Diocese of Lichfield approves creation of the suffragan See of Oswestry

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Proposals to revive the suffragan See of Oswestry in the Diocese of Lichfield have been approved by diocesan synod members.

Following the resignation of the former Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Jonathan Goodall, in September last year, a consultation on the way forward for the see received calls to consider rooting the post in an individual diocese and diocesan college of bishops.

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet – one of the Church of England’s three ‘Provincial Episcopal Visitors’, who minister to traditional catholic parishes – has been responsible primarily for churches in the western half of the Church of England’s Province of Canterbury.

A suggestion from the Archbishop of Canterbury to revive the suffragan See of Oswestry in the Diocese of Lichfield was explored, including a number of consultations within the diocese, and approved by the Dioceses Commission. After approval by the diocesan Bishop’s Council earlier this month, members of Lichfield’s diocesan synod debated the proposals last night (Wednesday) and voted overwhelmingly in favour.

The proposal will involve a future Bishop of Oswestry living in the diocese and ministering to traditional catholic parishes in that and other dioceses of the West Midlands and south west of England. The move is part of wider changes nationally to offer extended episcopal care to parishes that on theological grounds cannot accept the priestly or episcopal ministry of women.

The Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, said: “I welcome this proposal for the relocation of the centrally-funded post of Provincial Episcopal Visitor from the See of Ebbsfleet to the See of Oswestry. This will ensure that the 13 dioceses, including Lichfield Diocese, in this part of the Province of Canterbury continue to receive extended pastoral and sacramental care for their traditionalist catholic parishes.

“I greatly value and have benefitted from the ministry of women as deacons, priests and bishops, as has this whole diocese of Lichfield. The proposals have been discussed at consultation events – listening to a variety of viewpoints – in recent weeks in the diocese and I am pleased that diocesan synod have given their support.

“I and my episcopal colleagues will be committed to working with the new Bishop of Oswestry and with all our clergy, both women and men, to strengthen mutual flourishing as we grow together into Christ.”

An advisory group will now begin work with the Bishop of Lichfield in looking at potential candidates with interviews planned for the autumn, with a view to the new Bishop of Oswestry being consecrated in January 2023.