The Rt Revd Philip North has recently been appointed as the new diocesan Bishop of Blackburn. This is the first time since the 2014 House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests that a Traditionalist Anglo-Catholic, who does not ordain women as priests and has indicated that he does not believe the Church of England has the authority to ordain women as priests, has been appointed as a diocesan bishop.
WATCH has submitted a referral of concern to the Independent Reviewer, Canon Maggie Swinson, under the relevant regulations.
In summary, the referral covers the following main points:
- Concerns have been raised to us that the consultation process was compromised in a number of significant ways. We believe that it may not have been sufficiently impartial, wide, open and transparent, and seems not to have raised the matter of the possibility that the appointed bishop might not fully support women’s priestly ministries. For example, the published Statement of Needs was silent about this.
- Some clergy have told us that they felt silenced or inhibited in voicing concerns and some felt ambushed by the nomination and pressured into supporting it or, at least, not resisting it.
- The theological and pastoral challenges raised by such an appointment, set out by the Independent Reviewer in the Recommendations of the See of Sheffield Review of 2017, have not been addressed. There is no evidence that the other implications for the wider Church of England were analysed, or that suitable national consultation took place.
- The practical arrangements for how the appointment would work in the diocese were either not agreed or not disclosed.
The Independent Reviewer has recognised our concerns and is now conducting an inquiry into them.