Comments: Bishop of Sheffield: Peter Wilcox

I do wonder whether the announcement of a new bishop should have waited until the review into the previous appointment had been conluded. And shouldn't there have been a new CNC for this? After all the last one was something of a shambles. That being said this may turn out to be a good appointment but he will need to make a positive statement regarding women's ministry fairly soon.

Posted by Andrew at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 10:31am BST

As a fan of Newcastle United, how can the new bishop claim to be a focus of unity for the diocese of Sheffield? How can priests who hate football have confidence in the pastoral support of their bishop? Is this really the right man to head the Church in the year when Sheffield FC will mark their 160th anniversary? Oh, so many urgent questions...

Posted by rjb at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 10:55am BST

Two OT experts in a row...

Posted by Charles Read at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 12:11pm BST

I can imagine Pete Wilcox doing a fine job and pray God's blessing upon him. But while there has been much talk about discrimination in one direction we might note that it plainly continues to be very difficult for comparably (or more) experienced and suitably gifted women to become diocesan bishops in the Church of England.

Posted by David Runcorn at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 2:18pm BST

There is Bristol to come, David

Posted by Perry Butler at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 3:01pm BST

"I do wonder whether the announcement of a new bishop should have waited until the review into the previous appointment had been conluded. And shouldn't there have been a new CNC for this? After all the last one was something of a shambles. That being said this may turn out to be a good appointment but he will need to make a positive statement regarding women's ministry fairly soon."

I think it is rather unfair to Peter Wilcot that this has been announced before the review concludes. If the review concluded that Philip North had been unfairly hounded out as some claim, where would that leave Peter Wilcox? What did the CNC do about considering candidates who won't ordain women? Were they considered as the protocol says they should be in the absence of a Statement of Need which concludes otherwise? If traditionalist candidates weren't considered then traditionalists have valid grounds to complain and, if they were, women have valid grounds to complain. A mess - and an avoidable mess.

I think though that the urgent need is for him to put out a statement reassuring traditional parishes even more than reassuring women - but how can he do either until the review is concluded?

Good luck to Peter. The first few months are going to be testing.

And yes, out of two appointments statistically one would have expected a woman to be one of the two. It is still a 25% chance two men could be announced without there being cause for concern but the CNC is going have to say something to reassure women.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 3:32pm BST

Is it a new development that we are informed of the marital status not only of the new Bishop, but of his children?

Posted by Neil Patterson at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 3:51pm BST

I have no criticism whatsoever of Pete Wilcox (just the opposite in fact). Nevertheless he fits the establishment mould supremely: white, upper-middle-class, married (to a woman), son of a bishop, evangelical (but no so much as to frighten the horses). The suddenness of this appointment makes you think that the establishment were desperate to anoint yet another one of their own. Whereas Jeffrey John, white (but Welsh), gay, anglo-catholic... and I suspect, though Wikipedia is silent on this, that he did not go to a 'public school' (though he did go to Oxford) and comes from a working- or lower-middle-class background... is clearly not 'one of us' and can be safely ignored.

Posted by David Emmott at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 3:58pm BST

Neil: no, the trend of listing all of a bishop-designate's progeny and their kosher status (i.e. opposite-sex marriage and proven fertility) has been increasing for a few years now :(

Posted by DBD at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 4:34pm BST

Many seem to have forgotten that the CNC provide two names. Hence it is difficult to sustain a criticism of the speed of the announcement - this was always the second candidate in case the first did not accept or take up the post.

Posted by NJW at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 4:40pm BST

David E.: Fascinating! I had no idea Pete's the son of a bishop (David Peter, Bishop of Dorking, I presume?) — information (especially on living persons) cannot be listed on Wikipedia without a reliable public citation and there simply isn't one for his schooling or parentage. (Or not that I've found so far.)

