Mike Kirby

Cathedral 'should help conservative worshippers avoid women priest-led services'

Fri 08 Mar 2019
By Alex Williams

Wakefield Cathedral was "asking too much" of a congregation member who cannot accept women clergy, a new report has found.

The independent review followed a complaint from one worshipper after the West Yorkshire landmark stopped publishing in advance the names of those who would be presiding over Holy Communion.

Dennis Belk claimed he was being "marginalised" because he was forced to arrive at services without prior knowledge whether there would be a male or female celebrant.


Mr Belk, who described himself as a "traditional Catholic" felt the situation put him in a "compromising position" and argued he had to leave services on three occasions because a woman priest was presiding.

Conducted by Sir William Fittall, the review found cathedral bosses were unreasonable in their expectations of Mr Belk.

He said: "To expect someone whose theological conviction does not enable him to receive the sacramental ministry of women routinely to turn up to a celebration of Holy Communion when he cannot discover in advance whether he will be able to receive Holy Communion seems to me to be asking too much."

Wikimedia Commons


Responding to a previous letter from Mr Belk, Dean of Wakefield Cathedral Very Rev Simon Cowling said: "Removing the names of those - male and female - who are to preside at a particular service helps to make the point that it is our offering of the Eucharist that is central, rather than the particular individual who is presiding."

The Bishop of Wakefield, Rt Rev Tony Robinson (pictured below, right) , wrote to Mr Belk says expressing his "disappointment" at the decision. He added: "Unfortunately, the Dean and Chapter seem determined to carry on with the new practice."

Diocese of Leeds


Very Rev Cowling said he would be reflecting on the review's findings. The review's conclusions are not binding.

In its 'Five Guiding Principles', the Church of England says it is "fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open to all irrespective of gender".


But the principles also state: "Those whose theological convictions mean they are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, so the church of England remains committed to enabling them to flourish".

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