Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Promotion Cometh Not For The North

We were surprised and saddened to hear the news that the Revd Philip North has withdrawn his acceptance of the post of Bishop of Whitby, citing the divisiveness of the current debate about women bishops. Farther North commented:
in the light of the recent vote in the General Synod and having listened to the views of people in the Archdeaconry of Cleveland, I have concluded that it is not possible for me, at this difficult time for our Church, to be a focus for unity.
There has been a suspicion, however, that Farther North's broader lack of loyalty to the Church of England may have played a part in his decision. Certainly his commitment to Anglicanism does not seem very deep. He does not apparently realise that the unitive vocation of the bishop is one of the Church of England's many quaint legal fictions, and that our practice is to talk a lot about about consultation - and to complain when consultation is lacking - but not to pay any attention to what people actually say, which would be a breach of the privileges of the clergy.

We are proud of Farther North for carrying his nolo episcopari to such traditional lengths, but clearly now the Archbishop of York and the Queen should get together and swiftly appoint him again, and insist on it this time.

Dr Sentamu, however, has indicated that this may not be the case. In which event, might I remind Her Majesty that (by some miracle) I am still available? The first 110 readers to write to the Wash House suggesting me will win a free White Rose maniple pin. But we warn new readers from the Cleveland archdeaconry that if they found the Rector of St Pancras' views too reactionary they will be shocked at Plumstead doctrine, where we regard Dr Philpotts as having been the exemplar of the bishop as focus of unity.

Any consideration of episcopal appointments will have to wait, of course, until Her Majesty has recovered from this morning's Cabinet meeting.

Some have wondered whether it is really proper for the monarch to attend. But having recommended Her Majesty to take up the governance of the so-called Anglican Communion we would like to see her taking a more direct role in all the affairs of Church and State. She would be much more effective, we suspect, than her principal servants in either.

Her Majesty is only a figurehead, it is true; but so are the Prime Minister and Cabinet generally, who preside with their faltering political skills over the government of Sir Jeremy Heywood. At least Her Majesty knows that her sovereignty is only vicariously borrowed from one more worthy. At Plumstead Rectory, and in High Church parsonages everywhere, we eagerly look for his return.

A correspondent in this week's Church Times (Mr Alan Bartley) suggests that, in default of women bishops, lady deans should be given seats in the Lords. With all due respect to Mr Bartley, we would argue (for reasons similar to those given in Precedents, not Presidents) that Her Majesty would be a much more suitable representative of the ecclesiastical feminine. Let the Queen preside in person, like her predecessor of glorious memory (above); she would outshine all plausible bishops of either sex.

Indeed, we regard very favourably all Her Majesty's moves toward a personal rule; and not solely because we wish to solicit preferment. We are disinterested supporters of a thorough policy, and we hope that the Bishop of Durham may turn out to be a Laud for our generation, and Mr Cameron a Strafford.


  1. I was totally gutted by the news of Fr.North's announcement of nolo episcopari. I did see it as politicking by those aggrieved at the recent fallen vote in the House of Laity on the question of proceeding with episcopal consecration for women.
    Could this be the first trumpet blast in an even more bitter and uncharitable war in the CofE,especially given that the appointment of
    a Bishop of Whitby has usually been given to a priest of Fr. North's doctrinal position because of the many parishes in the Arch deaconary of Cleveland wishing such episcopal oversight.
    There have been many instances of nolo episcopari over the centuries in church history,but I do fear that given the current state of the CofE that this will not be handled well. I am afraid that this resignation will be a landmark in the ongoing Anglican bellum credendi.