptable, how can any clarity - honesty - be expected? Whatever the authority of the Principles, they appear to lack the credibility to last...

Posted by John Caperon at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 3:57pm GMT

With respect, the only thing missing from Anthony Archer's comment was the phrase "in my opinion." Let us by all means have a forensic post-mortem, but let it also include the role of social media, fair and unfair comment, the role of the CNC, the rights of the diocese and definitions of all the above. Let us finally come to a conclusion as to whether we can actually live with difference, because I have my doubts. But I also firmly believe that more prayer and less commenting may also be a good thing, so I will comment no more.


Posted by Graeme Buttery at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 4:28pm GMT

Interested Observer @3.40pm - that does rather start to point in the direction of a third province....but we were told we couldn't have that.

Personally I'm uneasily aware that today may be where the CofE and I begin to part company. I'm not sure I want to go to Rome, but I don't feel particularly wanted by Canterbury I must say.

Posted by primroseleague at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 5:11pm GMT

Bishop North made the correct decision in standing down. He is not the first cleric, nor will he be the last, to discover that one cannot always effectively serve in a particular situation no matter how very proper the mechanics that facilitated the appointment.

The justice issue that has been addressed (at least for the moment) is that a significant number of female priests will not be contending with a situation in which their diocesan apparently does accept women as priests--a very personal matter for many of them I suspect.

If the good bishop is a victim then he is a victim of a policy that in essence is dysfunctional and that was perhaps applied by church bureaucrats with naivety or hubris or both. Voting for a process in theory is one thing. Discovering how it actually works, or not, in practice is quite another. It will be interesting to see what will be learned from this misadventure. To put it in pious terms, will church bureaucracy hear what the Spirit may be saying to the church?

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 5:40pm GMT

Interested Observer, do you even agree with the five principles compromise? If not, then you take a different position from the supporters of equal consecration in Synod who did; and if you do, how does this fit into it?

I can't emphasize strongly enough what an impossible position supporters of a two integrities position on sexuality have been put in by this. How am I supposed to answer traditionalists who say, "We can't compromise because we can't trust a word you say: whatever deal we sign up to, you'll betray us first chance you get." Because I'd really like to know.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 6:18pm GMT

I was talking to a female priest and leading academic, this morning, and her anger over the treatment of Philip North, not least by some her more dogmatic sister clergy, was palpable. What was more shocking was her parting shot: WATCH is a toxic brand and has become the UKIP of the Church of England. I wish I could have disagreed.

I support equal ordination because I believe it is a legitimate development of catholic faith and order. The machinations over Philip North's appointment lead me to conclude that those who led the assault on his legitimate appointment care nothing for catholicity. They are only interested in creating an ecclesial protest club in their own image and likeness - pink clerical blouses and all!

Posted by Will Richards at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 6:24pm GMT

Claiming, "we never attacked Philip just his beliefs" is the echo of the ConEvo "hate the sin, love the sinner". Neither will wash.

Posted by Stuart at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 6:59pm GMT

David Emmott the difference is that a female Bishop of Sheffield would at least believe that all her clergy are, in fact, clergy whatever they think about her. Bishop North believes that one-third of his potential clergy are lay women.

Posted by BlackDog at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 7:03pm GMT

"Interested Observer, do you even agree with the five principles compromise?"

I don't have a sophisticated enough understanding of either the theology contained in, or the synod politics that led to, the five principles; I cannot comment on them in the abstract.

However, I believe them to be completely unworkable on the ground: women priests are asked to work under a bishop who believes their orders to be invalid. It might be different had North unequivocally stated his support for the five principles and in particular the legitimacy of women's orders, but he hasn't, because he can't.

The answer to your question about compromise is that sometimes, you cannot compromise.
The question I would ask you about "two integrities" is this: would you have accepted "two integrities" on Apartheid?

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 8:06pm GMT

I don't think Bishop North was 'hounded out' as some are saying. He made the decision to withdraw in the face of reasonable and strong opposition from lay people and clergy. Just as he took the same action when appointed to be Bishop of Whitby.

It's not just women priests who are regarded as second class by those of his stance. Remember male bishops who have taken part in the consecration of women bishops are now suspect. (None consecrated him). And also men who have been ordained by women - their sacraments are also questionable and so on. What a sad and sorry state the Church of England is in.

'Mutual flourishing' seems quite simply no longer tenable, and was probably a nonsense from the beginning.

So many questions face the Bishops of the C of E now. Why do they stick to this disingenuous block voting system? Can they publicly hold differing views or not? Why do they come up with these fudge statements - mutual flourishing, good disagreement etc. Why wait until they retire to say what they actually think!

Posted by Simon C at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 10:39pm GMT

Can anyone point me to the theology behind the "disagree well and want those of other views to flourish" thinking please?

Posted by useful in parts at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 10:47pm GMT

I have read and appreciated this site for a long time, but never been moved to comment myself - until today. Much as I disagree with +Philip, he is clearly a godly and good pastor and would be an asset to the current, largely mediocre, bench of bishops. If we cannot thrive with mutual respect, in the spirit of the five principles, may we be forgiven. Has ++Cantuar nothing to say on this today? For the first time in my life, I am ashamed to be an Anglican.

Posted by Marc Starling at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 10:47pm GMT

"Had the consultations been conducted properly, the diocese would have stipulated that it was seeking someone who would ordain women, hardly revolutionary. It did not do that and has paid the price. It then could not even rely on the CNC to make the judgement for it that a traditionalist bishop would not be acceptable to the diocese. A forensic post-mortem is required. This was about judgement and discernment and the CNC has been found wanting." - Anthony Archer on Friday -

The Society of SS Hilda and Wilfrid surely needs to reassess its provenance in a Church that ordain women! The outcome of this situation can be directly attributed to this esoteric Society's view of priesthood - which no longer obtains officially in the ACC.

As an Anglo-Catholic priest in old age, I have come to recognise, with Saint Paul, that In Christ, there is neither male nor female - even in the context of the Sacred Ministry of Christ's Church. Rome does not recognise this, but then, we Anglicans have embraced the fact that the Body of Christ is being constantly reformed "Semper Reformanda". This is one of the reasons that we remain Anglicans.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 11:42pm GMT

"that does rather start to point in the direction of a third province....but we were told we couldn't have that."

