Christian Today reports on the somewhat unusual preparation for Fr. Philip North’s upcoming episcopal ordination

The following is an amalgam of two articles by Ruth Gledhill, the former Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Times, in Christian Today:

Fr Philip NorthChristian Today has learned that at the consecration of traditionalist priest Father Philip North as Suffragan Bishop of Burnley in the Diocese of Blackburn no bishop will lay hands on him who has previously laid hands on a woman bishop or priest.

Normally at a consecration, all the bishops present would join in laying hands on the episcopal candidate to elevate them to the order of bishop. In the northern province, this would mean more than 20 retired and serving bishops.

Christian Today understands that at the consecration on 2nd February at York Minster, neither the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu nor the Bishop of Blackburn Julian Henderson is expected to lay on hands, although both will be present, as both will have laid hands on Bishop Libby Lane at her consecration on 26th January. It will be extremely unusual for neither the provincial nor diocesan of a new suffragan bishop to lay hands on the candidate in such circumstances.

Effectively, it means the Church of England’s catholic wing is being allowed to preserve the traditionalist apostolic succession, creating a line of male bishops in perpetuity.

In a statement explaining why most bishops at the consecration at York Minster of Father Philip North will not lay hands on the candidate, Dr John Sentamu said: “It is in the nature of these arrangements, enshrined in the declaration and principles, that they involve accommodating within one Church people with convictions that vary widely. If this accommodation is to work it requires a degree of gracious restraint and accommodation on all sides.”

The issue has caused “great upset” amnong the women’s ordination group WATCH because it has revived the concept of “taint”, and it highlights the deep divisions that remain in the established church over women’s ordination.

Dr Sentamu stated that he will delegate the presidency of the eucharist and the laying on of hands to another bishop, and a total of just three bishops will actually do the laying on of hands, the minimum stipulated by Canon Law.

Noting that consecration arrangements are in law a matter for the Archbishop of the relevant province, and that the Archbishop would normally act as chief consecrator, Archbishops have always had the power to delegate the role.

“Any suggestion that the arrangements proposed for the consecration of the Bishop of Burnley are influenced by a theology of ‘taint’ would be mistaken,” he said, noting that he had himself presided at the consecration of the traditionalist “flying bishop” Glyn Webster, Bishop of Beverley, and the present Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, also a traditionalist, when he was made Bishop of Whitby.

“There were no objections on either of these occasions, despite the fact that I have been ordaining women to the priesthood since I first became Bishop of Stepney in 1996,” he said.

The Church of England has affirmed that “since those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England remains committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures.”

archbishop-of-york-john-sentamuDr Sentamu reveals in his statement that he wrote to all bishops of the northern province outlining the details of the consecration, made at his suggestion and not Father North’s request.

He explained in the letter that the aim was “to build a future based on trust, mutual respect and the highest degree of communion possible.”

Although he as Archbishop will be recognised throughout the liturgy as the Metropolitan, he will “delegate to another bishop the authority to celebrate the Liturgy of Ordination and the Liturgy of the Eucharist,” he wrote.

He continued: “When the bishops gather together for the Ordination Prayer, in close proximity around the candidate, the Archbishop will lead all other bishops present in exercising gracious restraint at the laying-on of hands, permitting two bishops, nominated by the Archbishop… to assist in the laying-on of hands, in order to fulfil the requirements of canon C2.1. All other Bishops will remain in the arc around the candidate.”

The decision to take this approach is understood to have been made at the highest levels. Archbishops are free to determine what happens at consecrations and who does and does not lay on hands.

The Archbishop of York was criticised by “Women and the Church”.

“We are dismayed that it seems that the Archbishop of York will not lay hands on Philip North at his consecration as Bishop of Burnley. We believe it is unprecedented that an Archbishop should be present at a consecration in his own Province and not lay hands on a candidate, and not preside at the eucharist.

