When the Church of England made the journey to allowing women to become bishops, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York established a process for parishes which cannot accept women exercising priestly ministry among them to file a grievance should they believe that a bishop in the Church of England has not honored the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests in supplying the parishes with clergy. The man who decides these grievances is Sir Philip Mawer.
A recent grievance which Sir Philip has decided was against the Bishop of Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow. The See of Tewkesbury is a suffragan see in the Diocese of Gloucester. (As an aside, the See of Gloucester is in the Province of Canterbury, which is the realm of the Metropolitan Archbishop of the province, the Most Revd Justin Welby, the Senior Primate of the Church of England.)
In Bishop Snow’s jurisdiction is the North Cheltenham Multi-parish Benefice, which consists of five churches in four parishes: All Saints’, Pittville, Cheltenham; St Mary’s, Prestbury; St Nicolas’, Prestbury; St Lawrence’s, Swindon Village and St Mary Magdalene’s, Elmstone Hardwicke. The ministry team that supplies these parishes consists of two male priests, the Revd Canon David Smith, team rector and the Revd Stephen Eldridge, team vicar; two female priests, the Revd Liz Palin, associate priest and the Revd Angela Smith, assistant priest; and a female deacon, the Revd Jennifer Swinbank. By the way, the Revds David and Angela Smith are married and also, the parish of All Saints’ is on record as not accepting the priestly ministry of women. Because of that, the three women on the ministry team are not welcome to minister in that parish.
Bishop Snow was found by Sir Philip to have issued deficient licenses to practice in the multi-parish benefice to the two women priests because he had issued unrestricted licenses. Sir Philip has ruled that their licenses should have stated that they were only entitled to minister in the four churches in the three parishes that specifically accept the ministry of women. A verbal assurance by the bishop to the effect that the women would not minister in the parish of All Saints’ was not considered adequate by Sir Philip. The grievance, however, had not been filed by the parish of All Saints’, which had appeared to be satisfied with the assurance, but by Dr Colin Podmore, who is the director of Forward in Faith England. Forward in Faith is an organization representing the traditionalist strand of Anglo-Catholicism within the Church of England and is characterized by its opposition to the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate and, more recently, to more liberal Anglican views of homosexuality.
Dr Podmore also took the opportunity in his grievance to take a swipe at the former Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Michael Perham, whom Dr Podmore said believed to be hostile to traditional Catholics. He also inferred that the Bishops of Gloucester and Tewkesbury had failed to help traditional Catholic parishes to flourish. Bishop Perham was of course insulted by the claim and requested that it be withdrawn from the grievance.
Sir Philip has expressed that with the Bishop of Tewkesbury issuing new licenses to practice to the two women priests on the Cheltenham Ministry Team which explicitly state that the authorization granted to Mrs Smith and Ms Palin did not extend to undertaking priestly ministry in the parish of All Saints’ and with the recent consecration of a new Bishop of Gloucester, that everyone has an opportunity for a fresh start. The new Bishop of Gloucester? She is the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, the first female diocesan bishop in the Church of England and the first bishop consecrated by the hand of the current Archbishop of Canterbury! Automatically a bishop whose episcopal ministry is not accepted by the parish of All Saints’.
Read a more detailed article on this story here.
The image is from playbillder.com