Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

The Society defends the integrity of Bishop North

Bishop of Wakefield responds to Martyn Percy’s call for Philip North to refuse the see of Shefield

The Bishop of Wakefield (pictured) has issued the following statement on behalf of the Council of Bishops of The Society.

We are confident that the ministry of Bishop Philip North as Bishop of Sheffield will make a very significant contribution to the life and mission of the Church. We have been delighted by the welcome that his nomination has received from representatives of a wide range of traditions in the Diocese of Sheffield and in the Church of England more widely. The support expressed by many female clergy who have experience of his ministry and gifts is especially encouraging. Their response gives grounds for hope that the Five Guiding Principles and the spirit of mutual flourishing that they embody have begun to permeate through the Church of England.

We have also noted critical comments. Some of them have referred to the cards that are issued to Priests of The Society. The card merely states, ‘Fr John Smith is a Priest of The Society’, and that it is only valid while the priest holds a benefice, licence or permission to officiate in the Church of England. The cards are no different from the membership cards that are issued by many organizations. They are not available to priests who have not chosen to become Priests of The Society. We understand that the way in which the cards have been described has created a different impression, and wish to express our regret at the offence that this has caused.

In our 2015 statement ‘A Catholic Life in the Church of England’ we said: ‘We reject any so-called “theology of taint” whereby a bishop who ordains women to the episcopate or the priesthood thereby invalidates his own orders and renders invalid the orders of those whom he subsequently ordains.’ We made it clear that priests ordained by such bishops are welcomed as Priests of The Society. We are disappointed that our beliefs continue to be misrepresented.

One of the many aspects of Bishop Philip’s ministry which is exemplary is the fact that he values, and works happily with, both female and male clergy of different traditions. As bishops of The Society, we expect its clergy and people to respect all whom the Church of England has ordained and appointed to office, and to work with them in a spirit of mutual flourishing. The Five Guiding Principles, to which we are wholeheartedly committed, require this not only of the rest of the Church of England but also of us.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has described the House of Bishops’ Declaration as ‘a promise to love one another’. We call on all involved in the discussions that have arisen to recommit themselves to that promise, as we do ourselves.

Tomorrow sees the beginning of Lent – a season of prayer, reflection and spiritual renewal. We hope that throughout this season people will continue to pray for Bishop Philip and the people of the Diocese of Sheffield.


The Rt Revd Tony Robinson

Chairman of the Council of Bishops

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