Bishop Philip North to be Bishop of Blackburn

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Bishop Philip North, area Bishop of Burnley in the Diocese of Blackburn was announced on Tuesday as the next Bishop of the Diocese.

This is the first time that someone who does not hold to the ordination of women has been has been made a diocesan bishop in years.  North is an Anglo-Catholic.

North was nominated to become the Bishop of Sheffield in 2017 but the furore from liberalising elements within the broader church caused him to withdraw his acceptance of the appointment.

When he declined the appointment in 2017, North said, “The basis of my own objection to women’s ordination is the authority and unity of the Church. In my view the Church of England is part of the one holy catholic Church of God and that imposes limits on what it can and can’t decide unilaterally.

“Extending the historic threefold order to women constitutes a major doctrinal change and thus, whilst it may be the way the Spirit is calling the Church, it is an action that the Church of England does not have the unilateral authority to undertake. Thus it is one that undermines the unity of the Church.

“This means that I feel the need to stand aside from it and thus in conscience cannot ordain women to the priesthood.

“However the nature of my objection does not cause me to doubt the validity of those orders that the Church of England bestows on female candidates and I hold their ministry to be transformative and grace-filled. I also accept that there are two legitimate, theological views in the Church on this and so am very happy to sponsor female candidates for ordination.

“That is where I stand. However, there are many traditionalists who take a different view from me and look at validity in different ways. I serve them and am happy to do so and would fight very hard to preserve not just their place in the Church but their right to be appointed to senior office within it.”

North’s appointment is the first sign of “Mutual Flourishing” being put into practice on a senior appointment level for many years.  There has been no complementarian bishop in office since the retirement of Bishop Wallace Benn.  

Benn served as the area Bishop of Lewes in the Diocese of Chichester and retired in 2013.