I have just seen the news, announced this morning from 10 Downing Street, that the Revd Philip John North, Team Rector of Old Saint Pancras in the Diocese of London, is to be appointed to the Suffragan See of Whitby in the Diocese of York.
The Bishop of Ebbsfleet and Chairman of Forward in Faith, the Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, haswelcomed the news. “Father North,” he says, “is well known for his energy, passion for the Gospel and heart for Mission. His appointment to the See of Whitby brings hopes and encouragement to catholic Anglicans in the Northern Province and throughout the Church of England.”
Fair enough, and I wish him every success, even though his name may have biased those making his selection. (If you work in London and the post is in Whitby, ‘Father North’ is going to work better for you than ‘Father South’. Boom, boom!)
But whilst the Anglo-Catholic representatives amongst our bishops can welcome another to their ranks, the corresponding Conservative Evangelical representation remains nil.
This, frankly, is beginning to look ridiculous.
The first commitment of the Church of England made in the 1993 Episcopal Ministry Act ofSynod was this:
Ordinations and Appointments
1. There will be no discrimination against candidates either for ordination or for appointment to senior office in the Church of England on the grounds of their views about the ordination of women to the priesthood.
Clearly that is still being honoured in some quarters, but only for ‘High Church’ candidates.
And here is where I suggest the problem lies. The reason why Anglo-Catholics are getting these appointments and Evangelicals are not is that for all their uncomfortable views about women’s ordination, Anglo-Catholics are seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’ when it comes to the institution.
They may have funny ideas about priests, but they still believe in priesthood. They may have baroque tastes when it comes to church interiors, but at least they won’t be meeting in school halls. They may be too ‘traditionalist’ in some areas, but they will maintain the traditions valued by the institution in others.
Now this is not to knock my Anglo-Catholic brothers and sisters. There are some in their ranks with whom I would probably have difficulty and vice versa. But there are others with whom I definitely find myself singing off a similar hymn sheet.
No, the problem is not with them. It is with the institutional ‘gate-keepers’ — those who control the promotions and appointments. And even here I must be careful what I say. If I were one of them, I would be a very careful gate-keeper. Indeed, it is the job of a gate-keeper to be careful about who is let in and who is not.
But the Church of England says one thing — “we are a broad church” — and does another, for the gate is suddenly very narrow when it comes to a certain theology.
Yet the theology of the Conservative Evangelical wing is certainly in line with the Anglican formularies, and even if its views on women’s ordination may be out of line with the majority, so too is that of Anglo-Catholics. So why the glass ceiling?
Surely it is time to ask questions and expect answers.Please give a full name and location when posting. Comments without this information may be deleted. Recommend: