Topic: Uncategorised

Inquiry by Independent Reviewer into the appointment of the Rt Revd Philip North as Bishop of Blackburn

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.

OUTLOOK 37 – Summer 2020


Summer 2020

From the Editor Cath Williamson

Welcome to this edition of Outlook, being published, as it is, in a strange and difficult time for many of us. The magazine the WATCH committee planned in January is very different to the one we have actually arrived at. Events have been cancelled and photographic opportunities disappeared. However, the work of WATCH has continued, albeit over Zoom and other remote media. In this issue, we present an update on our strategy and discuss the ongoing work exploring and challenging the Five Guiding Principles. We outline the work of the Transformations Group, particularly the provision – finally – of a national maternity policy for clergy. We include photographs of priests who are women responding to the pandemic in various, creative ways. Whatever the wider circumstances, and who knows what the rest of the year will bring, we remain WATCHing to ensure that the Church of England is a fully inclusive place for women.

From the Chair Emma Percy

I am writing this report in the middle of lockdown in this very strange spring of 2020. We have not been allowed in our churches and we have had to learn new ways of worshipping. The Church Twittersphere has had heated debates about the place of our buildings, the sacraments and the role of clergy. Some of these debates have raised interesting questions about gender and space. Personally, I have missed the buildings and the music. I have found preaching into an iPad in my room a very different experience from engaging with real people. I have, however, been amazed at the dedication of so many in making worship possible. Let us hope that some of this creativity continues to shape our worship. This last year for WATCH has been one of continuing to ensure that careful research enables us to challenge the Church on issues that particularly impact women. The November Transformations Day included research conducted by WATCH into the roles of Deans of Women’s Ministry carried out for us by Susy Brouhard. Amongst other issues, it highlighted the area of harassment and bullying and WATCH has begun to analyse diocesan provisions. The Five Guiding Principles and the legislation around them continues to be a cause of concern for many women in the Church. I have been sitting on the central Implementation and Dialogue group which has just reported to the House of Bishops. I cannot comment any further at the moment except to say that the experience has, at times, been surreal. Here, again, there seems to be little experience of the current equality culture in the world beyond the Church. Lizzie Taylor, a member of the WATCH committee, has been working tirelessly for us in asking for Transparency. We accept that churches can discriminate against women for ‘theological’ reasons, but we do not understand why they are not upfront about the fact that they do. On practical issues, we are still making changes to reflect that WATCH is a charity. We need to ensure that all our work connects to our objectives and that we make the best use of the income we have. We thank Mark Bennet for his work as treasurer over many years. At last, we have a new treasurer in John Briggs. Part of the change for WATCH has been moving our banking to CAF bank and we do need to move all our members over to this system. Many of you have made the change and we thank you for this. Others still need to make the move. The information you need is set out in this issue of Outlook and on the website. WATCH is still needed as we work to challenge the Church to be a place where women flourish. Thank you for being part of that.

You can download a PDF copy of OUTLOOK 37 this is best viewed on a desktop computer 

Table of contents for OUTLOOK 37

  1. Bishop Rose responds with ‘yes’
  2. An update on the strategy for WATCH
  3. In 2019, the first anthology of sacred music by women composers was published. It was clear from the moment of its inception that this was not going to be an easy task.
  4. The ongoing work of the Transformations Steering Group
  5. It’s one thing to change the law, it’s another to change the culture
  6. The Transformations Steering Group is evaluating Church guidelines for addressing bullying and harassment
  7. The Revd Kat Campion-Spall, Associate Vicar of St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol, had a sabbatical earlier this year, experiencing the Church in New Zealand. She reflects on the experience:
  8. The Revd Kat Campion Spall, Associate Vicar of St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol, had a sabbatical earlier this year, experiencing the Church in New Zealand. She reflects on the experience:The Revd Anne Stevens, Coordinator of the WATCH General Synod Group, offers her reflections:
  9. During lockdown, Anne Stevens, Vicar of St Pancras, conducted a a marriage at University College Hospital in London.
  10. WATCH has continued to highlight concern about the lack of transparency over the exclusion of women from leadership positions in conservative evangelical churches. Hannah Fytche outlines her personal experience and the effects of this lack of openness:
  11. The Five Guiding Principles: a source of healing or a wound?
  12. The latest Church statistics reveal a continuing mixed picture in terms of women’s ministry equality
  13. The Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of churches has led to new and creative ways of worshipping online. Some have embraced this and others have found it a more difficult experience, varying over the period of the lockdown.
  14. Decade Review The WATCH Committee on the key events of the last ten years.
  15. Book Reviews

Two new bishops announced by the Diocese of Chichester

Two new bishops announced by the Diocese of Chichester

WATCH notes the announcement of two new bishops in the Diocese of Chichester. Chichester is a diocese with well below average numbers of women incumbents and we hope the appointment of Ruth Bushyager as Bishop of Horsham will encourage the wider development of women’s ministry in the diocese.We do however, note that the new Bishop of Lewes is a Traditionalist who does not accept the sacramental ministry of ordained women so the diocese will only have one bishop who fully affirms the ministry of women.

We accept that these two appointments are in accordance with the 5 guiding principles. We hope that the final principle’s aim of the ‘highest possible degree of communion’ will be reflected in a joint consecration service of these bishops by the Archbishop of Canterbury. That would send out a strong commitment to mutual flourishing in the Church of England.

Emma Percy
Chair of WATCH

Downing Street Announcements:-