Let me be clear: as someone who has received massive amounts from women in leadership, I was a passionate campaigner for female bishops. I think Phillip North is wrong to oppose the ordination of women. I think the Bible is in favour of women in leadership. Yet, there’s more to the picture than that. North is a committed evangelist, social justice activist and great friend of many women clergy (including his fellow bishop, Libby Lane).
The legislation which made it possible for women to become bishops also made North’s position a legitimate and tenable one within the Church. If that has now been changed, de facto – not by debate, but by a concerted campaign from outside (and inside) Sheffield Diocese, we are in trouble.
The whole basis of the Church’s decision to opt for female bishops could now be called into question. As CofE legal expert Gavin Drake said on Facebook: ‘The legislation passed ONLY because a package of measures was agreed to provide for the mutual flourishing of women clergy AND of those whose theological convictions opposed them. That package of measures has just, effectively, been ripped up.’