“We are saddened that there will be such a powerful visual sign of a divided College and House of Bishops at the moment of consecration. The Bishop of Burnley is a suffragan bishop, and not a PEV: he is a minister for the whole Church of England in the Diocese of Blackburn and the people of that diocese are looking forward to working with him across the traditions.”

Bishop-elect North, highly respected in the Church, will be among the male bishops who will give pastoral oversight to parishes that cannot accept the ministry of women bishops and priests. For example, a traditionalist parish in the Stockport area would be able to refuse to have confirmations done by Bishop Lane, or anyone who had consecrated her or any other woman bishop, and request to have them done by a traditionalist such as Bishop North instead.

Although the former “provincial episcopal visitors” known as flying bishops were consecrated by bishops who had ordained women priests, such as Lord Carey, sources said the situation around this apparent contradiction changed the moment the Canon was passed allowing the consecration of women bishops. Following the passing of the Canon, every subsequent traditionalist bishop and priest must be ordained by bishops who are free of “taint”.

My comment:

— To be truthful, I have never really understood the need to have special pastoral oversight through PEV’s merely because a bishop has ordained or participated in the ordination  of a woman priest (or bishop, for that matter).

The  bishop concerned remains of good standing within the jurisdiction of his church, there is no question of automatic excommunication, which would be the case if he were a Catholic bishop. His own episcopal ordination cannot be invalidated by his participation in such ordinations, so where is the problem?

Should one believe that his action is sinful or illicit, then one actually has no business remaining in a church which considers it absolutely licit.

This is all the more the case now that General Synod (including a large number of Anglo-Catholic delegates) has formally accepted the premise that…

“Once legislation has been passed to enable women to become bishops, the Church of England will be fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender …” (from the “Shared Vision”)

The apostolic succession of a bishop ordained by a bishop who has ordained women is itself also in no way “tainted” (that is assuming that, as an Anglican priest, he is in the apostolic succession at all).

It is a completely different matter if the ordaining bishop has himself been ordained BY a woman, rendering his apostolic succession defective in the eyes of (Anglo-)Catholics. No bishop who values his own direct succession from the apostles will want a bishop ordained defectively in his line of succession, although in reality it would suffice if only one of the bishops laying on hands were in the valid and unbroken apostolic succession.

This latter will not be the scenario at Bishop-elect North’s ordination.

Regarding the delegation of the power to ordain a new bishop by a metropolitan archbishop or a diocesan bishop, as far as the Catholic Church is concerned there is no need for delegation. In fact, the papal mandate issued for the episcopal ordination of any new bishop actually states that he may request any Catholic bishop who is in communion with the See of Rome to ordain him.  Even if the Canons of the C of E provide otherwise, it is in any case not a precondition for valid ordination.

and one final comment about the coats of arms on Archbishop Sentamu’s cope. How can he in all honesty use a coat of arms bearing a pallium which is a fundamental symbol of unity with the authority of the Successor of Peter? On the other hand the arms of York Minster are a one crowned (not three-crowned) tiara above the keys of St. Peter, representing that the apostolic authority has been usurped by the monarch in lieu of the Pope – what a contradiction in coats of arms!

David Murphy

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13 Responses to Christian Today reports on the somewhat unusual preparation for Fr. Philip North’s upcoming episcopal ordination

  1. Rev22:17 says:

    David,

    From the quoted article: Christian Today has learned that at the consecration of traditionalist priest Father Philip North as Suffragan Bishop of Burnley in the Diocese of Blackburn no bishop will lay hands on him who has previously laid hands on a woman bishop or priest.

    Normally at a consecration, all the bishops present would join in laying hands on the episcopal candidate to elevate them to the order of bishop. In the northern province, this would mean more than 20 retired and serving bishops.

    Christian Today understands that at the consecration on 2nd February at York Minster, neither the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu nor the Bishop of Blackburn Julian Henderson is expected to lay on hands, although both will be present, as both will have laid hands on Bishop Libby Lane at her consecration on 26th January. It will be extremely unusual for neither the provincial nor diocesan of a new suffragan bishop to lay hands on the candidate in such circumstances.