A third province was always the right way forwards and hopefully those who fought against it will now see that. There should now be support across all traditions for that. I see what has happened in Sheffield very positively. It needed something of this magnitude to stand a chance of breaking through the inertial barriers.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 11:42pm GMT

I have come to the Church of England late in my life, so I am not confident about commenting on this issue. But I am truly puzzled by the assertion that WATCH has been toxic and similar to UKIP in its action. I had understood that the Church of England decided some time ago that there is no theological reason why women should not become priests and bishops. I am appalled that Philip North has been the target of personal abuse. But I think it is perfectly in order to raise the question of how to reconcile the obligations of a diocesan bishop with the declaration of members of The Society that they will concelebrate the Eucharist only with male priests and bishops, ordained by a male bishop, and will receive communion only when such bishops and priests preside.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Friday, 10 March 2017 at 11:47pm GMT

No, Interested Observer, I wouldn't compromise on the evil of Grand Apartheid, since it was imposed on an entire society. You're not comparing like with like.

Nor would I tolerate advocates of the Curse of Ham, since they're motivated by racial bigotry. But if, for 2,000 years, it'd been the normative Christian position that only people of Jewish descent could be ordained, I would support a compromise.

Whatever your position on the five principles, England's Synod accepting them. Having gotten equal consecration through only on that basis, shouldn't they be bound by it?

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 12:13am GMT

A sad day for the Church of England, for a precedent has now been set that an Episcopal nomination can be blocked by a writing campaign in secular newspapers. The illiberal intolerance of the extremists who have orchestrated this is staggering, as is their lack of repentance. The possible good which may emerge from this could be the translation of +North to London. Even if this does not happen, we can take comfort that there will never be a +Martyn Percy, or a + Giles Fraser!

Posted by Robert at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 1:15am GMT

@ Blackdog, would she really believe that all her clergy were really clergy? The most progressive and feminist clergy in this diocese don't believe that any conservative has the right to call themselves a Christian at all. And even on this website, discussions of this sort have lead to "Anyone who doesn't believe in_____(gay marriage, women clergy, fill in any progressive cause) should not be called a Christian." The word Neanderthal was even used at least once. I see no way for a conservative to survive in a diocese with an extremely liberal bishop any more than they see surviving in one with a conservative one. It requires a flexibility, a willingness to admit God might disagree on topics we hold most dear, and a compassion for those who disagree which is not found among the most ardent on either side. Perhaps now that the lie that conservatives have a place in leadership has been exposed, more will move on to more welcoming homes and the CoE can finish becoming the progressive clique it has been aiming toward.

Posted by Chris Harwood at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 1:33am GMT


I commend what BlackDog on Friday, 10 March 2017 at 7:03pm GMT wrote:

Bishop North believes that one-third of his potential clergy are lay women.

How do you square that circle? What is the modus vivendi ? That was never figured out. In principle it is a grand idea to have representation of all views. But how does that work on the ground?????

Posted by IT at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 1:59am GMT

The problem of having a diocesan who doesn't believe in the equality of women in the eyes of God was an obvious one from the get-go. Which is why some of us expressed concerns before this situation arose. Interested Observer is the only one really speaking to the practicality. "Mutual flourishing" may necessitate a glass ceiling for those who don't support WO. Otherwise, some women and girls will not have the chance to flourish.

I am also disturbed by many of the comments here on TA, almost all by men. To my reading, many of the guys are defining "mutual flourishing" as "some of you women and girls just have to suck it up and take it on the chin like you always have, so that the rest of us can feel good about ourselves..."

There was a problem from the get-go. The request that Dean Percy made was that +Philip decline the position or step down from that awful Society that is essentially creating a new ecclesiastical wing without any authorization from the larger church.

I thought "flying bishops" were dumb. But perhaps that really is the only way for true "mutual flourishing." Women and girls have the choice not to go to "traditional parishes." And traditionalists get what they want. The "compromise" actually gave "traditionalists" the opening to be oppressive to people on a larger scale and who don't have a choice, other than to make a fuss.

This is not a tragedy in the modern sense. This is merely a wake up call that some more thoughtful action is needed. Modern tragedy involves death and destruction, cruelty and want, disaster. It may be a Greek tragedy in the sense that this is self inflicted. The chorus needs a new song. That is all. Geez, the whining from some of the guys!

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 2:35am GMT

Returning to facts, "The Society" say on their webpage that one of their objectives is "to guarantee a ministry in the historic apostolic succession in which [churches, institutions and individuals] can have confidence".

Could someone explain what that means, if it isn't the theology of taint?

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 7:43am GMT

"A sad day for the Church of England, for a precedent has now been set that an Episcopal nomination can be blocked by a writing campaign in secular newspapers."

Robert, as I commented earlier in this thread that precedent was set by the appalling treatment of Jeffrey John. The letter to the press by a number of diocesan bishops was carefully orchestrated and intent on undermining a thorough process. It was a turning point from which we have never recovered.

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 8:05am GMT

"A sad day for the Church of England, for a precedent has now been set that an Episcopal nomination can be blocked by a writing campaign in secular newspapers."

I disagree. Take a look at the consultation which was done by the vacancy in see drafting group:

There's a printable version.

In a terrible lapse, the group failed to consult on whether the Diocese of Sheffield would welcome a bishop who will not ordain women. What then happened was that inevitably the views which should have been gathered by the drafting group were voiced instead once Philip North had been selected. Anthony Archer has tried in an earlier comment to highlight the lack of thoroughness in the consultation. The consultation ended up being done after appointment and in newspapers +because+ the vacancy in see consultation upfront was deficient.

I think understanding the deficiencies in consultation is important to understanding what has happened since. The difficulty for the Church isn't the one most people are complaining about - the reaction to the selection of Philip North, rather it is that Interested Observer pointed out several comments ago. Clearly vacancy in see committees in future need to consult properly on this key point. That means if there is significant opposition to a non-ordainer (even if not majority opposition) the statement of need should record that a non-ordainer would be unable to be a focus of unity. However, if committees do consult properly and react properly to consultation, is possible that no diocese would want a diocesan bishop who won't ordain women. That should be the difficulty on which we focus. Where I disagree, perhaps, with Interested Observer is that I think that the attitude of dioceses which have had a successful relationship historically with a traditionalist bishop might be more amenable.

