AS someone who was ordained and who has worked in the Diocese of Sheffield and who retains a great love for the people and parishes of South Yorkshire, I am concerned by the article which Archbishop John Sentamu published (The Yorkshire Post, February 25).
In it, the Archbishop of York defended the appointment of a new Bishop of Sheffield who will not ordain women to the priesthood.
From its foundation as a diocese in 1918 the diocese has been well served by its bishops. I mention only the socially-aware ministry of Bishop Leslie Hunter in the 1940s and 50s and the mission-focused ministry of Bishop Steven Croft, the most recent bishop.
It is hard to understand why, after consultation in a diocese where one third of the clergy are women, such an unexpected appointment has been made.
I support the suggestion made by Professor Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, and also formerly of the Diocese of Sheffield that if Bishop Philip North continues with his acceptance of the post he should give up his active membership of groups who do not recognise the ministry of women as priests (The Yorkshire Post, February 28).
Archbishop Sentamu would be wise to encourage him in this since one of his own predecessors as Bishop of Birmingham gave a good lead.
On his appointment Charles Gore resigned from all party associations and high church groupings saying: “I am sure that a bishop had better own no allegiance to voluntary religious associations which have to take a line on controversial matters of which he may be called to act (within limits) as judge.”
The role of a diocesan bishop in the Church of England is to exercise episkope, literally to ‘watch over’ all their people – whether they go to church or not.
This is a task which Archbishop Sentamu performs supremely well.
While respecting the personal qualities and deeply-held views of Bishop Philip North, I do wonder why those who made this appointment, alongside our Archbishop, should compromise Bishop Philip in this way. I find it hard to see how he can accept a role which in all conscience he cannot fulfil without delegating to others tasks which are uniquely the privilege and responsibility of the bishop of a diocese.