The Portal December 2017 - Page 11

THE P RTAL December 2017 Page 11 Anglican Sir Philip Mawer’s Report News The Revd Paul Benfield L ast month I began to consider the report of Sir Philip Mawer, the Independent Reviewer under the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests, into the withdrawal of Bishop Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, from the nomination to the See of Sheffield. He considered five questions posed by the Archbishops in their reference to him, and I now turn to the last two of these, which Sir Philip considered together. (d) the reactions to the nomination in the Church and beyond; (e) the response of the institutional Church to the nomination and the reactions to it. announcement could be more readily attributed to the failure of anyone to identify in advance the possibility of a non-ordaining bishop being appointed than to the effects of a well organised ‘campaign’. He recommended that, together with his colleagues in the National Church Institutions, and those involved in the dioceses of Sheffield and Blackburn, the Secretary General reviews the lessons to be learned from what happened in order to avoid a similar lacuna occurring in future. Sir Philip identified there was a failure of all concerned to anticipate the likely reaction in the diocese of Sheffield to the news of Bishop North’s nomination and to make preparations accordingly. ‘With the benefit of hindsight, it is odd that no one person or institution Concluding Remarks In concluding Sir Philip said firstly, that we should be either clearly saw the need to have a clear strategy in place as to how this was going to work or was in a wary of drawing the conclusions that Bishop Philips’ withdrawal from Sheffield represents a failure of the position to make this happen’. 2014 settlement. Secondly, the story of what happened He found that this was caused by the different in respect of the Sheffield nomination is not populated responsibilities of various bodies. The Crown by villains but by people who were simply seeking to Nominations Commission was responsible for do their best according to their own understanding of nominating the bishop, but once it had done that the their responsibilities and in the light of their Christian responsibility for making the announcement passed to convictions, so he refrained from criticising anyone. the Crown. Finally, he says ‘But at the end of the day, the choice The emphasis on confidentiality meant that even facing the Church is a simple one – whether to continue those members of the Commission, such as the on the path it has been treading since women were first Bishop of Doncaster, who were concerned about the ordained priests in the early 1990s or whether to say likely reception of the announcement felt inhibited in to those who, on theological grounds, cannot accept taking others into their confidence in order to pursue the ministry of women ‘the conversation is over; the Church has decided; the place allotted to you in the preparations. Church is an honoured but a more limited one than Whatever the reasons, Bishop North’s nomination the 2014 Settlement envisaged’. revealed a lacuna as to who sees it as their responsibility In short, the choice for the Church is whether to to co-ordinate the handling of the announcement of a new diocesan bishop in circumstances where, like continue wrestling with the issues I have identified, for the sake of the Gospel, or whether to abandon the Bishop North’s, it might raise high profile issues. Settlement. If those who take the majority view in Sir Philip considered whether there was a ‘campaign’ the Church are to retain credibility in the eyes of the against Bishop Philip but concluded that  the minority, there is only one