Sioned Mair-Richards, has written this for her parish magazine. Her church, she describes this way: “St Peter’s, Ellesmere in Burngreave in Sheffield is an LEP. We work jointly with the Methodist church and happily welcome visiting ministers, priests, lay readers of all shades of opinion. We did have a woman minister. Now we await the new vicar of Christ Church, Pitsmoor who will be our Priest in Charge. We are a church in a deprived part of Sheffield, predominantly inhabited by each new wave of immigrants who come to the city and we are a beacon of a tolerant Anglican / Methodist tradition.”
Usually, the announcement of a new Bishop is a time of excitement, who’s going to come, why maybe we’ll get a Woman Bishop – my home diocese of St David’s has just inducted the first Woman Bishop of the Church of Wales.
So when I heard that Philip North was being appointed I rushed to read more. “An opponent of women priests” I read. Don’t worry he’s great, I was told. Women priests in Burnley really liked him. He wants to concentrate on working with the poor and left out. Much more important. He won’t ordain women or men so it’s all OK.
Theological reasons for not ordaining? Can’t think of any. Well there were no women disciples. Hmmm, they were all Jewish. So are we saying only Jewish men can be priests? St Peter was married. So married priests are OK.
We are told the new Bishop really respects women & wants to promote their leadership role. Though only to deacon level. And then the rub. He wouldn’t accept communion from a woman. Substitute the words Black priest for woman priest. How shocked do you feel? Not only that but Rev North belongs to “The Society” a group which does not even accept the ministry of male priests who have been ordained by women Bishops.
This is when I felt “Up with that I cannot put”. Other members of the Diocese are also uncomfortable about this issue. Women Clergy on the Manor have raised the subject. Members of St Cuthberts have raised it at their PCC, feeling protective of their current & previous female clergy.
Members of our own church have also approached Bishop Peter to ask him to come to talk to us about the proposal. I welcome this proposal. Let’s talk about this openly. About the hurt this appointment is causing. Not just to women priests but to all those in Sheffield, a modern welcoming city which wants all people to believe they are valued by the Anglican church, not just the genetically pre-ordained.