New Nominee

shefministryequalityWe are delighted to hear that a new bishop has been announced   for the See of Sheffield.

We welcome the nomination of The Very Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, Dean of Liverpool, as our next Bishop and look forward to working with him, amongst other things, on the issues which have caused such pain over the last two months.

We anticipate, with resurrection hope, a new era in the life of this rich and diverse diocese.

The editorial team of SAME

Swinging searchlights: Sheffield and scrutiny

Version 4Here in Sheffield, our acting diocesan, Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster has asked for a deep sensitivity, inner searching and prayerful period to continue for our togetherness in the communities of this diocese within the Church of England. We now enter 8 days of prayer and the prayer resource is impressively useful for any in the Diocese of Sheffield. Bishop Peter has called church wardens and ministers in the Diocese of Sheffield, from the areas of Goole, Doncaster, Rotherham, Barnsley, Dinnington and Sheffield to gather for a Chrism Eucharist on the Monday of Holy Week to conclude this period.

Meanwhile, other searchlights have been swinging attention, from Archbishops writing to the Independent Reviewer for the legislation giving space for women as well as men to serve in the episcopate. Some analysis has been about Mutual Flourishings and the Five Guiding Principles, as Radio 4’s Sunday Programme gave attention to (26 March).

The lights have captured, via Andrew Lightbown, intersections between different kinds of episcopal appointments, in Wales and not just Sheffield, but even Oxford’s struggle, previously, to appoint. Light has also been shone on how the political settlement of power has shifted between clergy, bishops and lay-perspectives on what the church has been, what it is and how it can become what it needs to be, see, for instance, Linda Woodhead, Rhian Taylor and Archbishop Cranmer blog.

These are not the searchlights connected to violent struggle, victims and perpetrators, unlike that hastily constructed BBC article that reported it like a war, or perhaps the talk of attacks, still undocumented. In fact the undocumented nature of things is something that the SAME collective has, since it began on 25 February 2017 has been eager to redress. We began by speaking out and asking how many wanted to publicly and yet discreetly say how pastorally concerned we were in Sheffield about the unexpected way the nomination announcement for the See of Sheffield had plunged so many of us into shock, grief and disbelief.


After Sheffield: blogs debate flourishing in the C of E

Version 2We link here to key blogs from the wider debate about how to be in a truly flourishing communion in the C of E since 9 March when the Sheffield situation changed. Wider attention has begun to shift away from Sheffield Diocese; though the consequences for those within Sheffield are significant as shown by Imogen Clout’s SAME Opinion piece Disciples Think—They Don’t Just Follow and also the presidential address to the Diocesan Synod by the acting diocesan, Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster.

Theology and Flourishing (11 March)
A reflection on how we can truly flourish. This has gained significant attention. It’s by Kimberly Bohan from Lincoln Diocese.

The limits of inequality (11 March)
This carefully reasoned and sustained argument by Savi Hensman on the Ekklesia site was written and published early on. It includes the closing remark:

To learn from past mistakes and foster healing, perhaps deeper sharing and listening are needed. This may involve admitting that churches often treat some people as being worth less than others; instead of pretending that all are equally loved and taken into account.

The Stirrings in Sheffield (11 March)
This legal piece, by David Pocklington, looks at whether the second choice for the post will get nominated. (Many Sheffielders know this blog title as a local folk-opera about the trades union movements in the early steel industry.)

Broken promises (12 March)
The next day, by evening, Jeremy Pemberton provided this blog—fully titled “On infidelity, broken promises and hounding: why Elaine Storkey is wrong.”—as a counter-weight to a post on the Fulcrum site Mourning our Infidelity earlier in the day.

Illiberal liberals (14 March)
Jonathan Clatworthy (formerly in Sheffield Diocese) had already provided a substantial trilogy of blogs 1, 2, 3, before 11 March, this one deals with the criticisms of liberals being illiberal.

Blame Game (15 March)
Andrew Lightbown looks at what happens when people want to find who is responsible for what has gone wrong. He had written a week before on Episcopacy and Flourishing and hosted a piece by Martyn Percy and even earlier thoughts on Sheffield’s gordian knot.

Learning from our Disagreements (17 March)
Revd Charlotte Bannister-Parker finds intersections between the reaction to the Sheffield situation and the take note debate on the House of Bishops report on sexuality. Addressing this complexity is handled with confidence.

Inconsistency (18 March)
There is a fifth piece by Jonathan Clatworthy on liberal inconsistencyCatholicity and Covenant join in that debate, responding to him and also to Imogen Clout‘s local piece here on SAME about What Happens when Disciples Think, mentioned above.

Taking the wounds of the Church seriously (18 March)
The Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, spoke on Saturday, in his presidential address to the Oxford Diocesan Synod about the global and local, political and church situations and doesn’t reference Sheffield and yet talks about how we can be church and be it together.


How many were anxious, here?

