THE irony of the Right Reverend Philip North taking the decision to withdraw from his nomination as Bishop of Sheffield coming during the season of Lent will be lost on few people familiar with the values of the Church.
Lent represents new beginnings; the dawn of new life and hope as snowdrops wither and daffodils flourish around our feet. So what better time for clergy to reflect upon why a seemingly good man with admirable qualities and unblemished integrity should have his calling thwarted by archaic theological barriers?
Moreover, Sheffield deserves a diocesan figurehead imbued with such estimable spiritual leadership as his, and yet here we are with South Yorkshire communities, whether they devoutly worship or not, being deprived of someone who could have made a difference to their everyday lives.
With International Women’s Day bobbing in the wake of this week, now is the time for the Church of England to examine itself and consider whether or not it was serious about equal status for women when it consecrated Libby Lane, Britain’s first female bishop, two years ago.
If the only thing stopping the Right Reverend North, and other talented and Godly men of his ilk, from leading presitgious cities like Sheffield is theological nuances and not any sort of deep-seated religious misogyny, then now is the time for modern reform.
There will be those traditionalists who balk at the very idea of the Church altering to reflect the full diverse needs of modern British society, but until it does it will represent divisiveness over unity.
The Archbishop of York quite rightly alludes to this being an opportunity for reconciliation and for the re-building of trust, but until all worshippers are equal, and none more equal than others then the joys of holy communion and the elation that comes with sharing love and laughter with friends and family, as well as the comfort of the support and understanding of others when we need it most, will remain the preserve of only half of society.