New Sheffield bishop ‘on retreat’ following criticism

31 Jan 2017...The new Bishop of Sheffield Rt Revd Philip North. Picture Scott Merrylees
31 Jan 2017...The new Bishop of Sheffield Rt Revd Philip North. Picture Scott Merrylees
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The new Bishop of Sheffield’s most senior colleague has said he is ‘sure a way forward will emerge’ as controversy continues over the cleric’s opposition to women being ordained as priests.

Rt Rev Peter Burrows, the Bishop of Doncaster, said the Rt Rev Philip North, who was appointed to the Sheffield post in January, was ‘taking some time for prayer and reflection on retreat’ amid criticism over his stance.

Signatures are being gathered on a letter to Mr North, circulated by the Sheffield Action on Ministry Equality group, urging him to hold talks ahead of his election which is expected to take place next month.

In a ‘pastoral letter’ to clergy and church members, Mr Burrows said: “Bishop Philip is, I know, committed to our diocesan vision and brings with him many of the gifts and skills we are looking for.

“He is fully committed to being the bishop for the whole diocese and to supporting and promoting women’s ministry.”

Mr Burrows acknowledged the ‘hurt and pain that is being expressed’, but added: “I remain sure a way forward will emerge. During this first week of Lent, Bishop Philip has told me that he will be taking some time for prayer and reflection on retreat. Having heard the criticisms and concerns, alongside the support and affirmation, he rightly feels he needs to spend time in prayer.

“He will not be making any public statement or entering into further correspondence at this time.”

Mr Burrows said he was ‘fully supportive of women’s ministry’.

This week the Very Rev Martyn Percy, the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, spoke out again, urging Mr North to decline his new role, a promotion from his post as Bishop of Burnley. He said he wanted Mr North to distance himself from ‘The Society’ - a C of E organisation that believes women should not be priests.

Mr North stood aside as Bishop of Whitby in 2012, after similar controversy.