jQuery Slider

You are here

US Anglican Bishops Weigh in on Church of England Bullying Resignation of Church of England Bishop

US Anglican Bishops Weigh in on Church of England Bullying Resignation of Church of England Bishop
Bishop Philip North was clearly intimidated and hounded out of consideration. My resignation statement speaks of "highly individualized attacks on me," he said

By David W. Virtue, DD
www.virtueonline.org
March 12, 2017

NEWS ITEM: The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt. Rev. Philip North, withdrew consideration from being the next Bishop of Sheffield. He withdrew his acceptance of the nomination to the See after bitter attacks from an Oxford academic on his theology and ecclesiology of the Church over his traditionalist views on women to the priesthood.

"The highly individualized nature of the attacks upon me have been extremely hard to bear. If, as Christians, we cannot relate to each other within the bounds of love, how can we possibly presume to transform a nation in the name of Christ?" said North.

NORTH AMERICAN BISHOPS RESPOND

A number of former Episcopal bishops now with the Anglican Church in North America, have come out blasting the decision by Bishop Philip North to resign following claims he was bullied and intimidated by Professor Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, who told him to decline his nomination to the See because of his opposition to women's ordination. A post-modern liberal, Percy published his views on the website of Modern Church, a society promoting liberal Christianity of which Percy is a Vice President.

This did not sit well with a number of British clerics including women, but it also raised the hackles of a number of former North American Episcopal Anglo-Catholic bishops, who experienced much the same thing.

Bishop Keith Ackerman (formerly Quincy) said in a statement on Philip North's withdrawal, "This is one the saddest stories. As long as a Bishop believes that the "ordination" of women is a matter of Doctrinal Truth and that other Biblical principles are also irrelevant - and subject to a vote - this is what happens.

"Bp. North is a highly energetic Bishop, who as Administrator of our Anglican Shrine (Our Lady of Walsingham) brought vibrancy, youth, and spectacular plans for evangelization. He was appointed and then consecrated a Bishop (suffragan) and was recently appointed to Sheffield to be the Ordinary. This is a tragic day for all of us Catholics in the Anglican world - but it is a defining moment. The C of E "deed" of 1992 and the later "deed" of two years ago has produced a fourth order of ministry, in my opinion: Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and Ordained women. It has now come home to roost in the UK. In fact - this is what will effectively end our ecumenical relationships with other Catholic Communions such as Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy.

"There are very many conclusions one may reach - but one of the points to be made is that reform within an ecclesial institution is usually destined to failure unless your name is St. Francis."

Coming out strongly on this action of the UK bishop, was Bishop William Wantland (Formerly Eau Claire, Wisc.) He wrote to VOL; "In 1976, the Episcopal Church authorized the ordination of women to all orders of ministry. In 1977, the House of Bishops made it very clear that this was "permissive only", and not mandatory. Those who opposed the ordination of women were and remained "loyal Episcopalians".

"In 1980, I was elected Bishop of Eau Claire, an Anglo-Catholic diocese opposed to the ordination of women. In spite of what had been said, my election was vigorously opposed by liberal Bishops and dioceses. Nevertheless, my election was confirmed.

"Thereafter, more and more pressure was brought to bear against those who held to the Catholic view of ordination, and, in 1997, the ordination of women was made mandatory. Since then, every Anglo-Catholic diocese has either been driven out of the Episcopal Church, or has been subverted to accept the new order.

"In Canada, it only took ten years to make the new order mandatory.

"Now we are seeing the same thing in the Church of England. First, women's ordination is permitted, with assurances of a place for traditional views. Then those who oppose the new order are persecuted, and (as in the case of Bishop North) even pressured into stepping aside. Next will be the making of this innovation mandatory. Finally, any semblance of Catholic ministry will be totally suppressed.

"Who could ever believe that "liberals" will ever be liberal? Or fair? Or Christian?"

Echoing their sentiments, former TEC Bishop of Springfield, Peter Beckwith told VOL, "We should not be surprised, human nature being what is! Political correctness and "feelings" seem to trump truth far too often."

The following stories come from various Church of England reporters and commentators on the actions of Bishop North.

*****

Bullying and broken vows as Bishop is forced out

By Chris Sugden,
Global Christian News
11th March 2017

In July 2014, the General Synod of the Church of England after years of discussion since 1992, passed legislation that both allowed for the consecration of women as bishops, and made promises that traditionalists would continue to have an honoured place in the Church.

Those promises were contained in 'five principles' of mutual recognition. The promise was that those who "on grounds of theological conviction are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests, will continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England remains committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures; and pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest degree of communion and contribute to mutual flourishing across the Church of England."

Because of this commitment, both Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic members of the synod felt able to vote, as I did, for the legislation. I had been involved in the Synod debates since 2005 as reports and legislative drafts were discussed and rejected. Eventually, formal synodical processes were set aside and Justin Welby and his Canon for reconciliation, David Porter who had been involved in the Peace Process in Northern Ireland stepped in.

They brought together recognized representatives and leaders from all points of view for a series of meetings, starting in September, 2012, which developed over time a solution that all could accept with integrity:. women would be consecrated as full and not second class bishops, and the minority who could not receive their ministry were assured a succession of bishops who would give oversight to their churches and ordain their priests. Disputes were to be resolved by an ombudsman.

