News from elsewhere: 3rd March

Women of Steel blue sky.jpgAn opinion piece from Giles Fraser speaks of a ‘slap in the face for the women of steel‘. It covers both the national debate and quotes local Sheffield perspectives that appeared here first on the nomination of Philip North.

The Church Times has a very long article initially summarising the national debates as well as repeating the quotes from last weekend in Christian Today from Bishops Jo Bailey-Wells and and Jan MacFarlane and covering what Archbishop Sentamu wrote in the Yorkshire Post and the news of Bishop Philip entering retreat to pray and reflect on the breadth of reactions to his nomination.

The same Church Times article additionally quotes Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle who suggests an appointment process is “undermined if it is subject to campaigns which seek to overturn decisions”. It is unclear, from the brief quote offered, which campaign Bishop Christine is speaking of—whether she is speaking of the opinion and comment pieces in the national media or local people expressing anxiety and distress.

The article also offers new reportage on the following reports that Sheffield WATCH (Women and the Church) having asked Bishop Philip to decline the nomination or renounce his memberships of both The Society and Forward in Faith. It then offers a Diocese of Sheffield perspective from Revd Eleanor Robertshaw who has positive relationships with Society clergy and who firmly believes “that God has called Philip North to this diocese because he has the right skills to lead us into the future”.

The article also mentions the letter from 32 clergy from Blackburn Diocese who are female, that is described below. The report explains the letter was written following a request from “Church House, but that the contents were based” on what the Womens’ Ministry Advisor for Blackburn had “said in a conversation held last week”.

The Church Times publishes three letters (behind a paywall) on the topic: one signed by 32 clergy in Blackburn Diocese, who are female. They

view the recent debate over his appointment as Bishop of Sheffield with a mixture of understanding and sadness.

They also speak of the positive experience of serving with Bishop Philip and their regret at his departure. They also offer prayer for Sheffield. They go on to say:

Of course we come from a different place from Bishop Philip, both theologically and in our own experience, but we have also seen him go the extra mile with the women clergy of our diocese, affirming and sharing in their ministry.

His passion for the poor, especially those in the outer estates, has been an inspiration to many, as has his leadership, teaching, and deep spirituality.

This one theological difference aside, he has created a real buzz about the diocese, and we view the prospect of his departure with sadness, but will keep him and all the people of Sheffield in our prayers.

Katharine Salmon, from Sheffield, in the third letter to be included says:

Women in these urban priority areas already need the grace to work with those who do not acknowledge their priesthood, but this will pose particular challenges when the person who does not acknowledge their priesthood is their diocesan Bishop.

The Church of England’s own blog did release a statement earlier in the week in relation to Martyn Percy’s reaction to Bishop Philip’s nomination to the Diocese of Sheffield.