Bravo to the Rev Martine Oborne for her clarifying piece about the appointment of Philip North as the next bishop of Blackburn (Why are female clergy cheering for a bishop who doesn’t believe in female priests?, 14 January).
Philip North does not believe that women should be ordained either as priests or bishops. He claims that he is supportive of female clergy and has “worked out a way to make mutual flourishing work”, albeit with “work still to do”, the Church Times reported last week.
Parishioners and priests alike need to know that their future bishop washes his hands of ordaining women as priests. He will also not receive bread and wine consecrated by a female priest, or indeed by a woman or man ordained by a female bishop. Interested readers may recall that the Church of England has approved the ordination of women to the priesthood since 1992 and to the House of Bishops since 2014.
What Oborne was gracious in not mentioning was that she herself had personal experience of the reality behind “mutual flourishing”, after her own previous diocesan bishop had refused to ordain her; she had to be ordained by a bishop from a different diocese. Even in her more positive present situation she finds the burden undermining, needing to explain to her parishioners that some clergy colleagues would not receive the bread and wine that she had consecrated.
Like other fuzzy-wuzzy buzz phrases – “forward in faith” and “cost of conscience” spring to mind – “mutual flourishing” proves in practice to be founded on shifting sand. I suggest that Philip North moves over to the rock of reality. Women priests and bishops are here, and we aren’t going away.
Founder member, Movement for the Ordination of Women
• I am a priest in the Church of England and have previously found myself subscribing to the idea of mutual flourishing, as I have seen much of the good work and integrity of those with differing views from mine on a number of theological issues, notwithstanding a sense of call to do so. However, unity within the church is a high price to pay for a culture that so often suppresses opportunities for so many gifted and talented minorities due to gender, class and sexuality that we now see dominant in our church. If senior leaders do not seek out those leaders for development and flourishing, they will not foster a culture where they will be the next leaders themselves. It’s as simple as that.
Rev Beth Honey
• Ordained in my late 50s, I was unprepared for the animosity towards women as priests that I found. When I moved to a large evangelical church, I was relegated to doing the things no one else wanted to do, and never, in any circumstances, being allowed to preach. Everything was done with a smile, but it was clear that I was not considered to be a real priest, and I felt spiritually destroyed.
Needless to say, it all resulted in worse than tears, and after I left it, this church sadly fell apart. By the grace of God it is now coming back to life, without those who would not accept women’s ministry.
It is impossible to hold together a church in which two mutually exclusive views are held. As long as the church ordains men who do not believe that women can be wholly priests, our ministry will never be accepted as equivalent to men’s.
Name and address supplied