Turmoil in Church deepens as bishop in U-turn
The crisis over women bishops in the Church of England has deepened after a clergyman announced he would not be taking up the post of Bishop of Whitby over the issue.
Anglo-Catholic Father Philip North said he was withdrawing from the role of Bishop of Whitby following the General Synod vote last month over women bishops which has exposed deep splits in the Anglican church.
The team rector at Old Saint Pancras Church in London was among a group of General Synod clergy members who voted against giving final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops.
The legislation failed by just six votes to achieve the necessary majority from the General Synod, plunging the Church of England into crisis and recriminations.
Fr North said in a statement: “It was a great honour to be chosen for this role and I had been very much looking forward to taking up the position.
“However, in the light of the recent vote in the General Synod and having listened to the views of people in the archdeaconry of Cleveland, I have concluded that it is not possible for me, at this difficult time for our Church, to be a focus for unity.
“I have therefore decided that it is better to step aside at this stage.
“I have reached this decision after a time of deep reflection and feel sure that it is for the best. I now look forward to re-focusing my energies on the pastoral needs of my parish.”
Martin Dales, lay member of the General Synod for the Diocese of York and spokesman for the Catholic Group in the Synod, said he understood a letter with a number of signatories had raised concerns about Fr North’s views on the ordination of women bishops.
“I just feel deeply saddened for him because I think whatever your views are on a particular issue, people have different views and we need to have respect for that,” he said.
“I am deeply saddened that somebody who has been called to the office of a Bishop should feel as though they are not going to be wanted in the area in which they are going to operate and so much for ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has written to clergy and readers expressing his “sadness” at Fr North’s decision.
He said: “This has come as a great disappointment to me personally and I am sure to many in the wider church, the Diocese and the Archdeaconry of Cleveland.
“Philip North is not a single-issue priest. As a gifted pastor-teacher he is deeply committed to the flourishing of the diverse ministries of all God’s people – lay and ordained.
“His dynamic vision for making Christ visible in mission and ministry, as well as serving the poor, would have been a great asset to us all.”
Fr North has notified the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of London of his decision and will now remain as team rector of the Parish of Old St Pancras.
Bishop of London Richard Chartres said: “I can understand the reasons for Philip’s decision.
“He is a gifted and energetic priest and I am glad that he remains in this diocese to continue his outstanding work in Camden Town.”
Downing Street announced in October that Fr North had been appointed to the suffragan post as Bishop of Whitby, replacing Martin Warner, who is now Bishop of Chichester.
Fr North was due to be consecrated as Bishop of Whitby in March.
The Bishop of Whitby traditionally helps in ministering to parishes which are unable to accept women priests.
Dr Sentamu added: “The question of the appointment of a new bishop will be first referred to the Dioceses Commission.”
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Weather for Yorkshire
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 22 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 6 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 26 mph
Wind direction: North east