In what the local press is calling a “shock shift in theology,” the Rt Rev Mark Sowerby, Suffragan Bishop of Sussex in the Diocese of Chichester, England, has resigned from the Council of Bishops of The Society under the Patronage of Saint Wilfred and Saint Hilda, a traditionalist body committed to promoting catholic teaching within the Church of England, and opposed to the ordination of women. The Society’s tagline reads, “Providing ministry, sacraments and oversight which we can receive with confidence.”
The Diocese of Chichester website has an announcement, in part:
The Bishop of Horsham announced today that following a period of strenuous theological reflection he now wishes to accept the sacramental ministry of all women and men ordained as deacon, priest and bishop in the Church of England.
As a consequence Bishop Mark has written a personal letter to the Bishop of Wakefield… The letter outlines Bishop Mark’s position, which he has obviously arrived at after much prayer and soul searching.
The Bishop of Chichester said today: “Bishop Mark’s shift in theological outlook on the ordination of women priests and bishops is a costly one. All who know and respect him will understand the serious struggle with conscience that will have led to his decision. We respect his honesty and applaud his courage. For some of those he serves it will be a development that they cannot follow, and that will be painful; for others, this news will be greeted with relief and considerable rejoicing.
Bishop Mark will continue to minister in the diocese as suffragan bishop of Horsham. Traditionalists who have looked to him for sacramental ministry will still have available to them the pastoral care and oversight of the diocesan bishop.
The Society’s chairman, the Rt Rev Tony Robinson, has published this response:
It is with great regret that I have received the Bishop of Horsham’s resignation from the Council of Bishops of The Society. I acknowledge the pain he feels in taking this step, and his regret at the pain it will cause for others.
Part of The Society’s purpose is to continue within the Church of England a tradition of sacramental theology and ministry that accords with the mind and practice of the great churches of East and West. We see this as our contribution both to the breadth and diversity of the Church of England and to the quest for the full visible unity of Christ’s Church.
As a member of the Council of Bishops, the Bishop of Chichester will continue to provide pastoral and sacramental ministry and oversight under the House of Bishops’ Declaration to the clergy and people of The Society in his diocese.
We send Bishop Mark our good wishes for his future ministry.
The Diocese of Chichester has been known as a stronghold of traditionalist views on ordination.
The diocesan release notes that arrangements for future ordinations in the diocese had already been made, using the model applied at the ordinations of Libby Lane, Bishop of Stockport, and Philip North, Bishop of Burnley. Diocesan ordinations will take place in the cathedral with all three bishops of the diocese present and participating “in ways that respect the theological conscience of those present.”
Thinking Anglicans has a round-up of releases and reactions here.
Photo credit: www.chichester.anglican.org. Posted by Rosalind Hughes