As many will know Bishop Philip North, currently Bishop of Burnley, has been announced as the next Bishop of Sheffield. Following the announcement, Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, wrote a piece for Modern Church in which he suggested that Philip North should decline the offer because of the inherent conflict in being responsible for worship in the Diocese, whilst being a member of a society which believes that 1/3 of the Sheffield clergy are not able to consecrate communion validly.
This has understandably created a bit of a storm. Those supporting Philip North have quoted the Five Guiding Principles (pdf) which say:
the Church of England remains committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures;
(them being those who are “unable to receive the ministry of women Bishops or priests”)
but the same Guiding Principles also say:
those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience;
Those who believe that women can’t be priests or Bishops are entitled to alternative episcopal oversight – what used to be flying Bishops. One question that comes to mind is why can those who have a Bishop who does not believe that they are ordained not have similar alternative oversight?
I can see two answers to this question; one theological, in that the idea of flying Bishops does not fit with the theological role of Bishops, it is a practical fudge. The other, more practical, is that if they were allowed, how many parishes would seek their oversight – and what becomes in a Diocese if more parishes are overseen by a flying Bishop than are not? Who in reality is the Bishop, and who the flying Bishop?