Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Philip North's Episcopal Ordination - A Milestone

The laying on of hands at Philip North's episcopal ordination in York Minster on 2nd February, 2015. Principal consecrator was the Bishop of Chichester (Martin Warner), assisted by the Bishop of Pontefract (Tony Robinson) and the Bishop of Beverley (Glyn Webster). The Bishop of Chichester was also the celebrant of the Eucharist.

We all pray for Bishop Philip North, an Anglo-Catholic evangelist who has served parishes in the North and in London, and who has been the Administrator of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. He was ordained yesterday as Bishop of Burnley. The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has acted with great courage, ensuring that the theological convictions of people like us are seen to be respected. After all, we hold those convictions with the mainstream Churches of East and West with whom our Church says we are in dialogue towards unity. 

I know that the “provisions” are not perfect, or - in fact - all that “traditionalists” had sought. But they are light years ahead of anywhere else in the Anglican Communion. And Philip North’s episcopal ordination so soon after that of the first woman bishop in the Church of England is a positive sign of reassurance for so many who have felt more than a little marginalised over the last 20 years. Praise the Lord. 

For a long time in many other provinces of the Communion, laypeople and clergy who have tried to explain why proper sacramental provision needs to be made for those who on theological grounds cannot accept the ordination of women have been silenced and ridiculed - or at best ignored - by Church authorities. This very brief statement of Forward in Faith, signed by FiF Chairman, the Bishop of Pontefract,  explains simply the arrangements that were made for the Ordination of the Bishop of Burnley, and is, therefore, a useful document to bookmark and use.


Forward in Faith expresses its gratitude to the Archbishop of York for making arrangements for the Bishop of Burnley’s ordination which gave full expression to the Guiding Principles enshrined in the House of Bishops’ Declaration.

The first Guiding Principle speaks of the respect and canonical obedience that lawful office-holders deserve. The Archbishop of York presided in York Minister and the Bishop of Burnley took the oath of due obedience to him. No one present could have been in any doubt as to the Archbishop’s metropolitical authority or the respect in which he is held.

The fourth and fifth Guiding Principles embody commitments to enabling those who, for theological reasons, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests to flourish, and to making sacramental and pastoral provision for us ‘in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing’.

The reference to a ‘degree of communion’ recognizes that full communion cannot exist where some bishops and priests are unable to receive the sacramental ministry of others. For over twenty years traditional catholic priests have been granted ordination by bishops with whom they enjoy full communion (because they can receive the ministry of all the priests whom those bishops ordain). The ordination of women as bishops gives rise to a need for similar provision for ordination to the episcopate. Such arrangements contribute to enabling our priests and bishops to flourish, allowing them to experience at the moment of ordination the full communion with the ordaining bishops that all other ordinands enjoy.

We are grateful that the service in York Minster was nevertheless characterized by a very high degree of communion and fellowship, expressed not least in the fact that all could receive communion together.

The arrangements determined by the Archbishop of York also contributed to ‘mutual flourishing’. We trust that no one imagines that the flourishing of traditional catholic ordinands could involve their being ordained by bishops whose sacramental ministry they cannot receive. If all the male bishops present had participated in the laying on of hands, the Bishop of Stockport (whose gracious presence we acknowledge with gratitude) would therefore have been alone in having to refrain from doing so. It would be difficult to see that as an expression of ‘mutual flourishing’.

Plainly, a future female Archbishop of York could not be the principal consecrator of a traditional catholic bishop. By delegating that ministry to the Bishop of Chichester, Archbishop Sentamu has ensured that there need be no difference between his role on this occasion and that of a future female archbishop. We hope that those who support the ordination of women as bishops will agree with us that any such distinction should be avoided.

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Pontefract

A report by Madeleine Davies from the Church Times

EMERGING through the great west door of York Minster to be photographed, flanked by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, and the Bishop of Stockport, the Rt Revd Libby Lane, the new Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, reflected on a “wonderful expression of the unity of the Church”.

Consecrated on Monday, exactly a week after Bishop Lane, Bishop North is the first traditionalist bishop to be appointed since the passing of the women-bishops Measure. His laughter with her on the steps - both were beaming in the winter sun - was indicative of a jubilant atmosphere among the many bishops present.

After receiving a long line of people seeking his blessing (and at least one selfie), the new Bishop spoke first of unity.

