Yesterday the great news was announced that Father Philip North, currently Team Rector of Old St Pancras (near King’s Cross), London, is to be the new Bishop of Burnley (a suffragan see in the Diocese of Blackburn). Well known in his previous role as Administrator of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Father Philip is a gifted teacher, evangelist, and imaginative communicator. He is a member of the Company of Mission Priests.
In the following report from the Blackburn Diocesan website, it is clear that Bishop Julian Henderson sees Father Philip’s appointment partly as episcopal provision for traditional catholics throughout the diocese.
Is it too late for other provinces of the Anglican Communion to make similar provision?
The appointment was made by the Bishop of Blackburn following consultation with a representative group from the Diocese. The appointment was made with the support of the Archbishop of York and approved by Her Majesty The Queen. He will be consecrated at York Minster on February 2 2015. It was initially announced this morning on the Downing Street website.
Philip North was initially welcomed by Diocesan staff and senior clergy at Blackburn Cathedral this morning. He then went to the Burnley Faith Centre where he met local students. Click here for pictures from both events on the Diocesan Flickr feed. The event was also ‘live-tweeted’ and you can see those on our Twitter feed @cofelancs here.
In introducing himself, Philip said: “It is a great pleasure to be here and a daunting privilege to be appointed Bishop of Burnley.
“I am very excited about sharing in the ministry of the church and the life of the community in this region. It is really good to be returning to the north of the country where I began my ministry, and especially to be coming to Lancashire with its diverse communities, stunning countryside and terrific football!
“Frankly it is a tremendous relief that the news of this appointment is out at last. The person I have been most nervous of telling is my mother who is a proud Yorkshire woman. With any luck she will forgive me for being on the wrong side of the Pennines and agree to attend my Consecration!”
Philip continued: “In recent years the church in this Diocese has been responsible for some extremely imaginative ministry. My predecessor, Bishop John, started some pioneering work with other faiths and the Cathedral has also been instrumental in enabling Lancashire’s diverse faith communities to understand each other better.
“This kind of important inter-faith work is something I am very familiar with where I am currently based in London. I am a governor of a church school with a 68% Muslim population and I have sought to encourage close links between people of all faiths to strengthen the already vibrant local community.
“One of my great passions is work with young people, and here there is so much to build on, not least with the Diocese’s fantastic network of church schools.
“In my current ministry in London I am all too aware of the impact of poverty, low pay and social inequality in undermining the dignity of human life, and the church in this region is addressing this with some bold and imaginative projects.”
The Bishop-designate of Burnley also acknowledged the challenges facing the church today and said he was delighted to be joining a Diocese that is preparing to embark on a new vision with real hope.
He said: “Of course the church here in Lancashire, like churches across the nation, faces some real challenges and the Bishop of Blackburn has recently announced a vision for the next 12 years focussed around the optimistic statement ‘healthy churches transforming communities’.
“I have seen again and again how, with that kind of faithfulness and optimism, churches can grow, and it will be good to be part of a Diocese that is looking to the future with real hope.
“Some of you might be aware that I withdrew from an appointment as Bishop of Whitby. The fact that I have been invited and have agreed to serve as a Bishop again is testimony to the very different mood across the Church of England since the understandable disappointment that followed the failure in 2012 of the legislation to enable women to be bishops.
“The Church has stated afresh its commitment to enabling all traditions to flourish within its life and structures, and I hope that my appointment will be seen as evidence of that pledge.
“Finally I am also looking forward to living in East Lancashire. In 2013 Burnley was awarded the title City of Enterprise and I think that award can provide inspiration for us as a Diocese, because we want just that spirit of enterprise and entrepreneurship as we seek to build healthy churches.
“However, as well as being Bishop of Burnley I will be a Bishop working for the whole Diocese, and it is with that in mind that I say, we need local Christian communities that are imaginative in service, bold in ministry and generous in reaching out to all with God’s love.
“I am really excited about playing a part in achieving this and look forward to working with you all in the years to come.”
Welcoming Philip to the Diocese as the future Bishop of Burnley, Diocesan Bishop Rt Rev. Julian Henderson said: “Bishop Geoff and I are delighted to welcome Philip as a new member of the episcopal team here in the Diocese.
“He comes to us with a wealth of experience and a passion for spreading the gospel. His track record suggests we have a new Bishop who will make a significant contribution to the life of the Church of England in Lancashire and we look forward to his consecration in York on February 2.
“In the meantime please remember Philip in your prayers as he takes leave of Camden in London and prepares for this important new role.”
Bishop Julian added: “As a supporter of women clergy, but having voted against the proposals for women Bishops in 2012, I was then able to support the current package which, through the ‘five guiding principles’, gives space for those in favour and those against to live together in the Church of England.
“I want to make it clear that I see Philip’s appointment as a clear sign the Anglican Church in Lancashire is living out these five guiding principles.
“I wanted to have an episcopal colleague who is from the traditionalist catholic constituency and Philip fulfils that role well.
He comes to serve the whole Diocese. He will also have particular care for those people who cannot accept the ministry of women as Bishops and Priests in the Church – and he will have my wholehearted support in carrying out this important work.”