This note was written in response to the question “Why is +Philip’s nomination so problematic for Sheffield when the Diocese of London has had a Society bishop and seems to have been fine?”
Sheffield is different because it’s tiny in terms of population and urbanisation by comparison to London Diocese, and it doesn’t have 6 other bishops to handle the bulk of the work like London does. We just have one Suffragan.
Also, the Diocese of Sheffield has a particularly painful history regarding the breadth of traditions represented, in terms of how people responded at a diocesan conference years ago (not sure exactly how many now) that has gone down in the history of the diocese, where the very “issue” of women’s ordination was fought over, and people were holding alternative eucharists and so on.
For years (over a decade), we were unable to have a diocesan conference again, the pain of that was so great. Then finally, after years and years of healing and hard work, Bishop Steven Croft managed to work with us so that we reached the point where we could have a diocesan conference again (a couple of years ago). People of every type of theological tradition were there, and by the end of that conference, we all left feeling like a family for the first time. And that included laity as well as clergy.
On that conference, we addressed issues to do with the systemic disempowerment and poor self esteem of a large part of our population (in and outside the church), caused by poverty and the collapse of industry, and we heard prophetic words of encouragement to have faith again in Jesus, who said to his disciples, when faced with the storm (to paraphrase Paula Gooder’s translation), “Why are you so habitually afraid?” They were words for us not to allow ourselves to be limited by the belittling lies powerful people have spoken over us for decades.
I would add now; “This is why I think we in Sheffield are called to stand up for ourselves, and to speak out. To quote Maya Angelou, “And still I [well, we] rise”.
Revd Ali Dorey
(North Sheffield Estates Pioneer/
Fresh Expressions Trainer)