    Effectively, it means the Church of England’s catholic wing is being allowed to preserve the traditionalist apostolic succession, creating a line of male bishops in perpetuity.

    This is, indeed, a very interesting development.

    >> This seems to go far beyond the previous accommodation for the so-called “Anglo-Catholic” wing of the Church of England (CoE), indeed creating a “church within a church” that has its own protocols for ordination and its own subset of recognized bishops.

    >> But it also emphasizes the division between the “Anglo-Catholic” wing and the mainstream in ways that the previous practice did not.

    It will be interesting to see how long this theological division can endure without becoming a full schism.

    From the article: The Archbishop of York was criticised by “Women and the Church”….

    “We are saddened that there will be such a powerful visual sign of a divided College and House of Bishops at the moment of consecration. The Bishop of Burnley is a suffragan bishop, and not a PEV: he is a minister for the whole Church of England in the Diocese of Blackburn and the people of that diocese are looking forward to working with him across the traditions.”

    This paragraph captures the symbolism — or is that diabolism? — very well.

    You wrote: To be truthful, I have never really understood the need to have special pastoral oversight through PEV’s merely because a bishop has ordained or participated in the ordination of a woman priest (or bishop, for that matter).

    The overwhelming majority of the members of the so-called “Anglo-Catholic” wing of the CofE believe that it is not possible to ordain a woman, and thus that all those bishops who have participated in the ordination possess a defective understanding of the sacrament of orders that invalidates their conferral of the sacrament. Thus, they will not accept the ministry of any individual whom such a bishop has ordained.

    You wrote: Should one believe that his action is sinful or illicit, then one actually has no business remaining in a church which considers it absolutely licit.

    Yes, I agree. Or, said another way, can one continue to claim “full communion” across such divides?

    I do think that there will be a time of discernment over this. Most likely, it’s only a matter of time until the rest of the so-called “Anglo-Catholic” wing leaves the CoE for some alternative. And viewed from “across the pond,” the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham appears to be the most viable alternative.

    Norm.

    • Norm, you wrote: “The overwhelming majority of the members of the so-called “Anglo-Catholic” wing of the CofE believe that it is not possible to ordain a woman, and thus that all those bishops who have participated in the ordination possess a defective understanding of the sacrament of orders that invalidates their conferral of the sacrament. Thus, they will not accept the ministry of any individual whom such a bishop has ordained.

      I totally agree that those bishops possess a defective understanding of the sacrament of orders.

      However, I have a theological question: Does the validity of a sacrament depend on the understanding of the nature of that sacrament by the person conferring it? I would think not. It would perhaps be different if his intention were defective – but I assume that all these bishops actually intend to confer valid orders.

      My understanding can perhaps best be illustrated by an example: If in the case of the sacrament of the eucharist, a priest did not intend that transsubstantiation should take place, if he wanted it just to be a happy meal in memory of the Last Supper, then I imagine that the validity of the sacrament could be called into doubt (although some might argue that it is possible for God to correct the default in intention, taking into account the intention of those receiving the sacrament). However, it is not necessary for the priest to understand fully or even correctly the nature of the Real Presence or what exactly happens in transsubstantiation for the sacrament stll to be valid. He only needs to “intend to do what the Church does” (at least I think that’s the wording of what I was taught).

      David

      • Rev22:17 says:

        David,

        You asked: However, I have a theological question: Does the validity of a sacrament depend on the understanding of the nature of that sacrament by the person conferring it? I would think not. It would perhaps be different if his intention were defective – but I assume that all these bishops actually intend to confer valid orders.

        A material defect in understanding of the sacrament on the part of the minister carries the implication that the minister’s intent in performing the rite of ordination is something different from conferral of the true sacrament. This is, in fact, one of the criteria by which a tribunal may determine a marriage to be null, the ministers of marriage being the bride and the groom.