In summary, the Sheffield situation IMO was caused by the vacancy in see committee failing to consult effectively. That is actually self-evident. It was the committee's job to determine whether a traditionalist appointment would cause a furore and to pre-emptively prevent a furore by declining a non-ordainer via the statement of need. The committee manifestly failed that responsibility and, in so doing, have opened up Philip North and others to much hurt.

What Sheffield has shown is that if a diocese is not properly consulted upfront, the suppressed views will just come out after selection.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 8:27am GMT

This country desperately needs a strong Church that is focused on bringing justice to this country. Not a Church at war with itself. it seems to this outsider that our national conscience is dying, and it's desperately needed.

Posted by Mr A J Bittan at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 8:38am GMT

In any profession it is very difficult to work for a line manager who does not accept that you have the necessary qualifications to do your job. Thus it is wrong for the church to expect women priests to work for a bishop who does not accept their ordination.
Is a way forward to offer women priests in this position the same system of alternative episcopal oversight that traditionalists now enjoy? Could this provide a legal framework in which women priests and traditionalist diocesan bishops could co-exist? In my view this would be better than talking about a third province.

Posted by Tim Budd at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 9:42am GMT

Progressive clique?! The recent debates on sexuality at synod made clear the conservative dominance (and its imposition of omerta) of the CofE episcopate. Where are the radicals in the house of Bishops? Nowhere to be found.

It seems to me, from everything I've heard, that +Philip is an excellent priest, but that doesn't make it appropriate for him to be a diocesan Bishop. If he were one of those who took the view that women can be ordained but that it is a decision the CofE can't make alone then it is feasible, but as he appears to maintain the view that the ordination of women is ontologically impossible then he cannot also be a diocesan bishop with integrity. Two integrities only makes sense if each can be held without doublethink.

I'm also astonished by the claims that THIS is what makes someone embarrassed to be an Anglican for the first time. Surely the shabby treatment of women and LGBT Christians ought to have done that decades ago?

Posted by Jo at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 10:14am GMT

@ Usefulinparts - I would suggest that the "disagree well" theology has its roots in the Pauline doctrine of adiaphora or 'things indifferent.' The Apostle tells us that many matters, such as eating food sacrificed in pagan temple rites, are matters of indifference to the Church, and what is most important is that one person's convictions do not become an impediment to faith to another Christian: "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak" (1 Cor 8:9). In such matters, the individual believer's conscience (as known to God) is paramount, but it must not be an impediment to Christian unity.

Anglicanism has a long history of "disagreeing well" (and occasionally disagreeing very badly) out of both principle and necessity. The best defence of church order and discipline as a matter of indifference come from Bishop Richard Hooker and the Cambridge Platonists. Obviously there are some issues on which "disagreeing well" would not be possible: I would suggest that the doctrines contained in the creeds of the church are all matters on which there can be no disagreement. There are also some issues, like the nature and number of the sacraments, on which Anglicans are compelled to disagree, even though for some of us these are very important issues indeed.

Other matters - issues to do with sexual morality and gender - strike me as being quintessential adiaphora. That is, everyone should follow his or her own conscience, so long as their actions do not constitute a stumbling block to others. Jesus, of course, reserves some shockingly severe language for the purveyors of stumbling blocks: "It were better for him [sic] that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones" (Luke 17:2).

Posted by rjb at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 10:14am GMT

Cynthia, it is at least refreshing to know that the supporters of women's ministry can be almost as callous and condescending to their opponents as the defenders of patriarchy have been to women over the course of many decades. "Suck it up" in fact seems to be the message that is being sent to conservative Catholics by the faction who are unquestionably in a position of dominance within the Church.

"Geez, stop whining" is not an appropriate tenor for any sort of conversation within the church. Nor is the assumption that only my suffering (or the suffering of the particular group I happen to identify with) has any validity. "Stop banging on about your bloody suffering" is not an authentically Christian response to your opponents, whether they are women complaining (rightly) about centuries of male domination in the church, or Catholics (also rightly in my view) worried that they have been betrayed and that there is no longer a place for them in the Church of England.

Posted by rjb at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 10:50am GMT

As so often, I find myself in strong agreement with James Byron: "A clear promise was made to traditionalists... and it's now been broken. Doing so is likely to prolong injustice and discrimination for LGBT people. You don't heal one injustice with another... I can't emphasize strongly enough what an impossible position supporters of a two integrities position on sexuality have been put in by this. How am I supposed to answer traditionalists who say, ‘We can't compromise because we can't trust a word you say: whatever deal we sign up to, you'll betray us first chance you get.’"

The overthrow of principles of mutual respect for conscientious difference - of the 'unity in diversity' which I believe in - sends a message that when an action group (however just its goals) wins acceptance through a compromise, that is actually only a 'trick' to gain ground but will actually lead to the crushing of opposing consciences, and their exclusion from parts of Church life.

With this sorry case over Philip as a demonstration, fewer people will now open up to the possibilities of grace and difference over radical LGBT inclusion, because it will strengthen the impression that it will lead ultimately to the exclusion of conservative consciences on sexuality from positions of leadership.

I do not share Philip's conviction about all-male priesthood (although I'd describe myself as on the catholic wing of our Church). However, as a woman, and as a lesbian, I strongly endorse the radical inclusion of a wide range of conscientious beliefs in our Church... because these positions, though sometimes opposite, are held in good faith.

We need grace and love, not political machinations and domination of rival views. We need to find our unity together, as we serve - drawn together not apart by love of Christ, and by co-existing differences. Yes, Philip's appointment was going to create high tensions. But as someone else said, Bishops are sometimes symbols of the reality of disunity in our Church as well as unity. What matters - as a woman priest or a non-ordaining Bishop - is genuine and sincere grace, kindness and love... and a determination to serve Christ in our communities. Those are qualities all can share.

Fundamentally, there has not been enough love and grace towards one another. We are a Church of many consciences. We need a load more kindness to each other.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 11:53am GMT

It seems to me that Bishop North might have addressed the questions asked by Martyn Percy prior to withdrawing. An explanation of to what extent and in what manner he could personally work with the one-quarter of the priests in the Diocese who are female, and how he could delegate those functions he could not in good conscience perform, If this "mutual flourishing" is to be successful, it can't be at the cost of the subordinates. So better thinking on how it would play out in practice should be laid out in advance so that the more vulnerable parties to the relationship--here, the priests who owe their bishop canonical obedience, after all--can have a reasonable expectation of what life wil look like under their new bishop, which might assuage their very understandable fears.

