Philip North 'Hounded' Out Of Role, Claims Key Conservative Bishop

Philip North was 'hounded' out of office, a key conservative bishop has said, claiming the loss was a 'body blow' to the Church of England.

The Bishop of Maidstone, Rod Thomas, said the way North has been treated does major damage to the Church.

St Matthew's Church Elburton

Currently Bishop of Burnley, Philip North has withdrawn from his appointed post as Bishop of Sheffield after an intense campaign against him over his opposition to women's ordination.

In a damning statement directed against North's critics, Bishop Thomas lambasted those 'who hounded Philip North out of office' and said it 'will be a huge loss to Sheffield and is a body blow to the concept of "mutual flourishing" which lay at the heart of the agreement to introduce women bishops in the Church of England.'

Bishop Thomas was appointed as part of the 2014 deal allowing women bishops in the CofE. He has a 'floating' role providing 'alternative episcopal oversight' to a small number of conservative male clergy who find themselves under a local woman bishop's authority which they refuse to accept.

His role was created as a concession to traditionalists allowing a deal to be reached over women bishops.

The compromise was supposed to allow for 'mutual flourishing' in an attempt to hold together the two deeply entrenched sides.

But he said North's treatment had done 'profound' damage to the principles of that agreement, claiming there was a now 'glass ceiling' on those opposed to women's ordination.

'If all orders of ministry and all appointments are equally open to men and women, then the same has to apply to those who hold that the ministries of men and women are distinctively different.

'If it does not, if there is, in effect, a glass ceiling that prevents those of traditional churchmanships ministering at all levels of the Church, then the Declaration and the provisions that came with it lose all credibility.'

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

Thomas called for 'urgent action' from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to address the situation.

'I know that both Archbishops were personally wholly committed to the concept of mutual flourishing and it was warmly supported by the General Synod,' he said in a statement.

'If it is to survive as our governing motif, then urgent action will be needed to demonstrate its effectiveness. In the absence of such action, we will simply have given in to those who hounded Philip North out of office.'