Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Opponent of women's ordination appointed as bishop of Sheffield

Image result for Bishop Philip NorthThe Church of England has appointed as the new bishop of Sheffield a clergyman who opposes the ordination of women.

Philip North, from the traditionalist Anglo-Catholic wing of the C of E, is being promoted from his position as bishop of Burnley, where he has championed people who are economically and socially marginalised.

His opposition to women priests prompted criticism of the appointment. Emma Percy, the chairperson of Watch (Women and the Church), acknowledged North’s strengths in urban ministry and with youth, but added: “We are aware of the sadness felt by many in Sheffield that they will now have a diocesan bishop who will not ordain women. Sheffield is a diocese with a large number of women clergy and we sincerely hope that the new bishop will promote a culture in which ordained women will feel validated and encouraged to flourish.”

In 2012, North accepted the post of bishop of Whitby but two months later stepped aside after protests over his opposition to women in the ministry.

He has been a member of the Company of Mission Priests for the past 20 years. Many of its members joined the Roman Catholic church after the C of E permitted the ordination of women. 

The organisation of male Anglican clergy pledges to remain unmarried and to live a simple life. 

In a statement about his appointment, North said he looked forward “to finding ways of strengthening our ministry to the poor and the vulnerable and to the young. In a diverse diocese, I am wholly committed to being a bishop for everyone and will work to ensure that priests and parishes of all traditions can flourish and find delight in serving God and his people.”

In December, North lambasted the C of E for adopting a “middle-class culture” and failing to listen to the marginalised working-class voices behind the vote for Brexit. He accused the church of allowing its agenda to be “set not by the poor but by academics, the moneyed elites and certain sections of the secular media”.

The C of E has ordained women since 1994, and appointed its first female bishop in December 2015. There are now 10 female bishops out of a total of 115, two of whom are the more senior diocesan bishops.

The issue of women’s ordination has been deeply divisive within the church. 

In 2013, the church’s ruling body, the synod, adopted five principles on the consecration of women as bishops, which included a commitment that the church would enable those opposed to the move on theological grounds “to flourish within its life and structures”.

Percy said: “We have concerns that the current appointment system makes it harder for women to be appointed as diocesan bishops. We hope that as the church seeks to live out the five guiding principles the importance of women flourishing in the church may be taken as seriously as that of the minority who remain opposed to their ordination.”

Last week, C of E bishops upheld traditional teaching that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman, after two years of internal discussions about Christians in same-sex relationships and gay marriage. 

Campaigners for gay rights within the church said they felt betrayed by the bishops’ report, although it was welcomed by conservative evangelicals.