From the Revd Tim Jones
Sir, - The Revd Philip North is one of those "traditionalist"
Church of England priests who did not take the money and run, after
the General Synod's decision to ordain women to the priesthood,
because they accepted assurances that their theological perspective
would not be marginalised or victimised.
I disagree with him; but his recent contribution on the floor of
the General Synod a few weeks ago simply voiced an opinion
concerning women's ministry which, just one generation ago, was
wholly within the mainstream of church life. For Fr North
subsequently to be made to feel unable to serve as a bishop in the
diocese of York is a matter of deep sadness.
Of course, there is acute disappointment and raw pain that the
majority view concerning women in the episcopate did not prevail,
and I have a share in that. Any democratic process must take care
not to be a vehicle for mob rule, however; hence the genuine need
for certain far-reaching decisions in the General Synod to be
carried by a two-thirds majority in all three Houses.
I am proud to be in a Church that affords real systemic
protection to those of minority viewpoint. If it is the will of
God, then I hope Fr North is able to serve as a bishop, somewhere,
soon. A Church that is healthy and broad needs voices like his to
be heard and honoured, and gifts such as his to be given
appropriate scope. If such people are not able to serve in the
episcopate, then it turns out that synodical assurances of
"respect" were indeed wholly inadequate after all.
The Vicarage, Tang Hall Lane
York YO10 3SD
From Canon Andrew Hawes
Sir, - I have huge sympathy with the Revd Philip North. The
atmosphere for traditionalists has become increasingly toxic in the
aftermath of the women-bishops vote.
The institutional hysteria encouraged by an ignorant and
self-righteous media emboldened the equality fundamentalists to
unleash their pent-up frustration at the enemy within. Even in this
quiet south-western corner of Lincolnshire, the emails and letters
were let fly. Their disdain, held back by political expediency, has
been given true vent.
"Trust us," they said before the vote. "Get out of way," they
said afterwards. What a pity, and what a tragedy, that these slaves
to ideology should claim another scalp.
Surely, if we are such a minority, why not give us a small and
separate jurisdiction, where priests like Philip North could use
their gifts to the full in the service of the gospel without the
constant attrition of deliberate, wilful, and unchristian
The Vicarage, Church Lane
Edenham, Bourne PE10 0LS
From the Revd Paul Hutchinson
Sir, - The Revd Philip North is a likeable and energetic
priest with many skills, and a Catholic heart for mission. This has
been evident since his earliest posts in Durham diocese; and the
diocese of York has already valued some of his skills as preacher,
ordination-retreat conductor, and mission planner. So it is sad for
him that he has felt it necessary to withdraw. But there are other
voices to be heard.
The Bishop of Whitby is not a flying bishop, but the suffragan
with pastoral responsibility for the northern archdeaconry of
Cleveland. The archdeaconry does have a concentration of parishes
that do not accept the ordination of women, around Middlesbrough.
The past two Bishops of Whitby have been well-known
But the archdeaconry of Cleveland is by no means a majority
"traditionalist" area. There are at least as many women priests
here as priests opposed, and a much larger group of parishes
(including my own, where Bishops of Whitby have lived since the
1960s) that are fully supportive of women's ordination at all
levels. Over the past 14 years, women clergy and their many
supporters have struggled with a situation where women's orders are
held in question by the local bishop.
The October announcement of a third conservative, however able,
has stirred a general sense among many, clergy and laity, that this
situation is unacceptable. The vote at the General Synod, and Fr
North's speech there, released a groundswell of feeling that enough
You have reported a letter of protest. I understand it was
signed by many of the laity across the archdeaconry. Clergy also
have expressed their feelings. The imminent consecration of a new
Provincial Episcopal Visitor, well known in this diocese, has
further fuelled the majority's sense that a Bishop of Whitby who
doubts the orders of some who serve under him is neither necessary
Many here would wish Fr North well. But we hope that, in due
course, the local episcopal oversight for the north of York diocese
will be provided by a bishop who is both readily available and
identifies fully and unequivocally with the ministry of all the
clergy. It would be a refreshing change.
The Rectory, Leven Close
Stokesley, Nr Middlesbrough
From the Revd Stephen Cooper
Sir, - So much then for inclusivity, tolerance, and respect
among our different traditions! Those who have campaigned so
dishonourably against the appointment of the Revd Philip North as
the next Bishop of Whitby should hang their heads in shame.
Many of us in the Cleveland archdeaconry are extremely saddened
to have lost this opportunity to have such an able and gifted
pastor and teacher as our Bishop. Our thoughts and prayers are with
Fr North at this very painful and distressing time.
115 Cambridge Road
Middlesbrough TS5 5HF