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Bishop Philip North steps down over women priests row

image captionBishop Philip North said some of the complaints had been "highly individualised attacks"

An Anglican bishop has turned down a promotion after fellow clergy in his new diocese objected to his stance against ordaining women priests.

Philip North had been chosen as the next Bishop of Sheffield but said the level of opposition meant accepting the offer would be counter-productive.

He said he had withdrawn for "personal reasons" but added the "attacks" against him were "extremely hard".

The Archbishop of York urged members to "disagree Christianly".


The planned promotion of Philip North, the current Bishop of Burnley, to Bishop of Sheffield prompted some clergy in the city's diocese to send him a letter expressing "anxiety and distress" about his appointment.

But other senior church figures, including women bishops, expressed support for his appointment.

They said he should be the Bishop of Sheffield because the church's ruling General Synod agreed five "guiding principles".

The principles say traditionalists who oppose women priests should be allowed to remain in "the highest possible degree of communion" and allowed to "mutually flourish".

In a statement Mr North said some of the complaints about his appointment had been "highly individualised attacks".

He added: "The news of my nomination has elicited a strong reaction within the diocese and some areas of the wider Church.

"It is clear that the level of feeling is such that my arrival would be counter-productive in terms of the mission of the Church in South Yorkshire and that my leadership would not be acceptable to many.

"There is clearly much to be done on what it means to disagree well and to live with theological difference in the Church of England."

'Personally saddened'

The Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows, who assists the Bishop of Sheffield, said he was "deeply and personally saddened" at Mr North's decision not to take up the appointment.

He said the Archbishop of York would submit the name of an alternative candidate in "due course".

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, urged members of the church to learn how to "disagree Christianly" in reaction to the bishop's announcement.

"What has happened to Bishop Philip clearly does not reflect the settlement under which, two and a half years ago, the Church of England joyfully and decisively opened up all orders of ministry to men and women," he said.

This is the second time Mr North has turned down a job as a bishop after complaints about his traditionalist position.

In 2012 he was chosen as Bishop of Whitby but did not take up the post.

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  • The Church of England

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