THE revival of the suffragan see of Oswestry in the diocese of Lichfield is being considered by the Archbishop of Canterbury to provide episcopal ministry under the House of Bishops’ Declaration in the Province of Canterbury.
The suggestion comes after the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall, resigned in September to become a Roman Catholic (News, 10 September 2021). Bishop Goodall had, since 2013, been one of three Provincial Episcopal Visitors — a “flying bishop” — supporting congregations in the Church of England that are unable to receive the ministry of women as priests or bishops.
To fulfil this ministry, he served as an honorary assistant bishop in ten dioceses in the Canterbury Province. The Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Revd Norman Banks, also provides episcopal ministry under similar arrangements.
A statement from House of Bishops on Thursday of last week said that a consultation on Bishop Goodall’s successor had resulted in “a number of calls to consider relocating the post to be rooted in an individual diocese and diocesan college of bishops. . .
“A suggestion from the Archbishop of Canterbury to revive the suffragan see of Oswestry in the diocese of Lichfield is currently being explored.”
The see of Oswestry was one of several created in the 19th century but never filled. The statement explains: “The proposal would involve a future Bishop of Oswestry living in the diocese and ministering to traditional catholic parishes in that and other dioceses of the West Midlands and south-west of England.
“No decisions have been taken. Initial consultations are currently under way within the diocese of Lichfield with the Society, and in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Any proposal would then be considered by the Dioceses Commission this summer.”
The Society (of St Wilfrid and St Hilda), which encompasses traditionalist priests and parishes, welcomed the proposals and the geographical shift it represented. A statement by the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson, who chairs it, and members of its council of bishops, read: “Such an arrangement would inevitably bring with it benefits for Society parishes in that area [the west of the Province].
“We feel it is important that, as part of this set of proposals, a senior priest of our integrity be based in the south-west of England and be tasked with supporting the work of the newly appointed bishop. This would support the Provincial Episcopal Visitor with an ongoing presence in that region, and would facilitate closer working with the south-western dioceses.”
The see of Beverley, which serves traditionalist parishes in the Province of York, has been vacant since the retirement of its most recent Bishop, the Rt Revd Glyn Webster, in January (News, 16 July 2021). Bishop Robinson reported that “good progress” was being made, and he expected a new bishop to be consecrated in the autumn.