Church of England

Independent report says Sheffield controversy shouldn't stop Philip North becoming a senior bishop

Fri 15 Sep 2017
By Marcus Jones

The man behind an independent report into the controversy surrounding the appointment of the Bishop of Sheffield has said he sees no reason why traditionalists who don't agree with the ordination of women can't become diocesan bishops.

Sir Philip Mawer was asked to review the nomination of Philip North (picture below with Bishop Libby Lane) and the subsequent fall out.

Back in January, North was named as the next Bishop of Sheffield before withdrawing from the role two month later.

The appointment was met with much criticism from those both within and outside of the Church who said someone who wasn't in favour of ordaining women shouldn't be allowed to take on a senior role. That's despite an agreement made within the Church back in 2014 which said people who shared that view could make it to the top.

Church of England

Bishop Philip North and Bishop Libby Lane


Sir Philip has made a number of recommendations to stop similar controversies happening in future.

They include commissioning a group to look into how educated those within the Church are on the 2014 agreement; a review into the secretive nature of the nominations procedure and a consultation with those in Sheffield and Blackburn (where Philip North serves as a suffragan bishop) to learn lessons.

Speaking to Premier after publishing his report, Sir Philip said he was confident that someone like Philip North could take on a more senior role in future, despite what has previously happened.

"I don't believe there is any bar to a non-ordaining bishop or a woman being appointed to a senior diocesan role," he said. "There is clearly a question to be examined in each case as to whether a particular appointment in a particular place but that such appointments can happen and should be capable of happening in future has to be recognised."

He also encouraged those on different sides of the debate on women clergy to be more mindful of each other.

He said: "I hope my full recommendations will help create a context where Bishop Philip or anyone else of similar views or indeed an ordained woman can be appointed to any diocese or any position within the church.

"I'm confident that if the Church is prepared to live out the terms of the settlement then that will happen. What is crucial is that having signed up to the settlement - everyone honours its terms."

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have welcomed Sir Philip's findings. In a statement they said: "We are very grateful and deeply indebted to Sir Philip for this detailed, thoughtful and authoritative review.

"We will be reading it carefully and discussing the lessons with the House of Bishops when it meets later this year and will respond in greater detail in due course.

"We reaffirm our commitment to the vital principle of mutual flourishing as the Church and will endeavour to maintain the bond of peace and affection and live God's reconciliation in Jesus Christ, even amid difference on questions on which Christians may disagree Christianly."

Listen to Sir Philip Mawer speaking to Premier's Marcus Jones:

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