I am deeply saddened that Philip North has felt forced to withdraw from his nomination as the next Bishop of Sheffield. It will be a huge loss to Sheffield and is a body blow to the concept of ‘mutual flourishing’ which lay at the heart of the agreement to introduce women bishops in the Church of England.
Philip has huge gifts to offer the Church, and his leadership in Sheffield would have given a great boost to mission.
However, the damage to the principles on which the House of Bishops Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests is based, is profound. If all orders of ministry and all appointments are equally open to men and women, then the same has to apply to those who hold that the ministries of men and women are distinctively different. If it does not, if there is, in effect, a glass ceiling that prevents those of traditional churchmanships ministering at all levels of the Church, then the Declaration and the provisions that came with it lose all credibility.
I know that both Archbishops were personally wholly committed to the concept of mutual flourishing and it was warmly supported by the General Synod. If it is to survive as our governing motif, then urgent action will be needed to demonstrate its effectiveness. In the absence of such action, we will simply have given in to those who hounded Philip North out of office.