Posted by John Wirenius at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 1:41pm GMT

Cynthia, this isn't a battle of the sexes: several women have spoken up for North, including Susannah above with her usual eloquence; and the campaign against him taking post in Sheffield was spearheaded by a man. And, of course, the many women (with their male allies) who approved the Synod compromise that's now been cast aside. If it was too much to bear, why was it ever passed?

Nor is this done for the ulterior motive you ascribe. It doesn't make me feel good about myself to defend North: by inclination, I'd take a harder line than Martyn Percy; I force myself to set those inclinations aside out of a sincere belief in tolerance. If that belief's wrong, it'll be shown by deconstructing it, not ad homs.

Susannah has it right: we need to be kinder to one another.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 2:39pm GMT

John Wirenius, priests do not really owe their bishops canonical obedience: their obedience is owed to God, and that involves conscience and prayer.

It is time we stopped infantilising ourselves, in subordination to hierarchical superiors.

In fact, it is time the concept of 'bishop' was reviewed and revised.

I do think that bishops deserve loyalty and love. Their burdens are often under-estimated, and their reputations sometimes unfairly impugned.

However, for their part, it really is time they ditched the 'control and command' mentality, and simply re-defined themselves as 'enablers'.

It should not be the role of the Bishops to collectively dominate other people's consciences, or local churches' consciences, in the way they do or do not wish to affirm a gay marriage or a priest who is a woman.

Personally, I believe Philip is a person of integrity and faith, and would indeed have sought to enable all in ministry in the diocese, whether he shared their views or not. It would have involved tensions and maybe uncomfortableness, but that would equally apply to current bishops who view gay sex as sin, yet we do not expect *them* to resign.

There is a case, if unity in diversity is not adopted, and bishops continue to demand and impose uniformity around human sexuality, for PCCs, local churches, and local priests to offload 'canonical obedience' to bishops - on grounds of conscience - and place themselves at the service and inclusion of the real people living real lives in their own local communities.

There is a really strong case for doing that, if a minimum of 'unity in diversity' cannot be embraced and championed by our Church. It's a case founded on conscience before God, and made stronger by the evangelistic benefits, in the face of mass alienation of the British public who have largely moved on into generosity, acceptance and affirmation of gay people.

In the case of those who believe in all-male priesthood, unity in diversity works in that direction too. There needs to be respect for divergent consciences. If we can't find the grace and love to co-exist with one another, then people of conscience will be driven towards the need (before God) to 'look to their own defences'.

Frankly, unity in diversity - slapped in the face this week in the Sheffield debacle - may be the last chance saloon for the Church of England.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 2:43pm GMT

A final comment on this good and comprehensible thread. No promises have been broken. No-one's mutual flourishing has been threatened. The diocese, as with any diocese, could have stipulated that it wanted a bishop who would ordain women. It did not. It is entirely possible that no diocese will ever again nominate a non-ordainer. That does not offend the Guiding Principles. The principal lessons to be learned concern process. Someone (or group) was aggressively promoting the Bishop of Burnley. Good for them. But don't do it when you have failed to consult so abysmally.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 2:58pm GMT

James Byron - you said: "How am I supposed to answer traditionalists who say, ‘We can't compromise because we can't trust a word you say: whatever deal we sign up to, you'll betray us first chance you get.'"

When I took part in the Shared Conversations, a conservative evangelical in my group said that they wouldn't compromise on anything, and that their ideal Church of England would be one in which bishops had stronger disciplinary powers and weren't afraid to use them against gay and gay-affirming clergy.

That is not a viewpoint I would want to flourish. The flourishing of conservative views on sexuality leads to the diminishing of people who are LGBTQ+.

So I'm not sure how helpful it is to say what happened in Sheffield will affect future deliberations on sexuality in the Church...

Posted by Nick Nawrockyi at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 3:16pm GMT

This is a very sad episode. It seems that the women priests of Sheffield an d Bp. North have both been placed in an impossible position.

Philip North's appointment to Whitby was greeted with some dismay, because he would have been the 3rd Bishop of Whitby in a row to oppose the ordination of women (diocesan politics). But it was when North gave an intemperate speech in General Synod on female bishops, in which he criticised a previous speaker, that opposition to his appointment grew. It transpired that the Archbishop had not consulted his own senior staff about the appointment, not even the Archdeacon of Cleveland.

I see that there are 8 bishops on the board of FiF/the Society, so it does seem they have a fair number of senior posts.

Posted by Janet at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 4:09pm GMT

As I have remarked before, it is unfortunate that so many commentators have not actually read what Martyn Percy wrote but rely on third party digests of what he wrote. Even the respected Evangelical scholar and blogger, Ian Paul, refers us to a digest and Professor Percy’s tweets (I think he was ill-advised to tweet on this issue; it is not a suitable medium for matters this complex). Professor Percy’s essay is a careful and thoughtful analysis of the situation which does not devoted much space to +North. I agree that this situation is akin to the campaign against Jeffrey John which included a deplorable letter to the Press from a number of senior bishops but it is amplified now by the widespread use of social media. I am afraid, pace Ian Paul, that we are condemned to voice our disagreements in an echo chamber, and there is little chance of private disagreement now.
This is another example of the abject abandonment of leadership by the House of Bishops. Have we heard anything from any diocesan other +Blackburn? After the successful vote, the Bishops should have explored exactly what this convenient catch phrase ‘mutual flourishing’ actually means and how it might be implemented in practice. Equally, they should have developed and explored further the Five Guiding Principles and how they might be implemented. All this should have been done in an open way in a general sense and not liked to a particular individual or diocese. Now ‘Mutual Flourishing’ and the Five Principals are discredited, to all our loss. What kind of advice was given to the Vacancy-in-See Committee and why was the consultation in the diocese done so sketchily? Surely it must have been clear to the Hierarchy that sooner or later an Anglo-Catholic would be offered a diocese and why did they not explore ways to manage this? Did no-one anywhere anticipate the kind of reaction to the appointment of someone of +North’s views and the need to address the concerns of women clergy from the outset? Given that +North had already been been forced to withdraw from one appointment, objections were inevitable. All this should have been thought about before his nomination to Sheffield. Not only has there been a failure of theological leadership but also one of managerial competence. This coming so close to the debacle at Synod had placed the church in a dire situation.
From the time of the introduction of Flying Bishops, it should have been clear that the nature of the episcopate needed to be rethought. It is even more urgent now. We have an asymmetrical situation where those who don’t accept women priests can ask for alternative oversight but those women priests whose diocesan does not accept women’s ordination have no such option. Could Bishop North’s appointment not have been made to work if some prior thought had been given – possibly by developing the role of the suffragan bishop – to the likely reaction of women priests? Clearly his leadership with ‘The Society’ which seems to be a church within a church is a problem. Perhaps on appointment to a diocese, bishops should resign from all such societies. Why is the House of Bishops making no effort to exercise leadership, both theological and managerial? To some extent, it is Professor Percy’s role to comment on these matters but why is it that one of the most thoughtful consideration of the current situation comes from Andrew Lightbown, a man in priestly ministry, and that we have heard nothing from a senior member of the CofE. I now think a Third Province is the only way out of this mess since we are more dicided than ever. It would be better than a schism.

