News Analysis: The Church of England’s plans to move one of its two ‘flying bishops’ for Anglo-Catholics from Ebbsfleet to Owestry in the Diocese of Lichfield has been given a polite raspberry by the bishops of the Society under the patronage of of Saint Wilfrid and Saint Hilda. Moving the flying bishop north to Owestry, and shifting the evangelical flying bishop of Maidstone to Ebbsfleet, will be a great inconvenience for the Council of the Society. But it will enable the Most Rev. Justin Welby to douse the fire now burning in the diocese of Canterbury.

On 30 June 2022 the Church of England Media Centre released a statement saying: “A series of changes have been announced to the names of bishops who offer extended episcopal care to parishes that cannot accept the priestly or episcopal ministry of women.

“Under these changes, now approved by the Dioceses Commission, the Bishop of Maidstone Rod Thomas’s successor will now be known as the Bishop of Ebbsfleet. Meanwhile the role of the previous Bishop of Ebbsfleet – whose ministry was to traditional catholic parishes – will move to become that of the Bishop of Oswestry in the Diocese of Lichfield. Bishop Rod, who will retire in October, has had a special national ministry since 2015 providing a voice in the College of Bishops and advocacy for those who cannot, on the grounds of complementarian evangelical theology, accept the priestly or episcopal ministry of women. The future Bishop of Ebbsfleet, who will take on this responsibility when Bishop Rod retires, will live either in London or the M4 corridor for ease of travel and will minister nationally to complementarian evangelical parishes.”

The press release added, almost as an afterthought that as the See of Maidstone will become vacant, “it could potentially revert to local use within the Diocese of Canterbury in the future.”

The Society’s response was very English.  Its Council of Bishops said it “would like to record its gratitude to the Bishop of Lichfield, the Bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and their staff for their hard work to get us to this point.”

Following this perfunctory praise came their demands. “The Society expects the new arrangements to operate in a broadly similar fashion to how the existing Provincial Episcopal Visitor (PEV) arrangements have operated up to now in Ebbsfleet and elsewhere with the additional benefit of local support at a diocesan level, as is the case with the See of Fulham under the London Plan.”

So long as we are not handed the short end of the stick, they will live with the change. However, this will prove to be massively inconvenient.

“The next challenge is to make sure that the Society parishes in the South-West of England, which will be a three to four hour journey from the new Bishop of Oswestry’s permanent base in the Diocese of Lichfield, receive the level of support they need and options are current being explored to ensure that happens.”

The Dioceses Commission deliberations appear to have given short shrift to the Society’s concerns that by moving their flying bishop north it would leave parishes in the Southwest of England without coverage, The commission chose to free up the Evangelical flying bishopric in the diocese of Canterbury, thereby reorganizing the current coverage areas. Why would they do that?

Sources in the Diocese of Canterbury tell Anglican,Ink the reason for adding a second suffragan to Canterbury is due to the current Bishop of Dover not being up to the job. Archbishop Justin Welby’s choice to place virtue-signaling above the needs of the diocese, we are told, may be one of the factors in the reshuffling.