        You said: However, it is not necessary for the priest to understand fully or even correctly the nature of the Real Presence or what exactly happens in transsubstantiation for the sacrament stll to be valid.

        If the priest does not intend that the bread and wine consecrated in the Eucharist become the body and blood of Christ, that normally would be invalidating. Of course, the recipient of defective communion has no knowledge of this defect and, as an innocent party, is not deprived — the saying that “the church supplies” pertains to this situation.

        Note, however, that the damage caused by an invalid celebration of mass is relatively confined. If the defect comes to light, another priest can consecrate the same bread and wine — and if not, the defectively consecrated elements are gone as soon as they are consumed, so the defect propagates no further. With episcopal ordination, the defect could sever the apostolic succession. Indeed, this is precisely the reason for having three ordaining bishops rather than just one: it suffices for validity for one of the three to have the right intent.

        He only needs to “intend to do what the Church does” (at least I think that’s the wording of what I was taught).

        The phrase “intend to do what the Church does” appears most often with respect to baptisms in exceptional circumstances in which the minister is not ordained, and thus might understand the sacrament in a manner that is shallow and superficial. This is not the same as a situation in which the minister’s understanding of the sacrament is wrong in some material way. When the minister’s understanding of the sacrament is materially wrong, the minister does not “intend to do what the church does” and thus does not even meet this bar.

        Norm.

      • Dear Norm,

        I believe we are still talking at cross-purposes.

        I think it is evident that if the intention of the person conferring the sacrament is defective, that this places the validity of the sacrament seriously in question.

        However, it is with your concept of defective understanding that I have problems. I believe that when you use the word “understanding” in this context you are suggesting that the person concerned is intentionally misunderstanding the nature of the sacrament which he wishes to confer. This would not only render the intention defective and thus the sacrament invalid, but is seriously sinful.

        It is a very different matter if the misunderstanding is completely unintentional, either through insufficient knowledge or mistaken belief. And I hope that that is what we are talking about when bishops believe that they can ordain women, or priests think that the sacrament of marriage can be conferred mutually by two persons of the same sex. Indeed they truly believe that OUR understanding is faulty.

        Naturally, when he attempts to “ordain” a woman, the sacrament is not conferred (similarly when he witnesses the “marriage” of two homosexuals), but it does not follow that when he ordains a man or witnesses the marriage of a heterosexual couple, the sacrament in this case should be invalid, as there is nothing defective about his intention.

        David

      • Rev22:17 says:

        David,

        You wrote: I believe we are still talking at cross-purposes.

        Ah, not deliberately, at least at this end.

        You continued: I think it is evident that if the intention of the person conferring the sacrament is defective, that this places the validity of the sacrament seriously in question.

        Actually, there’s no question. A defect of intent renders the sacrament invalid.

        You continued: However, it is with your concept of defective understanding that I have problems. I believe that when you use the word “understanding” in this context you are suggesting that the person concerned is intentionally misunderstanding the nature of the sacrament which he wishes to confer. This would not only render the intention defective and thus the sacrament invalid, but is seriously sinful.

        It is a very different matter if the misunderstanding is completely unintentional, either through insufficient knowledge or mistaken belief. And I hope that that is what we are talking about when bishops believe that they can ordain women, or priests think that the sacrament of marriage can be conferred mutually by two persons of the same sex. Indeed they truly believe that OUR understanding is faulty.

        I’m not sure that it matters whether misunderstanding is willful or the result of wrong formation. What matters is that the misunderstanding is material, such that the person intends something other than the true sacrament. For example, a person who takes marriage vows under the belief that prostitution does not violate the obligation of fidelity within a marriage does not enter a valid marriage. It does not matter whether such a mistaken belief is the result of defective catechesis or rejection of correct doctrine on the part of somebody who was correctly taught.