Posted by Daniel Lamont at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 5:55pm GMT

Nick Nawrockyi- Some people will never compromise but others might. As James and Susannah have said far more eloquently than I can the actions of those who opposed this appointment and hence what I regard as the broken promise will certainly make compromise from the traditional catholic and open evangelical groups less likely

Posted by Simon D at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 6:40pm GMT

Since +Philip North has only been a bishop two years and had to withdraw from Whitby and was consecrated in a manner which raised eyebrows, someone or some group must indeed have strongly rooted for him as A Archer says.If they didn't realise that his appointment, despite his admirable qualities wouldn't arouse controversy that were being remarkably naive.

Posted by Perry Butler at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 7:15pm GMT

Parishes that haven't sought alternative episcopal oversight yet would not welcome a female incumbent surely cannot specify in any advert the preferred gender of the next parish priest - equally, is it not the case that a diocese cannot request not to have a non-ordainer as their next bishop as that surely is discriminatory?

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 7:18pm GMT

I have also not seen personal attacks against Philip North - unless these were in personal letters sent to him by individuals. I have seen nothing of that nature in a public forum.

Posted by Sheffieldwoman at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 7:40pm GMT

Thank you, Anthony Archer, for your posts. It’s not quite true that the diocese “could have stipulated that it wanted a bishop who would ordain women”. GS Misc 1076 (12) says “dioceses are entitled to express a view” – rather weaker.

I agree though that the lack of proper discernment of that view in the diocese appears to be the source of the problem. It is the reaction in Sheffield above all which will have been decisive for Bishop North’s withdrawal, and amongst that reaction, the calm, questioning, open letter from Louise Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, written just 3 days before, will have weighed heavily. If Sheffield had appeared content, he could have stood firm against any volume of wider social media protest or Martyn Percy essays. That is why the accusation of “mob rule” is misplaced. I’ve seen no evidence that Sheffield has behaved in that way.

While Sheffield is not a natural see for a traditional catholic diocesan bishop, I suspect it was judged that Bishop North’s nomination provided an opportunity to serve the national interest of “mutual flourishing” because his high profile and widely appreciated evangelistic and prophetic gifts would see him through. It is this misjudgement which caused too much to be “hung upon the shoulders of one individual”, a phrase which Bishop North may have intended to be heard by the CNC.

The result is pain for Bishop North and outrage among traditional catholics and more generally. An early statement from the centre acknowledging flaws in the process would be far more helpful than a bishop fuelling hysteria about the end of the C of E by blaming “the liberals”.

Posted by Mark Hart at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 8:23pm GMT

"but that would equally apply to current bishops who view gay sex as sin, yet we do not expect *them* to resign."

Would it?

So far as I can understand it those opposed to (say) same-sex marriage amongst the clergy believe that clergy who marry someone of the same sex are clergy who should be disciplined and, in the limit, laicised.

Whereas Philip North believes that female clergy were never clergy to start with, but simply lay people with ideas (almost literally) above their station.

Gay clergy who marry someone of the same sex are, in the eyes of conservatives, subject to clerical discipline precisely because they are clerics.

Women priests are not, because they are not priests.

North, as I understand it, is prepared to accept (in public at least) that female priests are legally priests. But that is a weaselly "legal", as he does not believe they are _actually_ priests.

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 8:27pm GMT

Stating a preference that the next bishop should ordain both women and men might be considered to be discrimination. But it is perfectly legal and reasonable discrimination. Only a few characteristics are legally protected from discrimination, and preferring as bishop someone who ordains both sexes is legal. Indeed, it is the opposite characteristic which the old measure had to explicitly exclude from the anti-discrimination laws, to enable parishes to discriminate against a priest precisely on the grounds of sex, which would otherwise have been illegal.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 11:11pm GMT

As someone with a traditionalist bent who served their title under an excellent woman priest I find the treatment of +Philip awful.

It shows all promises made to traditionalists in 2014 were a lie. No further promises about mutual flourishing can nor should be trusted. Clearly tolerance is only asked for until the whip hand is gained at which point your opponents can be cast into the outer darkness.

So a Church retreats to become an irrelevant sect.


Posted by David at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 11:20pm GMT

"and preferring as bishop someone who ordains both sexes is legal"

Someone with a deathwish could try to fight an employment tribunal on the basis that requiring an employee to treat clients equally irrespective of their sex or sexuality would discriminate against employees and prospective employees who feel a religious need to discriminate. That line of argument is beloved of Paul "doomed case? Let me at it!" Diamond and the soi-disant Christian Institute: the cases of Ladele v Islington and McFarlane v Relate Avon pretty much put the whole issue to bed. Ladele and McFarlane wen to the ECJ, and the cases were dismissed as part of EWEIDA AND OTHERS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM.

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 11:30pm GMT

There is one person, at least, who foresaw all this in advance, and tried, unavailingly, to warn Fr. North of what was likely to ensue:

Posted by William Tighe at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 12:58am GMT

Dear Daniel --

I thought I had conquered my desire to correct you with respect to the correct way to refer to the Dean of CHrist CHurch, but your latest post has brought it again to the fore.

If you don't want to call the man "Dean" -- which is his proper, academic title as head of Christ CHurch, which is a college at Oxford, then by all means refer to him as "Doctor", since he does have that degree. Do not, however, call him "Professor", because he does not hold a chair in the University, which alone would allow him to be referred to in that way.

Posted by John Holding at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 1:17am GMT

So, Simon one stained glass ceiling has now been replaced by another? In future we can have as many women bishops as there are sees in the Church of England but what we cannot have is a fully orthodox and catholic diocesan bishop - like Philip North. "Curiouser and curiouser"!

