Sheffield bishop appointment who would not ordain women priests 'surprise to many', says report

Rt Revd Philip North.
Rt Revd Philip North.
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The Church of England failed to anticipate the opposition to appointing a bishop in Sheffield who would not ordain women priests, a report has found.

The Right Reverend Philip North turned down the post of Bishop of Sheffield in March for 'personal reasons' following opposition to his stance on female priests.

Sir Philip Mawer has now published a 75-page report drawing on submission from more than 100 people following calls for an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the failed appointment.

He ruled that the nomination of Bishop North, who was known for his stance on not ordaining women priests, came as a "surprise to many" in the Church of England which indicated "a failure to inform and educate people that such a nomination was possible."

The report also said that it "points to a failure to anticipate the likely reaction to Bishop North’s nomination and to plan for handling it."

Sir Philip recommends more work should be done to inform and educate within the church about a general synod settlement in 2014 that allowed the consecration of women as bishops.

He said the story of the Sheffield nomination was "not populated by villains but by people who were simply seeking to do their best" and there was "no merit" in "searching for scapegoats."

Sir Philip added: "If those in the minority wish to continue as honoured and full members of the Church of England, they need to ensure that they act and speak in ways which show understanding of the position of ordained women."

The country's most senior clergymen - the Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Most Reverend John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York - said they would read the report, discuss it with the house of bishops and respond 'in due course.'

In a statement, The Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield, and the Rt Revd Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster, said: "The report deliberately refrains from apportioning blame.

"While not shying away from searching questions, it adopts a generous tone, seeking as far as possible to believe the best about the motivations of all the people involved."

They added: "As bishops with our leadership teams, and as a diocese, we need to now take time to absorb and understand the analysis contained in the report."

The Very Reverend Dr Pete Wilcox is to be installed as the next Bishop of Sheffield on September 23 at Sheffield Cathedral.