        With respect to the matter at hand, the question is whether the belief that it’s possible to ordain women creates such a defect in a bishop’s understanding of the sacrament of orders that he cannot validly ordain anybody. I’m not aware of any determination by the magisterium of the Catholic Church on this issue, but such a determination would be moot since the issue arose with respect to the “church within a church” for so-called “Anglo-Catholics” within the Church of England (CoE). A significant number of those “Anglo-Catholics” probably do believe that the belief that it’s possible to ordain women creates such a defect, so the “church within a church” needs to accommodate them.

        You wrote: Naturally, when he attempts to “ordain” a woman, the sacrament is not conferred (similarly when he witnesses the “marriage” of two homosexuals), but it does not follow that when he ordains a man or witnesses the marriage of a heterosexual couple, the sacrament in this case should be invalid, as there is nothing defective about his intention.

        The sacrament of marriage is a completely different matter because the ministers of the sacrament are the bride and the bridegroom rather than the member of the clergy who witnesses the exchange of vows. Thus, it’s only the intent of the bride and the intent of the bridegroom that can affect the validity of the sacrament. In fact, Canon 1112 and Canon 1116 of the Codex Juris Canonici (Code of Canon Law) respectfully (1) permit a bishop to delegate competent lay people to assist at marriages in lieu of clergy and (2) permit couples to celebrate the sacrament of marriage “before witnesses only” (that is, in the absence of clergy or deputed laity) in certain situations. There’s no way that the fact that a member of the clergy had previously assisted in an exchange of vows by a homosexual couple could affect the validity of a subsequent marriage at which the same member of the clergy happened to assist.

        In ordination, however, the intention of the ordaining bishop is essential: if the bishop either (1) does not possess valid episcopal orders or (2) celebrates the rite of ordination with an intention that is materially defective, the action is null and void. If the bishops of the CoE want to keep a so-called “Anglo-Catholic” contingent within that body, they must ensure that the “church within a church” has clergy who are acceptable to its members. Here, an abundance of caution is the most prudent policy.

        Norm.

  2. Joseph Golightly says:

    Fudge and more fudge. It certainly aint catholic and it’s going to be a nightmare to keep the records. Once a man is “ordained” by Libby the ACs will not think he is valid and if he changes his mind about women, ACs still won’t accept him because he can’t be ‘reordained’ by a ‘real’ bishop – what a mess they have got themselves in. Just to put this in context, the now retired Bishop of Exeter did change his mind and is now a “Society’ Bishop (and he visits Rome trying to broker a deal!)

    • The ‘real’ Bishop could of course ordain him conditionally, but he probably wouldn’t be allowed to do this officially – so conditional (diaconal, presbyteral and even episcopal) ordinations in the bishop’s parlour may become the order of the day.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Joseph,

      You wrote: It certainly aint catholic and it’s going to be a nightmare to keep the records.

      I doubt that it will be much of a problem. It’s just an asterisk or something equivalent in the ledger of episcopal ordinations after a certain date.

      Once a man is “ordained” by Libby the ACs will not think he is valid and if he changes his mind about women, ACs still won’t accept him because he can’t be ‘reordained’ by a ‘real’ bishop – what a mess they have got themselves in.

      Yes, and it probably is just a matter of time until those affected become convinced of the unsustainability of the new status quo. It’s only a matter of time until a “church within a church” becomes a separate body.

      Norm.

  3. Joseph Golightly says:

    I don’t think you are right. He cannot be ordained more than once into the Church of England but perhaps you can find a tame canon lawyer to come up with the correct answer

  4. EPMS says:

    Other Anglican jurisdictions have had women in the episcopate for decades. Presumably people like Msgr Steenson and Fr Kenyon and other present and former members of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the ACC/TEC manage or managed to reconcile themselves to this fact, until they couldn’t, in some cases. The point is that no special arrangements were made.

  5. EPMS says:

    Yes. One must recall that Dr Hankey entered the Church shortly after the events in 1993 which Msgr Steenson describes here, while he himself remained in TEC for another sixteen years.

  6. Ryan Sumpter says:

    I have always wondered why the C of E has kept Papal symbols in their coats of arms and other regalia? It’s very strange and confusing!

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