Sentamu exercises 'gracious restraint' over traditionalist bishop's consecration

22 January 2015

ARCHBISHOP OF YORK

"Deep repentance": Dr Sentamu 

"Deep repentance": Dr Sentamu 

THE Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, will not lay on hands at the consecration of the Bishop-elect of Burnley, Fr Philip North CMP, in February.

In a statement released on Thursday, Dr Sentamu said that he, and certain other bishops, would exercise "gracious restraint" at the laying-on of hands during the Ordination Prayer in Fr North's consecration.

Furthermore, Dr Sentamu will not celebrate the Liturgy of Ordination and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Instead, he will delegate these duties to another bishop, who is committed to the "flourishing" of traditionalist Anglicans who oppose women bishops, the statement said.

Dr Sentamu insisted that this break from normal procedure had nothing to do with the so-called "theology of taint", and said that it had been his suggestion, not Fr North's. Fr North, who was previously Vicar of Old St Pancras in North London, is an Anglo-Catholic who objects in conscience to the consecration of women bishops (News, 14 November).

The new arrangements are not binding on any future consecration, Dr Sentamu said, and have been made in the light of the House of Bishops' commitment to enable a "suitable supply" of bishops to minister to Catholics and Evangelicals who cannot in conscience accept the ministry of a woman bishop.

Burnley is not one of the sees created for 'flying bishops' or Provincial Episcopal Visitors, but a suffragan see in the diocese of Blackburn. Dr Sentamu's statement notes that he presided at the consecration of the traditionalist flying bishop the Bishop of Beverley, the Rt Revd Glyn Webster, without any objection, although Dr Sentamu had ordained women as priests since 1996.

In a statement, the pressure group WATCH (Women and the Church) described their "dismay" at the new arrangements for Mr North's consecration. "We believe it is unprecedented that an Archbishop should be present at a consecration in his own Province and not lay hands on a candidate, and not preside at the Eucharist.

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"We are saddened that there will be such a powerful visual sign of a divided College and House of Bishops."

The Anglo-Catholic network Forward in Faith declined to comment on Thursday, but an editorial in New Directions, their monthly magazine, from February last year, addresses the question of consecration.

"The issue for us has never been about so-called 'taint' but rather with a theology and communion," the editorial said. "For example, a bishop, who has in the past ordained women, by that act, created an impairment of communion between him and bishops who did not ordain women.

"Communion can be broken, but it can also be restored. Our issue has always been one of theology and sacramental assurance."

Dr Sentamu's statement explains how the consecration will work in detail, and suggests that these new arrangements could shape the custom of future consecrations.

Numerous references are made to the Five Guiding Principles, agreed by the General Synod during the debates on women bishops. Fr North will take an oath of canonical obedience to Dr Sentamu as his Archbishop, and Dr Sentamu will be involved in other ways during the service, such as preaching and presenting the episcopal ring.

"These arrangements are for prayer, not politics," Dr Sentamu said. "If this accommodation is to work it requires a degree of gracious restraint and accommodation on all sides."

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