Posted by DBD at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 4:44pm BST

Tim goes to Lambeth, Mike retires from Bristol and Pete to Sheffield. Perhaps if Philip and Jeffrey were known as Phil and Jeff, they might have more of a chance of preferment?

Posted by Father David at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 5:35pm BST

I will refrain from making any 'personal' comments on Dean Wilcox's appointment, since such comments are, in my view, wholly inappropriate (it is regrettable that some people on this blog think it appropriate to make such comments, and it is encouraging to see (on another blog) that Peter Wilcox has the support of +Philip North.) I will confine my comments to (1) the role of the CNC in the appointment process and criticism of the announcement being made before Sir Philip Mawer has responded to the archbishops' "concerns" letter, and (2) the expectation that one of the two names would be a woman.

Re (1), the position is that the CNC forwards two names to the Prime Minister. Since Gordon Brown (when prime minister) indicated that he would accept the church's choice of its preferred candidate, the second name is, in effect, a 'reserve' name if, for any reason, the first-named person declines the nomination or (for example) fails the medical. There is thus no need for a second CNC when, as in this case, the first-named candidate withdraws his acceptance. Both the first-named candidate and the reserve need the support of 2/3rds of the CNC members (effectively, at least 10 out of the 14 voting members) for their names to go forward. The inference must be that Peter Wilcox had the support of at least 10 members of the Sheffield CNC, so that his appointment after +Philip North withdrew is entirely in accordance with the process. There was no need to wait until Mawer reports.

Re (2), (i) any candidate for a diocesan appointment has to be 'judged' against the diocesan 'Statement of Needs': there is (and can be) no assumed preference for, or bias in favour of, a woman; (ii) a woman can only be considered for appointment as a diocesan bishop as and when a vacancy arises; (iii) most, by but no means all, diocesan bishops have served first as suffragan bishops; (iv) bearing in mind that there are, necessarily at the moment, more men than women priests eligible for appointment as diocesan bishops, the figures are, in fact, quite encouraging: in 2015 2 men and 2 women were appointed as diocesans and 5 of the 14 suffragans were women; in 2016 all 3 diocesans appointed were men but of the 7 suffragans 3 were women. (v) there are now two impending diocesan vacancies (Bristol and Truro) where the respective CNCs will be able to consider women candidates.

Posted by David Lamming at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 6:22pm BST

I belong to one of the anglo catholic parishes in the diocese of Sheffield under the episcopal oversight of Glyn of Beverley. Inevitably we have experienced great hurt and disappointment by recent events and have been shocked by the ghastliness of the vitriol directed at Bishop Philip. However we must seek to work positively and constructively with our new bishop and pray that he wishes to engage in the same manner with us. Perhaps he should seek to meet, as Bishop Philip did with women clergy immediately after his announcement, with both Anglo-Catholic clergy in the form of the Hickleton Chapter and with conservative evangelical parishes too. Together we number in excess of 20 within the diocese and are feeling bruised and apprehensive, An immediate positive step will be to confirm Glyn and Rod, Bishop of Maidstone as assistant bishops within the diocese and to confirm Bishop Steven Croft's policy of allowing separate ordination services for clergy from Society parishes. The number of such parishes may even grow as we are one of the anglo-catholic parishes of the diocese at present not affiliated to SSWH. Then we can accept the reality in the diocese that whilst we are in impaired communion with each other, we must nevertheless love each other, work together and co-operate in mission.

Posted by Michael at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 6:55pm BST

Show us *evidence* of this vitriol, Michael. Theological/ecclesiological counter-arguments are not vitriol and expressing disagreement is not hounding. Enough of this nonsense.

Posted by DBD at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 8:11pm BST

"a woman can only be considered for appointment as a diocesan bishop as and when a vacancy arises"

True, but women are going to be highly suspicious of a process which resulted in the selection of a man who wouldn't ordain women - it suggests that the CNC doesn't highly value the ministry of women. That is then reinforced by the second candidate also being male.

