THE Dioceses Commission has approved changes of names to the bishoprics that provide episcopal ministry under the House of Bishops Declaration to conservative Evangelical and traditionalist Anglo-Catholic parishes.
It was announced on Thursday that the successor to the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas, who provides episcopal ministry to conservative Evangelical parishes whose PCCs have passed resolutions on the ministry of women, will be known as the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, also in Canterbury diocese. Bishop Thomas is due to retire in October.
“The future Bishop of Ebbsfleet, who will take on this responsibility when Bishop Rod retires, will live either in London or the M4 corridor for ease of travel and will minister nationally to complementarian evangelical parishes,” a statement from Church House said.
The see of Maidstone would now become vacant, it continued, “and could potentially revert to local use within the Diocese of Canterbury in the future”.
The previous Bishop of Ebbsfleet was the Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall, who resigned last September to become a Roman Catholic (News, 10 September 2021). Since 2013, he had been one of three Provincial Episcopal Visitors (PEVs) — a “flying bishop” — supporting traditionalist congregations in the western half of the Province of Canterbury who are unable to receive the ministry of women as priests or bishops.
Episcopal ministry to traditionalists in this geographical area will in future be provided by the Bishop of Oswestry, in Lichfield diocese. Proposals to revive the suffragan see of Oswestry, first suggested by the Archbishop of Canterbury (News, 20 May), were approved by the diocesan synod on Wednesday evening, having been approved by the diocesan Bishop’s Council.
A statement from Church House said that consultations about Bishop Goodall’s successor “strongly suggested that it would be helpful for the new postholder to be rooted in a diocese. The Dioceses Commission has therefore agreed that Lichfield provides a good location for this ministry to this part of the Province and that Bishop Jonathan’s successor should therefore be designated as the Bishop of Oswestry.”
Lichfield diocese said in a statement that an advisory group would now begin to work with the Bishop of Lichfield, Dr Michael Ipgrave, to look at potential candidates, “with a view to the new Bishop of Oswestry being consecrated in January 2023”.
Dr Ipgrave welcomed the proposal to relocate the PEV from Ebbsfleet to the revived see of Oswestry. “This will ensure that the 13 dioceses, including Lichfield diocese, in this part of the Province of Canterbury continue to receive extended pastoral and sacramental care for their traditionalist Catholic parishes,” he said on Thursday.
“I greatly value and have benefited from the ministry of women as deacons, priests, and bishops, as has this whole diocese of Lichfield. The proposals have been discussed at consultation events — listening to a variety of viewpoints — in recent weeks in the diocese, and I am pleased that diocesan synod have given their support.
“I and my episcopal colleagues will be committed to working with the new Bishop of Oswestry and with all our clergy, both women and men, to strengthen mutual flourishing as we grow together into Christ.”