Sadly, tragically, disastrously and appallingly, these vows have now been broken. Following the announcement that Bishop Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, had been nominated to be Diocesan Bishop of Sheffield, a campaign was mounted by the Sheffield Alliance for Ministry Equality, comprising people within the diocese, and powerful figures outside such as Martyn Percy the Dean of Christ Church Oxford, objecting to his appointment on the grounds that it would "represent the toleration of gender-based sectarianism".

But the time for those arguments is past. General Synod settled the question that this would not be the result. Refusal to include in the Church those Bishops who disagree on the matter of the ordination and consecration of women, makes such sectarianism more and not less likely.

Susan Leafe, the Director of Reform, has written: "I have lost count of the number of times conservatives have been asked to trust that we can flourish in the Church of England, but without solid evidence that there is an equal future for conservatives in the Church of England (beyond that of dhimmitude) it becomes harder and harder to convince talented young men and women to offer themselves to serve in this denomination or to persuade congregations to continue to finance the work."

It is now not only the Catholic supporters of Bishop North's theology of ordination who are distressed. Many women priests are also upset. The Rev. Jules Middleton, a priest in Chichester Diocese where the Bishop, Martin Warner, takes the same stance as Bishop North: 'I, as an ordained woman want to publically say that I am appalled at the way +Philip has been treated and sad that he has felt the need to step aside, which can only be due to the recent and public objections -- how is this in any way enabling mutual flourishing?'

Questions must be asked. Bishop North was clearly intimidated and bullied. His resignation statement speaks of "highly individualized attacks on me." Such bullying had already persuaded him to withdraw from being nominated to the Suffragan See of Whitby, in 2012. Did the bullies smell blood and decide to go for the jugular in 2017, to prevent a man widely recognized as being a gifted minister of the gospel with long experience in some of the most deprived urban parishes in England, from becoming a diocesan Bishop?

We must assume that his Archbishop, the Archbishop of York, will have tried to encourage him to weather the storm. Being a single man, Bishop North will have needed the support of friends and colleagues. But given that this campaign against him was well-organized within and beyond the Diocese of Sheffield, did the Archbishops of York and Canterbury, the ultimate guarantors of those vows, consider calling in its leaders, listening to their concerns, and as any Prime Minister would have done in other circumstances, making it clear to them that if they cannot accept the policy of the Church of England, they should consider their position? And if not, why not?

This will not stop here. The Bishop of Maidstone writes: "if it (the concept of mutual flourishing) 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."

One blogger states: "There can now be no radically inclusive formula of words, no guiding principles, no memorandum of agreement or synodical 'fudge' by which those Anglicans who oppose the creation of some sort of liturgical same-sex blessing (proto-marriage), and those who advocate it as a fundamental equality or Christian social justice, can coexist in the Church of England. The hounding of Philip North from the Bishopric of Sheffield has put paid to all carefully-crafted yarns of mutual flourishing and rose-tinted via-media tolerance: mob rule has supplanted synodical governance; bullying and hounding have usurped reason, vocation and love."

Once vows are broken, trust is very difficult to restore.

*****

A Statement from the Rt. Rev. Rod Thomas, Bishop of Maidstone on the Rt. Rev. Philip North's withdrawal from nomination as the next Bishop of Sheffield

I am deeply saddened that Philip North has felt forced to withdraw from his nomination as the next Bishop of Sheffield. 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.

Philip has huge gifts to offer the Church, and his leadership in Sheffield would have given a great boost to mission.

However, the damage to the principles on which the House of Bishops Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests is based, is profound. 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 loses all credibility.

I know that both Archbishops were personally wholly committed to the concept of mutual flourishing and it was warmly supported by the General Synod. 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.

Bishop Thomas was appointed in 2015 as part of the Church of England's commitment to 'mutual flourishing.' His role is to provide assurance to conservative evangelicals in the Church of England who hold to the Biblical doctrine of male 'headship', that they will continue to be accepted and helped to 'flourish'.

Professor Percy argues in the article 'Questions of Ambiguity and Integrity?' that the logic of Bishop North's theological position makes it impossible for him to affirm and receive the ordained ministry of all his female clergy. If so, the same argument would apply to any male ordained by a female bishop. Women account for around one-third of the clergy of Sheffield diocese.

The Archbishop of York, The Most Rev. John Sentamu had this to say; "What has happened to Bishop Philip clearly does not reflect the settlement under which, two and a half years ago, the Church of England joyfully and decisively opened up all orders of ministry to men and women. It also made a commitment to mutual flourishing: that those who 'on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests, will continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England remains committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures; and pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contribute to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England."

Anglican Blogger, Mark Marshall, wrote, "I think this is about as close as an Anglican archbishop gets to being angry in an official statement.

"Although he does not use the term, what ++ York is decrying is the con game of Bait-and-Switch libchurchers play oh so well. They promise tolerance, space, and "mutual flourishing" to those who disagree with their innovations. But once they lie to get their way and have enough power, libchurchers throttle the orthodox faithful. Oh, those mossback orthodox laity are fine as long as they keep the money coming. But if one of those bigots try to become a diocesan bishop...

The day will come when traditionalists won't be able to become any kind of bishop. Then they won't be able to become priests. We've seen this sort of thing in the Episcopal Church already.

No statement has been forthcoming from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Where's all the talk of "radical inclusion" and "mutual flourishing", Your Grace?

END

Subscribe
Get the latest news and perspectives in the Anglican world.
comments powered by Disqus
Barnabas Fund

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee

Drink Coffee

Do Good

Sustainable Ministry

Coffee, Community, Social Justice

DrinkCoffeeDoGood.com

Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top