Christian Today report– Traditionalist Fr Philip North is to be consecrated today in York Minster, a week after the first woman was elevated to the order of bishops in the Church of England.
North will be the new Suffragan Bishop of Burnley, replacing Rt Rev John Goddard who retired last July.
Today’s ceremony has sparked heated debate about the concessions made for traditionalist parishes within legislation allowing women to become bishops. According to church law, those parishes which disagree with female bishops can ask to be overseen by a traditionalist male bishop.
It emerged in the days before Rt Rev Libby Lane, new Suffragan Bishop of Stockport, was consecrated that only those bishops who had never laid hands on a female bishop or priest would lay hands on North today in York. That disqualifies a significant number who will be present, many of whom laid hands on Bishop Lane.
It has bought about accusations of a theology of ‘taint'; the suggestion that to lay hands on a woman and then on a man would break the apostolic succession.
However, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has expressly denied this. “Any suggestion that the arrangements proposed for the consecration of the Bishop of Burnley are influenced by a theology of ‘taint’ would be mistaken,” he said in a statement.
The Archbishop will lead those present “in exercising gracious restraint,” the statement continued. “The Church of England remains committed to enabling [those who are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests] to flourish within its life and structures.”
“These arrangements are for prayer, not politics,” Dr Sentamu said.
Ordained in 1992, North’s most recent post was as team rector of the Parish of Old St Pancras and team vicar at St Michael’s Church in Camden. In 2012, he was forced to withdraw his acceptance of the post of Bishop of Whitby after conflict over his stance on women priests.
A letter written in November 2012 by the churchwarden of St Oswald’s Church, Lythe, in Whitby to Sentamu said: “We are puzzled, dismayed and very disappointed that for the third time running we have been assigned a Bishop of Whitby who does not accept the ordination of women priests.”
The letter, which gained a number of signatories, continued: “We are aware that some parishes, some clergy, and some of the laity in the Whitby bishopric do not accept the validity of women priests but, as in the rest of the country, a substantial majority of us do. So why should we have to have a bishop who does not accept them? We assume that there must be some sort of rationale behind the decision, but you should be aware that many of us feel aggrieved and overlooked.”
Dr Sentamu replied that he was confident that North would fully value “the ministry of his female colleagues” despite his traditional views. However, on 16 December 2012 it was announced that North would not take up the post.
“It was a great honour to be chosen for this role, and I had been very much looking forward to taking up the position,” he said in a statement issued by the diocese of London.
“However, in the light of the recent vote in the General Synod, and having listened to the views of people in the Archdeaconry of Cleveland, I have concluded that it is not possible for me, at this difficult time for our Church, to be a focus for unity. I have therefore decided that it is better to step aside at this stage.
“I have reached this decision after a time of deep reflection and feel sure that it is for the best. I now look forward to refocusing my energies on the pastoral needs of my parish.”
Source: Christian Today