New women's dean for Sheffield churches will lead group to heal divisions after bishop dispute

Rev Amanda Barraclough, the new dean of women's ministry in Sheffield.
Rev Amanda Barraclough, the new dean of women's ministry in Sheffield.
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A priest has been appointed to advance the role of women in Sheffield's churches - and she will lead a special new advisory group to prevent any repeat of a controversy that broke out last year.

Rev Amanda Barraclough has been picked to be the diocese's next dean of women's ministry, succeeding the Rev Abi Thompson who has held the post since 2015.

The vicar - presently the rector of St Mary's in Sprotbrough, Doncaster - will start her work this summer, and has set out her ambition for the area to become 'a beacon of good practice'.

It represents a further bid to heal divisions exposed in February 2017, when the Rt Rev Philip North was announced as the next Bishop of Sheffield - a job he withdrew from weeks later because of his opposition to the ordination of female priests.

His stance provoked a passionate debate. A campaign group was set up, the Labour MP for Heeley Louise Haigh described the cleric’s views as ‘troubling’, and bishop’s clothing in Suffragette colours was placed on the Women of Steel statue in Barker’s Pool by activists.

It was the second post North had withdrawn from. In 2012 he declined the job of Bishop of Whitby, following similar unease, and there was a feeling among some Sheffield clergy that the city was being used to test the principle of ‘mutual flourishing’ – progressive church members and traditionalists working side-by-side.

The Rt Rev Dr Pete Wilcox, who appointed Rev Barraclough as women's dean, became Bishop of Sheffield after the withdrawal of North, who continues as the Bishop of Burnley.

He said: “To be dean of women’s ministry is a challenging role in any diocese, but it is all the more challenging in our diocese at present on account of our recent history and I have therefore asked Amanda to convene and chair an advisory group of women who can together reflect the diversity of women in ministry, lay and ordained."

Rev Barraclough worked in Wakefield before moving to Sprotbrough in 2015, and is also the area dean of Adwick-le-Street, a position she will give up to concentrate on her new duties.

She said: "Though a little daunted, and still quite new to the area, I welcome the opportunity to build relationships across the diocese which will ensure that the voices of women are heard in all their diversity. I am convinced that a culture where women in ministry can thrive is not only good for women. It is good for all. My prayer is that the Sheffield diocese will increasingly reflect that. I intend to encourage our diocese to be a beacon of good practice when it comes to supporting women in their ministries.”

A service to formally licence Rev Barraclough will take place in early autumn.