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 6:23am GMT

I feel the responses of Sheffield Diocese to the appointment of Bishop Philip as their bishop need special commendation. I for one have huge respect for their courage and grace in the way they responded. What do the people of a diocese do when the news of their next bishop causes such immediate and widespread concern they feel they must speak out? Has this ever happened before? No one does this lightly. The initial letter asking for discussion and clarification was a model of courteous truth speaking. The petition was a way of gauging support. It was surely their evident concerns that were key in convincing the bishop to withdraw his name.
Now with the news of +Philip’s withdrawal the website speaks of entering ‘a period of mourning’ and calls for prayer for him. But they also express pain. ‘We lament the church’s lack of understanding of the depth of concern which people around the diocese have felt over this appointment.’ This needs hearing. This appointment process was, after all, to give their new bishop.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 7:09am GMT

"Cynthia, it is at least refreshing to know that the supporters of women's ministry can be almost as callous and condescending to their opponents as the defenders of patriarchy"

Oh goodness, rjb. Not having the status quo affirmed yet again is suffering on the same scale as people who've been excluded. The real damage to the self esteem of girls and the awful situation for women clergy is no worse than the suffering of those longing for a Catholic bishop! Yes, of course, how callous.

I'm sorry if it seems callous and condescending to shed light on the appalling perspective that losing an argument, in this one case (because it was ill conceived), is suffering that needs to be honored on the same scale as the damage caused by real injustice. Get a life. And that is the appropriate tenor, though I'm an alto. The issue is justice, and well being, and having girls who thrive.

I'm Anglo-Catholic too. The sacraments, liturgy, and music move my spirit and open channels between me and my Creator. I understand the yearning for that, England does seem short on it. But not like this, not at the expense of girls and women clergy.

I don't know your gender, rjb. I grew up in the Greek Orthodox Church. Exclusion stinks and is damaging. Asking young girls to accept that message so you can have your flavor of bishop is not OK. CoE needs to work harder so that these girls and the female clergy can truly flourish. There are Anglo-Catholics who are not donatists - perhaps you should advocate for one of those.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 7:37am GMT

Mark Hart -

I do wonder why you think Sheffield is an unsuitable see for a traditionalist catholic. There is a large number of traditionalist catholic parishes in Sheffield, especially in the Doncaster Archdeaconry, and a good number of conservative evangelicals. Up to 20% of the worshipping population of the diocese was under alternative Episcopal oversight either under Beverley or Maidstone, so quite how even Steven Croft was a focus of unity I'm not sure.

But given that, the other thing this row shows is that surely a woman bishop can never be a focus of unity. Yet I doubt liberals will employ those arguments in that case.

Posted by Jules at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 9:07am GMT

With the recent advent of women diocesans, the concept of a bishop being the oft quoted "focus of unity" does not serve any useful purpose anymore. However, that is not the only or the greatest function of a bishop. Surely Guardians and Teachers of the faith trump any other episcopal role in the current dis-united Church of England! If that indeed is the prime role of the bishop then who better to fulfil that essential God given task than + Philip North who is a first rate evangelist and perhaps because he is such a fine Guardian of the Faith once given by Christ to the Apostles of old is having to suffer much opprobrium from those who hold a more liberal grasp of the Christian Faith.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 11:55am GMT

One small correction to John Holding. Yes, Martin Percy is a Professor. He is a Professor at the University of Winchester. For those who have not had enough of him already, you can access his inaugural lecture here

Posted by Colin Graham at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 12:04pm GMT

Had +Philip actually addressed the very well-put and sensible questions posed by Martyn Percy I would be more minded to be sympathetic to this narrative of a poor beleaguered man chased out of a post by the CofE's own Nasty Women. Had he made an attempt to explain how he would support the flourishing of ordained women and candidates for the ministry in Sheffield in spite of his own views, and allowed these explanations to have a proper public airing, then perhaps this news would be sadder to me. But he didn't.

'Mutual flourishing' does not mean that the majority of us in the church who support and thank God for the ministry of women have to be constantly doubled over backwards for the minority who do not, in the way that we have been for over two decades. It means we get to flourish too.

And given how many barriers there already are for women to enter the diaconate and the priesthood at all, let alone in stipendiary roles and/or with the possibility of progression, the appointment of a diocesan bishop who feels women incapable of priesthood in the very nature of our being, and who did not feel that making clear to his potential female clergy how he would support them in other ways was a first order matter- is an unacceptable barrier to genuinely mutual flourishing.

Posted by Junia at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 1:17pm GMT

I don't think we can let Father David's use of "a fully orthodox and catholic diocesan bishop" go without remark. All bishops of the Church of England are fully orthodox and catholic, in principle at least.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 1:46pm GMT

Dear John Holding,

I am sorry that my referring to Martyn Percy offends you. He is Professor of Theological Education at King's College, London, Professorial Fellow at Heythrop College, University of London as well as holding other visiting Professorial posts and thus in my book is entitled to the title Professor. I would introduce him to an academic gathering as such. I had not wanted to refer to him as 'Dean' because many readers of this blog are not English and might not realise that the Dean of Christ Church is an academic post and head of an Oxford college and not like a normal Cathedral Dean. In the SEC, the Dean is equivalent to an Archdeacon. I wished to emphasise Martyn Percy's academic credentials​ which are rare in the current senior ranks of the CofE. However, to avoid causing you offence, in future, I will refer to him as Dr. (I'm a retired academic).

Posted by Daniel Lamont at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 1:53pm GMT

"Do not, however, call him "Professor", because he does not hold a chair in the University"

You should tell Oxford, they need your input.

The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy

The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, BA M.Ed PhD is the 45th Dean of Christ Church.

Good to hear they are wrong.

Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 2:46pm GMT

@Simon Kershaw: there's a lot of devil in the details of that "in principle at least", but the more unpleasant insinuation of Father David's usage is the idea that one's attitude to the ordination of women is a key mark of catholicity and orthodoxy. I would suggest that for a diocesan bishop to allow people to preside at the Eucharist under his authority whom he does not believe to be priests is a heterodox innovation otherwise only contemplated in ardently protestant Sydney, and a betrayal of the faithful in their diocese.