Is it proof of discrimination? Absolutely not. Will it make women reluctant to work with Peter Wilcox? Again, no. But does it reduce the confidence women have in the CNC process - quite probably.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 8:33pm BST

The son of a former principal of Cuddesdon who also became a bishop. Schooled for five years in the Anglo Catholic faith of the Woodard Corporation's Worksop College.

Posted by Simon W at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 3:30am BST

Gordon Brown is a Scottish Presbyterian son of the Manse. Theresa May is an English Anglican daughter of the Vicarage. Perhaps, considering the hash the CNC has made of Sheffield, it is time to reinstate two names being given to the Prime Minister for her or him to choose from?
Or better still, when Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister the CNC hadn't been invented and the Premier, after soundings chose who would be ABC. Mercifully, that system gave us Ramsey rather than Coggan, despite pressure being applied by Fisher to choose otherwise.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 6:03am BST

First time around (traditionalist Anglo Catholic) those with the loudest voices deemed the Holy Spirit had got it wrong. Second time, (Evangelical) the Holy Spirit gets it right and it's trebles all-round. It's a telling snapshot of where the Church of England is at.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 7:44am BST

Kate - both candidates were male because Sheffield had said they weren't ready for a female diocesan bishop yet. The CNC are exonerated on that point. But hopefully Pete Wilcox will appoint a woman suffragan, and next time Sheffield might well be ready for a female diocesan.

Father David, why is it 'merciful' that Ramsey became ABC rather than Coggan? Coggan was a very good ABC when his turn came. And an excellent preacher - I can still remember a sermon I heard him preach in 1987!

Posted by Janet Fife at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 8:17am BST

Of course it was entirely appropriate for those who were opposed to Bishop Philip's nomination to make reasoned theological and ecclesiological counter arguments, DBD.That wasn't my issue. I was referring to some of the darker stuff on social media which certainly exists but is quite unquantifiable. One thing that has caused widespread offence (and I speak as one who lives and worships in the diocese of Sheffield) was the festooning of the statue of the "Women of Steel" with faux-episcopal garments and the continued use of that image by the local media.Inevitably it was on "Look North" (BBC) last night that cannot see beyond the accusations of sexism that they infer. Many of us regard that as a puerile stunt. A lot of women are very angry about the disrespect shown to that statue. On a happier note, the Bishop of Beverley has reacted positively to the new appointment and it is worth reading what he has to say on his website. I am prepared to believe that the new bishop will offer the catholic parishes the same respect and the same position within the diocese as his predecessors

Posted by Michael at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 8:27am BST


"He is totally committed to social justice and human flourishing" - (The ABC of the newly appointed Bishop of Sheffield).

This sounds exactly what the people of Sheffield needed - rather then a bishop who would merely have 'tolerated' his women clergy.

May one hope that the Diocese of Llandaff (CiW) will be prepared to make a similar turnaround; abandoningtheir biased resistance against the appointment of the eminent Dean of St. Albans for a decision more affirming of 'social justice and human flourishing'

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 8:39am BST

"Kate - both candidates were male because Sheffield had said they weren't ready for a female diocesan bishop yet."

Janet, thank you for the clarification. Maybe the CNC read that as" We are a traditional diocese" and, in a 2+2=5 way, picked Philip North?

It is terribly wrong for the diocese to say no to a woman bishop though. That undermines women dreadfully.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 12:07pm BST

It was "merciful" because Ramsey was without a shadow of doubt the greatest Archbishop of Canterbury of the 20th century. Had the younger Coggan been appointed instead of the Blessed Michael then we would have missed out on Ramsey's great Archiepiscopate and we would all have been the poorer for that.
I can also still remember a sermon that Coggan preached in Lincoln cathedral in the 1970s. It went something like this - "I tell them what I am going to tell them, then I tell them, then I tell them what I told them!" "TIN, TIN, TIN"!

