Monsignor Barnes writes on Anglo-Catholic Bishop Philip North

(from Mgr. Barnes’ blog)

An Honoured Place

What possible right does a Roman Catholic priest of the Ordinariate have to make any comment on events over the fence in the Church of England? I think I have two pretty good reasons for writing just now; first, because I was there when the Church of England said that catholic Anglicans held and would continue to hold an honoured place within it. That was one of the reasons I felt it right back in 1995 to try to make that promise a reality, and accepted the post of Bishop of Richborough. Then we were told that the Church of England could not determine finally what was right concerning women’s ordination. We were in a time of discernment, until all the Churches, Eastern and Western, came to a common mind. Today the inability or unwillingness of the Church of England to allow an Anglican with doubts about the rightness of women’s ordination to become a diocesan bishop seems to be a breach of those promises, one more nail in the Anglo-Catholic coffin.

That would be reason enough for me to express an opinion; but there is another reason I presume to write now. When Philip North trained for the ministry at St Stephen’s House, I was its Principal. In his year the academic achievements of that small college were outstanding. Of a handful of candidates who entered for degrees in Oxford University’s Honours School of Theology, four were awarded Firsts. One of them is Philip North. There are few Bishops, Anglican or Catholic, with a more impressive academic grounding. There are even fewer with Philip’s generous pastoral heart.

As he withdraws from the post of Bishop of Sheffield, to which he was recently nominated, I simply want to express my sadness for Philip, and for the Church of England. It is no joy to any Christians when fellow Christians are hurt – when one member suffers, every member suffers. If the Church of England is diminished by the activities of a so called ‘liberal’ group, intent on driving out any who disagree with them, then all the Churches are wounded too. Worse still, it is a wound in the Body of Christ Himself.

Then pray for the Church of England, and for Bishop Philip. He wants a place where he can minister to the poor and the neglected for whom he has an especial care. Pray that he may find that place. Pray for the women in ministry in the Church of England, many of whom have tried to support and encourage Philip, and have valued his pastoral care – even while others have refused his ministry. Pray too for the whole Church of God, all baptized Christians, for a spirit of penitence and reconciliation in this holy season of Lent

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