“We had all the bishops together, including Bishop Libby, gathered around in prayer for the Holy Spirit, and I got a real sense of the unity of the Church, and of the precedents that have been set this last week: eight extraordinary days in York Minster, which have seen the consecration, to great joy amongst many Anglicans, of the first woman, and then what’s happened today, which has shown that there’s a future for those who in good conscience can’t accept that development.”

The appointment of a traditionalist bishop had been “essential” for Anglo-Catholics, he said: “The thing that traditionalists need . . . is a line of bishops to whom they have access, and this is a very beautiful covenant that the Archbishops have made with the Church, that wing of the Church, to show that those promises will be honoured.”

At the beginning of the service, the Archbishop reiterated his explanation that he would delegate the consecration itself to the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, with a reminder that this decision was “mine, and mine alone”.

In the Yorkshire Post that morning, Dr Sentamu wrote: “I find no validation for the majority to overrule the theological convictions of a minority or triumph over them. . . It is my prayer that the Church of England’s gracious magnanimity, restraint and respect for theological convictions on this matter may help others to substitute love for fear and hope for despair.”

Dr Sentamu conducted the first part of the service, receiving Bishop North’s oath of canonical obedience, and delivering a sermon in which he suggested that the Church was suffering from a “crisis of powerlessness”. Nothing but a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit could save it from its “spiritual sluggishness, lethargy and motionlessness”, he said.

He then delegated the liturgy of ordination to Dr Warner, who was invited to preside from the primatial chair, and lay hands on Fr North, together with the Bishops of Beverley and Pontefract.

The deacon at the service was the Assistant Curate in the Moulsecoomb Team, the Revd Alice Whalley, who served as a pastoral assistant in Bishop North’s London parish before he sponsored her for ordination.

“It was good to have a woman very visible in that liturgy, in a very upfront role and proclaiming the Gospel,” Bishop North said. “And that’s a sign really of what we want, which is a Church where we can push communion absolutely to the maximum and where our unity as God’s people outweighs any differences that may be between us.”

The assent to the ordination and consecration from the congregation was resounding. After the presentation of the episcopal ring by Dr Sentamu, the welcome was followed by a long round of applause.

The nave was packed. There were students from St Stephen’s House in their black-and-red college scarves, and the Guardians of the Shrine of Walsingham in their insignia and blue velvet mantles. Many bishops from both Provinces were in attendance.

Speaking after a hearty rendition of the recessional hymn on Monday - “Sing we of the blessed Mother” - Dr Warner described the day as “a wonderful expression of putting into practice the five Guiding Principles which are at the heart of the House of Bishops’ declaration. . . I think it has renewed our hope and confidence for sharing the gospel and turning our attention to the world to share with others the good news revealed of God in Jesus Christ.”

Members of Forward in Faith were told recently that “For the first time in over 25 years, we won’t be entering [the General Synod] elections labelled as being anti-everything. Let’s take up the opportunity to be constructive, positive, and let’s be proud of who we are ( News, 30 January)”

Asked about these comments, Bishop North said: “We are for proclaiming Jesus in the midst of his people. Therefore, we’re with the poor and the oppressed and the forgotten; we are with local people in local churches seeking after Jesus in the eucharist: that’s what we’re for.”

The Assistant Curate of Christ Church, Belper, the Revd Imogen Black, was among a large contingent of priests present who had trained at St Stephen’s House, Oxford. She describes herself an Anglo-Catholic who is “very close to traditionalists in many ways, apart from fact that I believe that women can be ordained”.

“I was very glad to see a traditionalist bishop being appointed,” she said after the service. “I think it’s been an upsetting time for everyone, with all the arguments about women being ordained and consecrated bishops, so it’s been affirming for everyone to see Bishop Libby consecrated and then someone from the other integrity, because it shows the Church of England is committed to working with both views, as it said it would. . . 

“Traditionalists can feel vulnerable, particularly when all this is very new and we have to see it play out in practice, so it is a comfort to see someone well-liked and respected being made bishop at this time.”

Speaking after the service, the Revd Dr Hannah Cleugh, Chaplain at Durham University and a member of the Board of Affirming Catholicism, said: “I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it didn’t feel peculiar, or exclusive, or like there was anything particularly strange going on. The Archbishop of York very clearly was in charge, and there were more women stood at the altar than there were last week. It doesn’t mean there are no theological issues or questions left hanging, but it actually seemed fine in the event. If this is what it takes for us all to flourish, then I think I can live with it.”


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