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 12:09pm BST

Pursuing the Ramsey/Coggan tangent for a moment: I have warm memories of +Donald Coggan who confirmed me when he was Bishop of Bradford, and I met him when I was taking tentative steps towards ordination. He was a generous, pastoral and deeply spiritual and biblical evangelical. But he did become ABC eventually. If he had been appointed instead of Ramsey we would have been deprived of the leadership of one of the great saints of Anglicanism and a top-rank theologian who unlike many of that ilk saw theology as inseparable from prayer and the life of the church.

Posted by David Emmott at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 12:48pm BST

Am I being too cynical, but my first reaction was the powerful hand in this of the CEO Canterbury. Both with common links to Durham and Liverpool.

Fr John Emlyn

Posted by Reverend John E Harris-White at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 2:32pm BST

Janet Fife states that the diocese said that "they weren't ready for a female diocesan yet". Why are they allowed to say that? Substitute "black" for "female" and you see why this sort of sexism makes the Church of England a toxic brand.

There is provision made for those who don't accept the sacramental ministry of women. But what Janet Fife reports is unacceptable prejudice.

Posted by Turbulent priest at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 6:32pm BST

I appreciate both Michael Ramsey and Donald Coggan, and I really don't see why it's necessary to denigrate one in order to build up the other. We all have bad sermon days, and I hope to God that no perfectionist is going to dismiss my ministry because of one of them.

I have some excellent books on preaching on my shelves, but the one I love the most and return to again and again also happens to be the shortest - Donald Coggan's 'Stewards of Grace', written in 1958 when he was Bishop of Bradford. I recommend it to any preacher of the Christian Gospel without reservation, though it is long out of print.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 8:59pm BST

I'm sure he is a fine prospect. Can someone explain what bible teaching is - it's the bishop designate's passion according to the diocesan announcement. What on earth is it?

Posted by Tony Phelan at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 9:06pm BST

Tony, I think you will find 'Bible teaching' well described in a series of three posts on Scott Gunn's blog, starting here: https://www.sevenwholedays.org/2017/04/02/scripture-engagement-1/

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Saturday, 8 April 2017 at 11:54pm BST

In my lifetime, it is an incontrovertible statement that the ABCs from the Catholic wing of the Church have outshone those from the Evangelical wing. The comparison between Ramsey, Rowan and Runcie with Coggan and Carey is plain for all to see. Alas with recent developments within the Church it would seem that we might never again see a Catholic sit upon Augustine's throne. Up until now a Catholic Archbishop has been succeeded by an Evangelical Archbishop who, in turn has been replaced by another Catholic Archbishop and so it went on - giving a good balance to the leadership of the Established Church. It does not now seem feasible that Archbishop Welby will be replaced by an Archbishop from the Catholic wing of the Church but inevitably by yet another Evangelical, as Evangelical bishops now dominate the current Bench. The Church of England has changed dramatically in its essential nature during the last five decades.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 9 April 2017 at 9:11am BST

'Janet Fife states that the diocese said that "they weren't ready for a female diocesan yet". Why are they allowed to say that? Substitute "black" for "female" and you see why this sort of sexism makes the Church of England a toxic brand.

There is provision made for those who don't accept the sacramental ministry of women. But what Janet Fife reports is unacceptable prejudice.'

As you say, I was reporting not defending. The women were being generous in not wanting to impose on the so-called 'traditional' parishes a bishop whom they couldn't accept. Hence their utter dismay when a bishop who couldn't accept them was imposed on them. I have been told that the question 'Would you accept a bishop who doesn't ordain women' was not even asked. To ask one question and not the other shows clear bias.

Posted by Janet Fife at Sunday, 9 April 2017 at 12:10pm BST

'In my lifetime, it is an incontrovertible statement that the ABCs from the Catholic wing of the Church have outshone those from the Evangelical wing.'

