Bishop Philip North will not become Bishop of Sheffield

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Statement from the Bishop of Burnley, The Rt Rev. Philip North

It is with regret and sadness that I have decided that I am unable to take up the nomination as Bishop of Sheffield.

The news of my nomination has elicited a strong reaction within the diocese and some areas of the wider Church. It is clear that the level of feeling is such that my arrival would be counter-productive in terms of the mission of the Church in South Yorkshire and that my leadership would not be acceptable to many.

I am grateful for the love, prayers and care that have been shown me over recent weeks by numerous people, especially the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Blackburn and the clergy of the Blackburn Diocese. In particular I would like to thank the Bishop of Doncaster and the diocesan team in Sheffield for their support.

I apologise to the many for whom this decision will come as a disappointment. 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. The highly individualised nature of the attacks upon me have been extremely hard to bear. If, as Christians, we cannot relate to each other within the bounds of love, how can we possibly presume to transform a nation in the name of Christ?  I hope though that this conversation can continue in the future without it being hung upon the shoulders of one individual.

I do not doubt for one single second the Lordship of Christ or his call upon my life, but the pressures of recent weeks have left me reflecting on how He is calling me to serve him. I am grateful to the Bishop of Blackburn for allowing me a period of leave to reflect on and pray about the events of the past few weeks and would ask for this space to be respected. I hope that, as we continue on the Lenten journey, we will each be able to hear God’s voice speaking to us in the wilderness, drawing forth order and beauty from the messy chaos of our lives.

From The Telegraph

He would have been the first bishop appointed to a senior role who did not agree with women’s ordination since the Church voted to allow women to become bishops in November 2014.

The bishop had withdrawn from public for a period of “prayer and reflection” and had not previously made any statements about the controversy. Residents of the new diocese had urged him to stand aside over his views.

The controversy stems in part from his continued membership of a Church of England group known as the Society, which does not recognise women priests.
 Giles Fraser, writing in The Guardian, before this announcement explains:
When the C of E agreed to have women bishops, it also agreed, as a condition of passing the women bishops legislation, that so-called traditionalist bishops were just as welcome in the church as women bishops. They called it “mutual flourishing” and made the issue seem like one of accommodating differing varieties of theological opinion. But this is a category mistake. For there is an order of difference between you and your boss having conflicting opinions on some matter of church doctrine and having a boss that believes, as a matter of principle, that you are ontologically incapable of doing the job you are being paid for on account of possessing a vagina. This fundamental asymmetry is carefully obscured in the typically woolly C of E phrase “mutual flourishing”.
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11 Responses to "Bishop Philip North will not become Bishop of Sheffield"
  1. Giles Fraser has it right. If Bishop Philip North became Bishop of Sheffield, no female Priest in Sheffield could continue in her position since her Bishop's position would be that the Priest was incapable of being called to hold the position she was in. Not a viable working position. A sad day. I'm glad he (North) has decided not to take over. It would be a sad day for the C of E.

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  2. I am not British, so my comments are really true only from what I have seen and experienced here in the U.S. The Episcopal Church in the U.S. has gone through quite a bit since 1976. We now have women clergy -they are Priests, Bishops, Arch-Deacons, Deans, etc. So, it's not a 'big deal" in most places for this to occur. As the mother of a brilliant daughter I have had the privilege of experiencing and seeing first hand how the church absolutely loses in not having both men and women as clergy. It makes no sense whatsoever. And there is no going back to the era (for Episcopalians at least) when it was considered a men only group of clergy. When I was little, acolytes had to be boys-girls were not allowed to be acolytes!! And now it seems ridiculous. Iceland just passed the equal pay for equal work law and since it's 2017 it's clear we are going forward in equality in all works of life-and that's good. In the U.S. right now more women are going to universities than men. More women are in Med School than men. I think there are more women in seminary than men. A former Church of England priest. Leo Booth, emphasizes that one brings their idea of God into their Recovery Program and it isn't until they discover their own sense of who god is to them that they move forward with their Spirituality. I would say that it seems we (as a society and church) bring a very limited idea of who and what god is into our world. March 8th was a day to emphasize how important women are in our world. I still don't understand why in this modern world we as women still need to prove that we can do any job the male can. I thought we'd be much further along by now with that. The former Presiding Bishop's (who is a woman) daughter is a Fighter Pilot in the U.S. Military, so that counts. And several women have flown in the U.S. space program. But we still need to encourage girls to study math/science/engineering, astronomy, etc. When we hold girls back, we hold all of us back. So, no, as far as consecrating this priest to be a bishop would not have worked for their diocesan clergy-no doubt about that. But it is too bad that this kind of mentality still exists-that a woman can't become whatever she is called to, simply based on her being a female. I'm a senior citizen now, and had hoped that the church and society would be far more advance with attitudes and beliefs about women by now. When does it stop? Trump's election also proves that women in this country are considered less than and our minds and bodies to be mocked-especially by Trump-so we have a long long way to go also. My dad was an Episcopal Priest and he would be absolutely appalled that Trump got elected. It's hard to believe for every one I know. And my mother---no words would be enough to say what she would say. She was her own person in every way. So, the best that can be done for now is to just know that there is no going back.

