The national committee of WATCH has now had time to read and discuss Sir Philip Mawer’s review into the nomination of +Philip North to the See of Sheffield and his subsequent withdrawal. We note Sir Philip’s conclusion that there were no villains, however there was a serious lack of forethought. It is clear that the question of whether the new bishop would be able to unequivocally affirm the ordained ministry of women was not widely discussed. +Philip was led to believe that the diocese was prepared for his appointment and was therefore placed in a difficult position when it became clear that many had serious questions about how this would work.
His reaction to the genuine questions and fears of the women clergy of the diocese shows his lack of understanding of how undermining his inability to fully affirm women’s sacramental ministry is to those who continue to minister in a church which cannot quite accept the equality which the wider society now enshrines in law. It seems incredible that nobody in the central Church of England appointments or communications departments thought that this would be a contentious appointment requiring sensitive pastoral work within both the diocese and the wider church.
The review highlights the need for more theological thinking about the five guiding principles. It also makes suggestions about the Crown Nomination Committee and the appointment process which can be picked up by the ongoing review of that process. WATCH’s response to the Sir Philip Mawer’s review and his recommendations is published below: