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