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  3. Whilst I do not share Bishop Philip's view on the role of women within the Church I am very sorry to see him stand down from the proposed move to Sheffield. In his time in Burnley he has inspired many people with his energy and enthusiasm and has been a great friend to many. His faith and commitment have made a tremendous impact in Lancashire and we would have been very sad to lose him. Our thoughts and prayers are with him at this difficult time

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    • I think that you misunderstand what would be taking place if Bishop North is translated to Sheffield. In his current possition as bishop suffragan of Burnley, yes, he works through his own Apostolic Authority, and as suffragan of that area he may supervise priests who also work in the area, but none of them represent him, nor obtain their authority for their cure from him, but from the bishop ordinary of the diocese.

      If North becomes the bishop ordinary of Sheffield, he would be chief pastor of the diocese and every priest in that diocese would vow obedience to him and obtain their individual authority for their cures from his Apostolic Authority. How does that happen if he doesn't accept or believe that a large percentage of those priests are really priests? How do those women vow obedience to him when he doesn't actually accept or believe that they are priests? How do women, called by the Holy Spirit to be priests in the Church of God, become priests in his diocese? Etc.

      Yes, none of this is magic; ordination, Apostolic Authority, vows of obedience, etc., but we either believe in them and that they mean something or we don't.

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  4. Bishop North: "The highly individualised nature of the attacks upon me have been extremely hard to bear."

    Translation: "My misogyny has been criticized, Waaaah!" Get a grip, snowflake.

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    • This is the second bishop posting he's lost due to attacks from the left. I'm sure they all have his personal address and email. Must we demand to see every email, video, etc. before we believe someone has been attacked, etc? Can we say "Waaah, get a grip, snowflake" to every LGBT person who claims to have been attacked unless they publish proof for the world to see? Some female priests in England seem to believe him and that other female priests went totally beyond the pale. Perhaps he should publish them, but is the CoE ready to discipline female priests for attacks, etc.? Would getting 3-4 female priests kicked out for conduct unbecoming make the situation better?

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      • You make an assumption from facts not in evidence. You assume that he is referring to private communications to him directly. I'm not so sure that is what he is making a reference about. I think he couldn't take the public heat in just about every publication of import in the UK against his translation.

        I seriously doubt there is any diocese in the CoE where he can serve as bishop ordinary for the very reasons in my comment above. So perhaps he should drop his aspirations of great power and be happy where he can least damage that church, as a bishop suffragan.

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      • Show me the police reports, Chris H, and I'll be satisfied. [And yes, I'm aware that oppressed persons sometimes fake/make-up their own "attacks" also. That's a crime, and should be prosecuted as such.]

        Absent that, I will continue to believe that the proverbial "attack" was simply criticism [And no one is GUARANTEED an episcopacy---Geoffrey John could tell you that!]

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  5. I thought this piece addressed helpfully some of the questions asked in the comments above --

    http://morethanliberty.blogspot.com/2017/03/a-plea-from-me-to-c-of-e.html?spref=fb

    Bruce Robison

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    • I don't see that it answered anything. It's very much a bury your head in the sand approach.

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      • I agree with David. CoE did not think through how on earth it was possible for female clergy and girls to flourish in a diocese run by a man who does not see the clergy as actual priests, and thus does not see women and girls as equal to men and boys in the eyes of God.

        It isn't possible. And it is a horrifically nasty message for the girls and an impossible work situation for the clergy - including men who were ordained by women. That's how radically extreme +Philip and his Society are. If 20 bishops lay hands to consecrate a bishop or ordain a priest, and if even one is female, then that consecration is "tainted" in the eyes of the Society that +Philip subscribes too.

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