Bishop Opposed To Women Priests Warned Of 'Anxiety And Distress' Over His Promotion To Sheffield

Philip North, the traditionalist Bishop of Burnley nominated for promotion to Sheffield, is being warned of 'the level of pastoral anxiety and distress' in the area about his arrival.

A letter being signed by clergy across the Diocese of Sheffield will be sent to Bishop North, who refuses to ordain women, outlining their 'concern and disappointment' before his election on 25 April.

Philip North, an Anglo-Catholic bishop opposed to women's ordination and Libby Lane, the Church of England's first female bishop, meet regularly to pray.Twitter / Peter Ould

The signatories say they are 'profoundly unhappy' with the Church's principle of 'mutual flourishing' which attempts to bridge deep divides over women bishops and avoid a split on this issue.

'Our principal concern is, of course, your position as a traditionalist bishop coming to a diocese that, despite having a number of traditionalist parishes, is mostly not of that persuasion,' they write.

'We need to understand how unity and justice are served by the nomination of a bishop whose ecclesiology and eucharistic practice are not those of the majority in the Diocese of Sheffield.

'Even if, as we believe, you are committed to unity and justice as our bishop, we do need to ask, for the sake of our mental and spiritual health, for the opportunity to understand how your episcopate would not prove divisive, but rather, would further these gospel values in the life of the church.'

The letter is coordinated by Sheffield Action on Ministry Equality, a new group set up in response to Bishop North's appointment. It is not clear how many have signed the letter. Christian Today has contacted the group for comment.

In spite of the opposition a number of women clergy have voiced their support of North on social media.

It comes after Bishop North was strongly supported by the Church of England following criticism of his stance on women priests and membership of a conservative grouping known as The Society.

A blog post from the Church's media team on Tuesday criticised the attacks on North and insisted his selection to Sheffield was suitable.

'It has been established for over two decades, both within the Church of England and within the Anglican Communion that both positions, those who support the ordination and consecration of women, and those who in conscience cannot support that, are fully Anglican,' it read.

The criticism of North focused on his membership of The Society, which hands out 'identity cards' to male clergy who have been ordained by a male bishop who stands in a succession of bishops at whose consecration a male bishop presided.

The Bishop of Wakefield, chair of The Society's council of bishops, said he was aware the way the cards had been described had caused upset and 'wish to express our regret at the offence that this has caused'.

The Church of England's hierarchy came out strongly in support of North after intense criticism last weekend.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu insisted there was 'no contradiction' in North's appointment to a diocese where a third of clergy are women.

'This is about people of different traditions called to put Christ first, for the sake of God's mission in the world.'

In an article for the Yorkshire Post on Saturday he writes: 'This is not a 'winner takes all' approach but rather one that seeks – as the Lambeth resolution said – to recognise that those who dissent as well as those who assent to particular propositions are both treated as loyal members of the Church.

'It's a lesson that we need to hear in times where fractious disagreement can threaten to boil over into unwise actions.'

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