Thursday, 9 March 2017

Philip North

I read with sadness the news today that Philip North has withdrawn from accepting a post as Bishop of Sheffield. It is always a sad day when someone makes a decision of this kind that affects them personally, and also I believe North is very highly thought of and clearly has many gifts to offer which will now not be exercised in this capacity.
At the same time, it is true that women priests in the  diocese of Sheffield- over 30% of its clergy- would have been faced with the prospect of being led by someone who could not accept their ministry as possible or in any way valid. I read that one of the organisations North belongs to issues "passports" to guarantee priests are of a "pure blood" lineage, in other words they have not only not been ordained by a woman, they have not been ordained by someone who has been ordained by a woman, or by someone ordained by a man ordained by a woman... (continue ad infinitum)
 When I volunteered with WATCH and with Changing Attitude at Synod, it opened my eyes to the bitterness and "at all costs" mentality with which some held to enshrined positions and ideologies. I  reflected on the sheer impracticality of the "good disagreement" that the Church speaks of and of finding a place for all around the table. Surely everyone knew this would happen? Surely everyone realised that it is unacceptable and untenable to have a bishop would doesn't recognise the calling of those he leads? Surely at the same time it is equally unacceptable to promise "good disagreement" and an honoring of those who hold a traditionalist line only to see someone of high standing step down in the face of opposition? This is not to say that I do not think North's views of male headship or the male apostolic succession or whatever he holds to frankly ludicrous, but let's be honest, lots of Christians hold beliefs that might be seen this way and the point is that a gracious place for all was promised.
And what of those outside the Church- an organisation which it is still sometimes mooted "exists for the benefit of its non-members" (really? excuse me while I laugh.) Once again the Church looks downright dodgy and rather nasty, filled with what I believe are termed  "weirdos" and "haters".
It  rather brings to mind the words of Ghandi- "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."


  1. Dear Suem!
    I find it very sad and utterly aggrevating to find that many of those who has a theology and expression I feel at home with, also hold the non-female clergy-line. In Sweden it's not possible to come in to bishops office if you can't ordain a woman. I have never heard of a clean bloodline like that!!!!! Hard to believe. When I studied to become deacon, a clergy that works socially in church and in high church environment also serves in the eucharist every sunday, I came across several fellow students to whom being a woman priest was abominable. When I got back to the university I found that many thought my ordination as deacon was my way of defending this opinion. Today the church is changing rapidly and the issue of woman priests is long gone, we've been ordained since 1958, no news there. Instead we've had a new issue and the call now is that no one should be accepted as priest if they can't merry couples of the same gender.
    You can't be ordained if you can't accept woman priests, now they are taking the next step. Many calls for a total prohibition for those already ordained as well, if they don't share these to opinions. For my own part, I was ordained in 1996, and I believe the church of Christ will survive , but to keep peace within and love within and keep Jesus Christ in the centre of our hearts and souls , must be more important than ever. A divided church is vunerable and not trustworthy. We can't afford this bickering. Some of my closest friends do not accept my calling and ordination, but the love between us is no less. I can live with a church where you are allowed to differ in opinion , within limits. The fundementals must be kept intact. Mostly there is no trouble with this, but if you start making borders the church becomes a sect where everyone is compelled by force to share all opinions by the letter. I am a bit worried by the sharpened knifes here.
    I am sorry to hear about your situation, a wise and good bishop to lead on, is so very important. Do you have anyone else you could imagine for this office ? Our love for the church gives us heartache sometimes, and the church is the body of Christ of which we are part, so if Ghandi didn't like christians the church is in trouble.
    Still, we are carried by grace and that will hold!!!! Christians are no saints, but if we were, Christ wouldn't have to be crucified, would he? A church that forgets that becomes nasty and stupid, ridiculous and obsolete. Filled with weirdos and haters.....
    An important post this was, Suem!! How are you holding on, I'm thinking a lot about you, hoping for strenght and light. Blessings to you!!

  2. I don't know what the answer is to the situation in the church. I think they would have been better just to make it clear they could not put women in positions where they would justifiably feel discriminated against due to their gender and that it is not possible to have a bishop who was unable to accept the validity of women's ministry. Then people like North could at least have decided whether to go to Rome.

    1. You are seeking for a firm ,convinced leadership. It is better to be very clear and specific in the first place, that is actually more considerate than leaving people in the dark. I have never been badly compromised because of my gender, but I think that is because that discussion is over and done with, at least in the official statements. Our church is slowly getting politically correct, that can also be very confusing, the political values have a tendency of changing. I agree, North deserved a chance to make his choice and be prepared. Quite a few priests have actually taken the step to Rome when the picture cleared, but to many that is no option, they still love the lutheran church.
      I hope now for Lent to bring light to the shadows and Easter to bring hope to the shattered. Blessings to you, Suem!

  3. I think you might be further on than the Church of England is, Fairtrader. It has historically been an institution which allowed a lot of theological leeway/ "fudge". I think fudge isn't going to work in this case. Blessings to you too!

  4. An interesting discussion. I have to admit I watched the original acceptance of women Priests with the get-out clause and thought it was a wrong move by the women then to accept such discriminatory behaviour. But then the CofS has had women ordained since 1968 Blessings from Dalamory