Posted by Jo at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 2:52pm GMT

I am surprised that The Society and FiF appear neither to have anticipated the reaction nor effectively prepared their candidate to stand firm in the face of it. I might, were I +Philip, be wondering whether I had been set up. That would be hard to bear.

Posted by JKR at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 2:58pm GMT

Jules, you say, "I do wonder why you think Sheffield is an unsuitable see for a traditionalist catholic". I didn't say that it was unsuitable, I said it wasn't a natural see for such an appointment, by which I meant (and I could have made this clearer) that it was not obvious that the nomination would not be problematic. As it happens, it was problematic, but with a proper process in advance, it may have been possible to demonstrate that a majority in the diocese were content with a traditional catholic, a majority large enough for the nomination to hold.

Posted by Mark Hart at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 3:15pm GMT

"Thank you, Anthony Archer, for your posts. It’s not quite true that the diocese “could have stipulated that it wanted a bishop who would ordain women”. GS Misc 1076 (12) says “dioceses are entitled to express a view” – rather weaker."

I am grateful to Mark Hart for this clarification, as this will come under great scrutiny as this process is reviewed. The appointments of bishops remain Crown appointments, with Downing Street by new convention agreeing to accept the single preferred name. For the vacancy-in-see committee to mandate the CNC on any aspect would not be appropriate. Having said that, since the number of diocesan representatives was increased from four to six, the diocese has a far greater say, and can block any candidate, if united. If it was ever the case that the CNC might overrule the expressed view of the diocese (a brave approach) one thing is certain following Sheffieldgate: they won't in the future.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 6:47pm GMT

There seems to be something fundamentally wrong with the emphasis put on bishops being "a focus of unity." This phrase seems to lead CoE down the garden path. Jesus never said to go out and be a focus of unity. He said to feed the hungry (now in a world of climate change and migration), he said to give water to the thirsty (again challenged by climate and the commercialization of water), to cloth the naked, to heal the sick, etc. He said to love your neighbor and do unto others. The focus of a bishop should be to inspire the flock to follow Jesus, and do justice, show compassion, etc. "Focus of unity" is a political concept, not a spiritual or theological one. I know there's a quote from Paul about unity, but the problem is making it first order.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 7:00pm GMT

@Simon Kershaw: all bishops are fully orthodox and catholic, but some are more fully orthodox and catholic than others, clearly.

Posted by Junia at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 7:09pm GMT

'Until last year you could tell by looking who was a priest whose ministry we could receive, and who was not. But now we have male priests ordained by women bishops. We can’t receive their ministry; but how can you tell who ordained whom, for example, when you’re a churchwarden arranging cover in a vacancy? One of the reasons why the Bishops invite priests to register as Priests of The Society is to help answer that question. Deacons and ordinands can register as well. They sign a Declaration that commits them to what The Society stands for. Priests and deacons submit their letters of orders to prove they were ordained by a bishop whose orders we can recognize. The relevant Society bishop sends them a Welcome Letter, so they can prove that they are clergy of The Society; and we have begun to issue identity cards to priests... '
Colin Podmore, New Directions, Vol. 20, No. 257, February 2017, p. 14

New Directions is the magazine of Forward in Faith, of which Philip North is a leading member. It really is hard to see how someone holding such views can be a bishop. Would he ask to see the ID cards of his own clergy, to ascertain which have a ministry worthy of being received? Could the clergy and laity of the diocese be confident that he was equally concerned for the welfare of all of them?

And let us bear in mind that North is still a bishop, as are the other 7 board members of the Society. We have 8 bishops who encourage clergy whose orders they 'recognise' to carry ID, to distinguish them from those who have been tainted. As Jesus said, 'A house divided against itself cannot stand.'

Posted by Janet at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 7:56pm GMT

I don't think Simon's comment can stand without a riposte as diocesan bishops of the Church of England include those with two contradictory views about the nature of the Apostolic Ministry. Both views cannot be correct. God has given us reason for a purpose, and that surely does not include setting aside logic when it suits us.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 8:04pm GMT

And yet, Janet, according to an official account of a meeting in Doncaster Minster to introduce North to the people of Sheffield [1]:

"While unable in conscience to ordain women, Bishop Philip made clear he was not opposed women's leadership - to the contrary. Canonically ordained means a priest is a priest is a priest and a bishop is a bishop is a bishop."

And yet, he supports the carrying of ID cards so that bishops who are not bishops can be distinguished from bishops who are bishops. It's all most odd: one might almost think he was telling different audiences different things for cynical purposes.


Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 9:17pm GMT

Thank you Interested Observer for the link to the meeting at Doncaster Minster where Philip North is wrongly described as "Very Reverend". + Philip is not a dean but, thank God, a bishop in the Church of England and is therefore "Right Reverend". A minor point of nomenclature, perhaps but it is incumbent upon us to get these things right.
Archbishops, on the other hand, are "Most Reverend" and the Archbishop of York gave his strong support to the proposed elevation of the Bishop of Burnley from Suffragan to Diocesan. But to date (and I've just checked again on his Official Website) there has been no comment re "Sheffieldgate" from the other Most Reverend prelate of Canterbury. Surely, a comment from Cantuar is long overdue as this crisis rages like a forest fire throughout the entire Church of England. ++Justin may well be reluctant to make a comment about what is happening "Up North" in a neighbouring Province but he is, after all, titular head of the entire Anglican Communion and that surely involves giving a lead in these matters and telling us what he thinks the Five Guiding Principles really and truly imply. Not only that, as Archbishop of Canterbury he is also Primate of ALL England and therefore a comment from Lambeth is surely long overdue.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 13 March 2017 at 5:08am GMT

I know this is from earlier in the thread, but I want to comment again quickly on the supposedly personal nature of the "attacks" on Philip North.

It is quite easy to differentiate between personal attacks and general questions.

If the questions have gone away now that Philip North has made his decision, they were personal.

If the questions will come up again if and when another non-ordaining bishop is appointed Diocesan, they were general questions the church will need to answer.

I would suggest that every single question I have come across on social and other media has been a general one.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 13 March 2017 at 1:11pm GMT

Father David: Sorry, but there is no such post as 'titular head of the entire Anglican Communion'. This is not the Roman Catholic Church. The Anglican Communion has no 'head'. Many of us in the non-English Anglican provinces think this is a rather important point.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 13 March 2017 at 5:15pm GMT

"[A]s Archbishop of Canterbury he is also Primate of ALL England and therefore a comment from Lambeth is surely long overdue."