Father David, that's not incontrovertible at all and I would controvert it. It depends what you're looking for in an archbishop. No human being (not even a woman!) can do all the things required of an archbishop, any more than of a parish priest. No human being can be good at everything. So the evaluation of an ABC depends largely on how you value the things they weren't so good at, as opposed to the things they were. To many of us Carey came as a huge relief after Runcie - though I don't agree with Carey on all points by any means. He was good at reaching out to, and communicating with, people who don't come from middle class and public school backgrounds. That's something the Church has traditionally been very bad at, and Carey broke an unhelpful mould.

Posted by Janet Fife at Sunday, 9 April 2017 at 12:19pm BST

Father David, I really don't see why we're comparing. And while we're at it, could we Christians please stop talking about 'ascending Augustine's throne'? How does that sort of imagery fit in with Jesus' call to servanthood? It's not about thrones and it's not about who's better than who.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 9 April 2017 at 3:07pm BST

I chose my words carefully. Janet Fife was indeed simply reporting. I never thought otherwise and I hope others won't either.

Posted by Turbulent priest at Sunday, 9 April 2017 at 5:18pm BST

"He was good at reaching out to, and communicating with people who don't come from middle class and public school backgrounds"
I don't recall the "Decade of Evangelism", on Carey's watch, being an outstanding success as throughout those ten years the Established Church continued to decline. Nor do I remember Coggan's "Call to the Nation" being much of a triumph either.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 9 April 2017 at 5:26pm BST

Father David On these threads you always champion the Catholic tradition you plainly love - and Catholic bishops and Archbishops most of all. But it means that when you criticise evangelical ABC's I am sitting here thinking - well he would wouldn't he. So I will pass on this the one.

There is a strand of responses to evangelicals on TA threads that reminds me of the late Harry Williams' confession that he always needed several large sherries before he could cope when an evangelical was in the vicinity.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 9 April 2017 at 6:27pm BST

If you can lay your hands on it, I would highly recommend Margaret Pawley's biography 'Donald Coggan: Servant of Christ' (SPCK, 1987).

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 9 April 2017 at 11:28pm BST

Tim,I'm sure that we are all united in worshipping "the Lamb upon the throne" and following the Lord's good example we all - Catholic and Evangelical alike engage in a Servant Ministry but this does not necessitate that we dumb everything down - especially when it comes to the Liturgy - the greatest drama of them all. I'm sure that we are all offering the very best that we can, particularly during this Holy Week.
In order to make people think I controversially placed a picture of Zurbaran's great painting the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei c 1636/40)on the front cover of the April edition of the Parish Magazine, which depicts a lamb with its feet tethered. Quite a number of parishioners commented negatively upon this disturbing image. When challenged I said that had I put an image of a man nailed to a cross with blood streaming down his face then no one would have batted an eyelid! As one of Graham Kendrick's popular songs has it (And He Shall Reign)

"On the throne forever
See the Lamb who once was slain."

I've never yet visited an English cathedral which does not have a cathedra which is, of course, the bishop's throne. Indeed Saint Augustine's throne is placed in a very prominent position behind the High Altar in Canterbury Cathedral. In former times bishops were "enthroned" now they tend to be "installed" rather like gas boilers.
Thank you David Runcorn for your comment about Harry Williams, I'd not come across this before and it made me laugh. Personally I rub along nicely with all the Evangelical clergy in our deanery but being on the Higher wing of the Church of England - make mine a Gin and Tonic please rather than "several large sherries". Alas, the days of All Gas and Gaiters are no more, when Archdeacon Henry was given a modest glass of sherry by Bishop Heaver his comment was "I hadn't realised that it was still Lent, bishop!"
I do indeed have a copy of Margaret Pawley's "Donald Coggan" as well as "Wife to the Archbishop" by Anne Arnett. My bookshelves are weighed down with biographies about dead bishops. A former clerical colleague who became a bishop (he was a rebel rather than a prefect) once rather naughtily suggested two further books to read - "Introducing the Christian Faith" by Michael Ramsey and "Killing it Off" by Donald Coggan.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 10 April 2017 at 11:02am BST

Father David, if you can demonstrate to me how 'enthroning' a bishop is consistent with the values of the servant King, I'll be prepared to accept it as a legitimate gospel act and not what I strongly believe it to be, an unhelpful relic of Christendom.

