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Christ Church, Fulwood, to ‘build strong partnership’ with diocese

21 October 2022

Church uninvites the Bishop of Sheffield from the new Vicar’s installation

IAN S/COMMONS/GEOGRAPH

Christ Church, Fulwood

Christ Church, Fulwood

THE new Vicar of Christ Church, Fulwood, the Revd Jonathan Dyer, and the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Pete Wilcox, have committed themselves to “building a strong partnership” between the diocese and the church, despite the church’s decision to uninvite the Bishop from Mr Dyer’s installation.

Seven years ago, Christ Church declared itself to be in impaired communion with the Archdeacon of Sheffield, the Ven. Malcolm Chamberlain, over the issue of sexuality. The Bishop made it clear to the leadership of the flagship conservative Evangelical church at the time that the Archdeacon’s statutory responsibilities would be unaffected.

There the matter stood. But the approach of Mr Dyer’s licensing on 29 September led to what has been described as the congregation’s “mounting unease” about the Archdeacon’s involvement in the service. Archdeacon Camberlain was expected to perform the installation, with the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas — who provides episcopal ministry to the parish — present at the service to share the licensing responsibilities with Dr Wilcox.

A week before the service, Mr Dyer approached the latter, telling him that the issue had become “seriously divisive” for Fulwood. The Bishop gave the parish two alternatives: either both he and the Archdeacon would attend, or neither of them would. The PCC pronounced the second to be “the least worst option”.

Dr Wilcox is understood to have made it clear that he regarded their decision as a poor one. He has been at pains to emphasise, however, that no blame should be attached to the newly arrived Mr Dyer, and that he continues to have the Bishop’s full support. Dr Wilcox also encouraged deanery colleagues to attend the installation, and those reported to have done so included the Dean of Sheffield, the Very Revd Abi Thompson. The Area Dean, Canon Matthew Rhodes, chose not to attend. The Archdeacon delegated the installation to an associate, the Revd Christopher Stebbing.

In a statement to the Church Times, the diocese said: “The licensing of the Revd Jonny Dyer as the new vicar of Christ Church, Fulwood, took place on Thursday 29 September, as planned.

“The licensing was carried out by the Bishop of Maidstone, with many lay and clergy colleagues present, male and female, to afford Jonny a warm welcome to the Deanery and the Diocese. The Revd Dyer and the Bishop of Sheffield are committed to building a strong partnership, both between themselves and between Christ Church and the Diocese.”

Mr Dyer — who, like his two immediate predecessors, came from All Souls’, Langham Place — succeeded Canon Paul Williams, who resigned after a visitation by Bishop Thomas and Dr Wilcox, requested by the PCC and by Canon Williams himself (News, 27 August 2021).

Bishop Thomas retired on 2 October. His successor, expected to be in place by January, will take the title of Bishop of Ebbsfleet. Bishop Thomas put in place a set of commitments for the conservative Evangelical churches that have requested his ministry, which include a commitment to fostering “positive working relationships” within the dioceses of which they are a part. He encouraged “clergy and PCCs to engage positively with senior diocesan clergy, to ensure that working relationships — especially in cases of pastoral breakdown — can be as effective as possible.

“In this way, the responsibilities that senior clergy in the diocese have for parishes in their area of responsibility is properly acknowledged.”

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