I would expect that Cantuar is going to keep quiet about management problems in the Province of York.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 13 March 2017 at 5:19pm GMT


From your own Facebook page: 'I would quite like to understand how Philip North squares it with his own conscience before God that he is serving as a bishop in a Diocese where parishioners in 1/3 of the parishes he is responsible for are, according to his understanding, not served by a valid priest.'

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 13 March 2017 at 5:25pm GMT

Not sure there can be a comment from Lambeth, except In general terms, as ++Justin was not a member of the Sheffield CNC. My understanding is that the Bishop of Chelmsford deputised. Rather unusually he has commented that he was fully supportive of +Burnley's nomination, a technical but understandable breach of confidentiality in my opinion.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Monday, 13 March 2017 at 6:30pm GMT

Would Tim Chesterton be willing to accept "primus inter pares" as a suitable title for the ABC as he relates to the Anglican Communion?

Posted by Father David at Monday, 13 March 2017 at 6:53pm GMT

Anthony Archer is correct. The Bishop of Chelmsford definitely supported the appointment of Philip North as Bishop of Sheffield.

But please *do* read the whole of his excellent overview on the need for unity in diversity, in which he addresses the human sexuality issues with honesty and insight:

"Therefore, let me be loud and clear on this issue: whether you believe there should be same sex marriage or the blessing of same sex unions or whether you do not, you are still a faithful Anglican. We need to find ways of living with this diversity, not being torn apart by it."

The whole talk - to the Chelmsford Diocesan Synod last Saturday - is really open and thought-provoking.

It can be found here (I don't know if the team at Thinking Anglicans think it merits a post of its own, or at least a link on Wednesday:

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 13 March 2017 at 7:42pm GMT

(Happy for you to quote my FB page in this context, but please note that my privacy settings are "friends only" for a reason).

But, yes, it was a genuine question.
I believe that Bishop North is a man full of integrity. Everyone says so and I have no reason to doubt it.

If I was in his position I would be grappling with a huge ethical and theological conundrum, as I am sure he himself has done on his retreat.

I don't know how it is possible for a bishop to square it with his sense of responsibility before God to be responsible for parishes that, to his personal theological mind, are being served by Lay Readers.
If these parishes were actually served by Lay Readers, he'd have sleepless nights, because he would be failing his ordination vows, those Lay Readers who believe they are priests, and their parishioners.

So, somehow, he cannot believe that they are like Lay Readers.

And I really would like to know how that is. There absolutely has to be a way of doing that with integrity. Otherwise, all the genuinely faithful Christians in the Society wouldn't be able to do it.

It's just an answer I haven't heard yet. And I would really like to - because I like to understand other people's thinking.

But also because I believe that if Bishop North, or the Society, or even the Archbishops had answered that question, it would have been possible for those who struggled with his appointment to understand it better and to accept it.

When you get asked genuine questions your best course it not to criticise the questioners but to answer the questions.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 14 March 2017 at 12:56pm GMT

Apposite moment in Telegraph obit for Eamon Casey: "In 1969 he was recalled to Ireland to become Bishop of Kerry. At 42 he was the youngest member of the Irish hierarchy. The novelist Kate O'Brien asked: "Why is this young man of action, this Samaritan who wears his heart on his sleeve, being trapped into a mitre away from his great vocation?"

Posted by JKR at Tuesday, 14 March 2017 at 2:20pm GMT

Erika, I think your reference to readers is inappropriate. I don't think the validity of their ordinations as deacon is questioned by anyone.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 14 March 2017 at 2:49pm GMT

thank you, I didn't realise that.
I thought traditional Anglo-Catholics don't accept female deacons either.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 14 March 2017 at 4:08pm GMT

Erika Baker said 'I don't know how it is possible for a bishop to square it with his sense of responsibility before God to be responsible for parishes that, to his personal theological mind, are being served by Lay Readers.'

I agree it would be nice to hear from +Philip what he thinks about this. However, since even the most intransigent member of 'The Society' has to accept that the majority of the C of E doesn't share their views, wouldn't his answer be something on the lines of: 'I couldn't square it with my own conscience to receive communion from or concelebrate mass with a woman priest, but I know that most people don't see it like that. I am happy to license women priests to parishes that accept their ministry, and I recognise that people do so in good faith and in tune with their own conscience. As a bishop in the Church of England I have no wish to impose my own conscience on other members who may believe differently.' I don't for a moment believe that he, or any responsible Roman Catholic for that matter, would think that such people were destined for hell.

Posted by David Emmott at Tuesday, 14 March 2017 at 6:06pm GMT

Erika -

Traditionalist Anglo-Catholics disagree with each other about women deacons. Many are opposed but I don't believe any bishops are.

Posted by Jules at Wednesday, 15 March 2017 at 4:47pm GMT

In seeking to appoint a suffragan to a more senior post the cofe has hit the buffers. What were the selectors thinking? Presumably something like this - here is a Diocesan Bishop "in waiting" and a See for which he is suited. Surely reason will prevail over the foreseeable objections. We have agreed that the women should be ordained and made bishops and that everyone who ministers in the church must accept this. At the same time we have agreed that not being able, in conscience, to believe this will not exclude anyone from the church. We will provide for those consciences too by not requiring them to submit to the jurisdiction of women bishops either as priests or parishes. Now let us appoint a bishop who cannot in conscience ordain women as priests. We know that in every other way he supports women in leadership, but he does not recognise their sacramental ministry as priest. Yes we can see that is a difficulty but those affected by this will be in the same boat as others who find that their bishop has disagreeable views. This is the price we pay for having differences of opinion. We can provide for conscience but not conviction. Clergy and their Bishop may disagree with each other but they are bound together. Anyone can refuse ministry because they do not accept the sacramental authority of a woman bishop or a woman priest or a male priest who has been ordained by a woman bishop but no one can refuse ministry from a male bishop who has been ordained by a male bishop. What could possibly go wrong...

Posted by Martin Clay at Wednesday, 15 March 2017 at 6:12pm GMT

thank you for that comment.
I must confess, I was surprised when Simon said that traditional Anglo-Catholics accept female deacons. As far as I'm aware, they're not present in the Roman Catholic or the Orthodox churches. So I would have thought that those who would in theory be able to accept women's ordination as long as it was sanctioned by the whole universal church, will not accept female deacons either.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 16 March 2017 at 9:05am GMT
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