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There’s no way of knowing how many were anxious about the nomination, here in our diocese. Some of those who were concerned about the nomination and process of announcement did sign a letter. Imogen Clout offers her opinion on what was really going on in her attempt to set the record straight.

Here we release numbers (but never names, they were confidential and have been deleted).

Nine days ago the Queen’s nominee for the role of Bishop of Sheffield, Rt Revd Philip North withdrew, prior to being elected. Twelve days before that a public pastoral letter of concern for people in the local area was released. It was made available for people to sign. Apart from two public signatories the rest who signed are and remain private. It was the intention with this letter that people were sharing their concern directly with the nominee. The chance to send the letter never came.

Being known
People, from the Diocese of Sheffield who signed the letter knew their names would be visible to the nominee and so, in the future, were expecting to be known by their future bishop (and probably other senior staff). That meant those who did sign were making a commitment to the consequence of signing and so we imagine that it was a quite serious undertaking, especially for church-workers, church-wardens, lay-readers and clergy to do so.

70 Churches
People from 70 different churches C of E churches and 5 recognised orders or chaplaincies within the diocese signed.

309 people from the diocese
Of the 309 from the Diocese of Sheffield who signed, 141 were regular parishioners. A further 76 parishioners had some lay-leadership role within their church. Then there are 90 who are in a grouping that includes the: licensed; salaried; ordained; in training; or bishop’s representatives—made up of church workers, lay readers, church wardens, ordinands and clergy signed the letter.

Roles the signatories were in
Here is the breakdown of the 314 signatories.

141 parishioners;
17 church wardens (bishop’s representatives);
15 church workers;
20 lay-readers;
76 in lay-leadership roles;
35 clergy;
3 ordinands;
plus 5 ecumenical representatives within the Diocese and 2 from beyond the Diocese.

People from within the Diocese who signed the letter were resident across the following 33 post-code areas:
s2, s3, s4, s5, s6, s7, s8, s9, s10, s11, s12, s13, s17, s20, s21, s25, s26, s35, s40, s61, s63, s64, s65, s66, s71, s72, s73, s74, s75, s80, s81, dn2, dn4.

This information helps map some of the perspectives of some members and leaderships of some churches in certain parts of the Diocese.

Reporting Sheffield well

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There has been relief for many here in the most local of news reporting, since the Queen’s nominee for next Bishop of Sheffield withdrew 9 days ago. BBC Radio Sheffield devoted a two-hour Breakfast programme to addressing the topic: Steve Bailey (presenter) and Sarah Major (editor) provided interviews with a range of people (including from SAME). Crucially, Steve spoke with our acting Diocesan Bishop, Rt Revd Peter Burrows—who spoke with deep care and precision about what we are facing collectively, across many traditions and perspectives in Goole, Doncaster, Rotherham, Barnsley, Dinnington, Sheffield and the surrounding areas.

The sister papers, the Sheffield Star and the Sheffield Telegraph have also sought to reflect some of the range of local experiences we are having in the light of Bishop Philip withdrawing as nominee.

This matters especially, here, since in the area of Sheffield Diocese there have been some who felt able to be outspoken about the situation and yet many more who wanted to express pastoral concern, anxiety and distress.

Both the outspoken and the pastorally concerned have come from many different places and traditions or sections of the life of Diocese as is shown in those who were concerned. People from the SAME collective are not from just one group or category label (e.g. ‘liberals’)! We continue to applaud all commentators and news outlets who, along with our local news media, have assisted in working for a better quality of conversation about what has happened and what will happen locally for us, in the Diocese of Sheffield, a place that is loved by all who serve and worship here.

News from beyond Sheffield

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Here, we round-up the Church Times (17 March), plus WATCH, Forward in Faith and Arun Arora. A further listing of opinion items will follow in a separate news blog post.

An assessment of what might happen next was published yesterday by the Law and Religion site.

WATCH and Forward in Faith have both released statements.

Arun Arora, the current CofE Director of Communications has released a very different commentary on what the situation reveals to PR Week.

The Church Times carries three items (possibly all behind a pay-wall), a Leader comment, a long sequence of letters and a news report on the situation since the withdrawal of the Queen’s nominee to be next Bishop of Sheffield.

In the Letters section of the Church Times, the Dean of York, Ven. Vivienne Faull, Dr Paula Gooder and Margaret Swinson (Lay Canon) say of the 2014 package that allowed females to be bishops and the 5 Guiding Principles it included:

were a genuine attempt, underpinned by theological reflection on the often paradoxical ecclesiology of the Church of England, to find a way for people of very different views to live well together with love, compassion, and respect.

They go on to observe, however, that the problem:

is that they are, as their name suggests, “principles”. All principles need work to be applied in practice, and the more important a principle, the more vital it is that time and energy are put into thinking through its practical outworking.

Contrary to abandoning the principles, they hope that those in the C of E can now:

commit ourselves to ongoing and careful theological reflection on what they mean in practice, not least in the appointment of a diocesan bishop