Sheffield MP calls for talks over new bishop’s ‘troubling’ views

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh
Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh
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A Sheffield MP wants ‘face-to-face’ talks with the city’s next bishop as unease over his opposition to women becoming priests continues.

In an open letter to the cleric, Louise Haigh, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, said the Rt Rev Philip North’s stance was ‘troubling’.

The Rt Rev Philip North, new Bishop of Sheffield.

The Rt Rev Philip North, new Bishop of Sheffield.

“Your traditionalist views pose many questions about how your leadership in Sheffield will work practically in relation to existing women clergy, men who have been ordained by women, women who are in the process of becoming clergy and congregations who come from a completely different tradition within the church,” she said.

Ms Haigh said Mr North’s focus on economic injustice and poverty was ‘very welcome’, but added: “I am also confident, however, from speaking to parishioners and clergy across Sheffield, that attitudes to women in the church are a major priority for our next bishop.”

She continued: “I understand you are currently on retreat and in a period of reflection but I would urge you to engage with congregations and individuals within the church to answer questions that are troubling people in Sheffield and to establish if your views can possibly be reconciled with the pastoral and public image of the church in Sheffield. I look forward to discussing these concerns with you face-to-face soon.”

Last week 36 women priests in the Diocese of Blackburn - where Mr North is Bishop of Burnley - signed a letter of support. But the Sheffield Action on Ministry Equality group said there were differences in the ‘flavour of the diocese’.

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