Bishop who opposed ordination of women promoted despite protests

Philip North, the junior bishop of Burnley, was named by Downing St on Tuesday as the next diocesan Bishop of Blackburn
Philip North, the junior bishop of Burnley, was named by Downing St on Tuesday as the next diocesan Bishop of Blackburn

A junior bishop who opposed the ordination of women has been promoted as a senior bishop, after two earlier attempts to advance his career were defeated by protestors.

Philip North, the junior bishop of Burnley, was named by Downing St on Tuesday as the next diocesan Bishop of Blackburn, with his appointment approved by King Charles.

Moves to promote him in previous years have been thwarted following criticism from campaigners and women within the Church of England over his theological stance on female clerics.

In 2012 Bishop Philip had to withdraw his acceptance of the appointment as Bishop of Whitbey following pressure from campaigners. In 2017 he was nominated to be the next Bishop of Sheffield, but again withdrew his acceptance over similar concerns, saying it had become clear that “my leadership would not be acceptable to many”.

‘Hugely appreciative’ of ministry of ‘female colleagues’

Speaking following the announcement of his promotion he said: “I believe with all my heart that God has called me to carry Jesus across Lancashire”. He added that he is committed to the Church being an “ever-stronger voice for justice, especially for the poorest” and that “children and young people need to be at the very heart of all that we do”.

In a separate statement, he added that he is “hugely appreciative of the ministry of my female clergy colleagues”.

“Female clergy in Blackburn diocese are fully and equally part of the Diocese and have a ministry that is grace-filled and transformative. As in every Church of England diocese, there are provisions in place for an exercise of conscience for those who hold different views on the ordination of women.

“I delight in the theological breadth that this allows and the diversity of gifts that it releases. […] I look forward to continuing to support and minister alongside my clergy colleagues both, female and male.”

However, following the announcement of his appointment, Women and the Church (Watch), a group that campaigns against discrimination of women within the church and actively campaigns for their ordination, warned against his promotion.

Female clergy will ‘struggle to flourish under his oversight’

They said: “We recognise Bishop Philip’s many gifts and are aware that he has been supportive of women in a range of ministerial posts in the Church, some at senior levels.

“Nonetheless, Bishop Philip does not recognise the ordination of women as priests and bishops and will be the first diocesan bishop to be appointed with his theological position on the ordination of women since women were permitted to be bishops in 2014.”

The campaign group warned that some female clergy would “struggle to flourish under his oversight”, adding: “When parishioners come to understand that their bishop is not personally confident that female priests can undertake priestly roles, such as consecrating the bread and wine, this undermines the authority of their vicar, if she is a woman.”

Bishop Philip will succeed the Right Reverend Julian Henderson following his retirement last year and will formally take up his new role in May or June.

He has been contacted for comment.

Published by anthonyhayble

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