TWO significant developments took place this week in the
continuing acceptance of women bishops in the Church of
The first was the announcement that the Revd Dame Sarah
Mullally, Canon Treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral, has been
appointed Bishop of Crediton, a suffragan post in the diocese of
Exeter. She will taking up her post next month.
Before ordination, Canon Mullally had a successful NHS career,
culminating in her appointment as the youngest-ever Chief Nursing
Officer in 1999. She began full-time ministry in 2004, and in 2005
she was appointed DBE for services to nursing and midwifery.
When she is consecrated next month in Canterbury Cathedral she
will become the Church of England's fourth woman bishop, the first
not to have a clerical husband.
The Bishops-designate of Hull and Gloucester, Canon Alison White
and the Ven. Rachel Treweek, will be consecrated at the same
Canon Mullally is married to a business architect and has two
adult children. After ordination in 2001 she combined her work as
Chief Nursing Officer with a part-time curacy in Battersea, south
London. She later became a parish priest in Surrey, before becoming
Canon Treasurer at Salisbury in 2012.
Speaking on Tuesday, Canon Mullally said that, across Devon, the
Church was often the only local facility left and remained as a
symbol of "God's enduring love".
"Throughout my life, as both a nurse and a priest, I have
experienced this love, and I hope as Bishop to be able to share
that love with others."
The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, said that Canon
Mullally was an "outstanding" appointment. "She will bring to her
new role the same mixture of compassion, integrity and
professionalism that has characterised everything she has done and
achieved, both nationally and specifically within the Church of
Twenty-four hours after the announcement, the traditionalist
Bishop of Horsham, the Rt Revd Mark Sowerby, revealed that he would
now accept the ordination of women as priests or bishops.
Bishop Sowerby expressed his change of heart in a letter of
resignation from the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda, which was
set up to provide sacramental assurance and ministry for
Anglo-Catholic opponents of women's ordination (News, 21 November
In a letter to the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Tony
Robinson, who chairs the Society's Council of Bishops, Bishop
Sowerby wrote that he had made this decision after "a deal of
soul-searching and with a deal of personal pain. . .
"I now believe I have to choose between traditional custom on
the one hand and the Church of my baptism, confirmation, and
ordination on the other," he said. "I recognise that the Society
represents an attempt to reconcile my conflicted loyalties, but I
cannot see how it can bring the two together in a way that I can
hold with personal integrity."
He had to find sacramental communion with either the Society or
the mainstream of the C of E, he writes, and separation from the
Church had become "too much to bear".
"I have not forsaken my vocation to work for the eventual
reconciliation of the Church of England with the greater communions
of the Church," the letter continues. "I have, though, come to
believe that the ecumenical conversation must take place between
those communions and the mainstream Church of England rather than a
Society with which it enjoys less than full eucharistic
He acknowledged that his decision would cause hurt for many, but
insisted that his "convictions must take me now along a somewhat
The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, is Bishop Sowerby's
diocesan superior and a member of the Society. He said that Bishop
Sowerby's change of heart would be a costly one. "We respect his
honesty and applaud his courage," he said. "For some of those he
serves it will be a development that they cannot follow, and that
will be painful; for others, this news will be greeted with relief
and considerable rejoicing."
Traditionalists who had looked to Bishop Sowerby for sacramental
ministry will now be served by Dr Warner. Bishop Robinson said that
he had received Bishop Sowerby's resignation with "great
"I acknowledge the pain he feels in taking this step, and his
regret at the pain it will cause for others," he said in a
statement on the Society's website. "
In the mean time, Sir Philip Mawer, who oversees negotiations
over women bishops between dioceses and parishes and priests who
are opposed (News, 31 October 2014), has
launched a consultation on how the disputes-resolution procedure
The document published includes the regulations made by the
House of Bishops and Sir Philip's notes on how he intends to put
them into practice. He has invited comment on the draft guidelines,
which should be sent to Church House and reach him by 4