Meanwhile, I'm off to spend Holy Week dumbing down the gospel and killing off the Christian faith, as we evangelicals always do...

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 10 April 2017 at 4:12pm BST

Tim, I wonder what you made of that little ceremony that took place in Westminster Abbey on that rainy day in early June 1953 AD. A bit OTT, if you ask me!
Have a wonderful spiritually uplifting Holy Week and may an old Spike like me wish you every blessing for Easter - the Queen of Festivals and the Day of Resurrection.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 10 April 2017 at 5:13pm BST

Re: recent archbishops:
I'm too young to remember anything about Coggan and Ramsey. Runcie wrote of, and seemed to embody for me Christian faith as a balance of reason, tradition and scripture; (and he was a tank commander.) Since then Carey - who always came across as a rather absent-minded schoolmaster, as played by Alistair Sim, but without the wit - and his disastrous Decade of Evangelism; Williams (why do you all keep calling him "Rowan?") who began his tenure by stabbing one of his best friends in the back, and ended it by presiding over the vote not to ordain women bishops, having in between times spent time and energy trying to persuade us all to sign up to the iniquitous Anglican Covenant; and now Welby, a cold-eyed clerical Mafia boss, who wants us to think Christians will be murdered in Nigeria if we show support for LGBTI people in England, and who obviously has the goods on all his bishops. I think, on reflection...Runcie?

Posted by Steve Morgan at Wednesday, 12 April 2017 at 10:37am BST

Looks as though Sheffield will need to consider a change of address for the new Bishop, as we no longer have Bishop S Croft living at Bishopscroft.

Posted by John Roch at Wednesday, 12 April 2017 at 12:46pm BST

Father David: 'OTT'???

Sorry, I obviously don't speak your dialect.

And as for the coronation, sorry, but it's all too Constantinian for this guy. I'm grateful not to be ministering in an 'Established' church.

[editors' note: OTT = "over the top"]

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 12 April 2017 at 6:48pm BST

Dear Tim, But I always thought that Evangelicals found the Established Church the best boat in which to fish from?

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 13 April 2017 at 7:30am BST

I'm a Canadian, Father David; I've never ministered in an Established Church.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Thursday, 13 April 2017 at 9:16am BST

Well, come on in, Tim, the water's lovely!

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 13 April 2017 at 4:27pm BST

Well, Tim, it might help if you do admit that you were actually born and raised in the same village as me - Walsgrave-sur-Sowa (Domesday Book ref.) just 3 miles from Coventry Cathedral, before you - like me - sought greener pastures in which to answer your call from God. You ended up in Canada, I ended up in New Zealand, eventually. We each were ordained into the tradition we inherited - you with the Evangelicals and me with the 'Spikes'.

This explains why you and I are sometimes differently opinionated when commenting on threads on T.A. But, both working for the same 'Boss'.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 15 April 2017 at 3:56am BST

Ron: I was actually born in inner-city Leicester, which is quite a bit further from Coventry, but I didn't 'seek' greener pastures - I was brought to Canada as a 17 year old by my parents. I have now lived in Canada for 41 years and don't carry a British passport. I knew nothing about different ecclesiastical traditions when I lived in England. All my ministry experience has been in the Anglican Church of Canada (commissioned as a Church Army evangelist in 1978, ordained deacon in 1990 and priest in 1992). Hence, when I said I'd never ministered in an 'established church, I was telling the truth and not concealing anything.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 17 April 2017 at 10:46pm BST
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