New Bishop of Burnley in row days before appointment

The new Bishop of Bunley the Reverend Philip North
The new Bishop of Bunley the Reverend Philip North

The new Bishop of Burnley has been caught up in a row just days before he is officially appointed to the role.

Campaigners are angry that the consecration service for the Rev. Philip North at York Minister on Monday has been changed to accommodate his views as a traditional Anglo-Catholic who voted against the ordination of women priests or bishops.

Defending the decision, which was made by the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, the Rev. North said: “While I also appreciate the Archbishop’s arrangements for my consecration are difficult for some, it should not in any way undermine my absolute passion to serve as a Bishop to all and to care for, love and support all churches in the Diocese of Blackburn regardless of their theological tradition.’’

He was supported by Dr Sentamu who said he wished to make it clear that the new arrangements were made at his suggestion.

He said: “I met with the Rev. North to discuss with him how his consecration would be handled given his theological convictions about the consecration of women to the episcopate.

“The Rev. North is not the sort of priest who would insist on a particular set of arrangements for his consecration and any suggestions to the contrary are mistaken.’’

History was made this week when Dr Sentamu consecrated the church’s first female bishop, the Rev. Libby Lane, in a service at York Minster attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby and many female bishops from churches around the world. But the ceremony was disrupted by a protesting vicar who shouted “not in the Bible’’ as the Rev. Lane was presented to the congregation.

The part of the ceremony that has been changed to accommodate the new bishop’s views is the symbolic “laying on of hands’’ to bless him. Usually all bishops and archbishops present at the consecration place their hands on the candidate and pray for them.

Instead, only two bishops, who themselves have never ordained a woman priest, will lay their hands on the Rev North.

Controversially referred to as “theology of taint’’ this suggests that bishops who lay hands on women to ordain them are somehow “tainted.’’

But Dr Sentamu denied that the arrangements had been influenced by theology of “taint’’ pointing out that he had presided at the consecration of several traditionalist bishops in the past without objections, despite having ordained many women over the years.

He also added that the possibility of special arrangements for traditional clerics was put forward two years ago by himself and the Archbishop of Canterbury during the debate on female bishops.

This is not the first time the Rev. North, who will be installed to his new role in another ceremony at Blackburn Cathedral on Valentine’s Day, has faced controversy. He was forced to withdraw from an appointment as a bishop when parishioners objected to his views and a Blackburn vicar held a silent protest over his installation. The Rev. Anne Morris, who serves the same diocese as the. Rev North at St Oswald’s in Knuzden, replaced her sermon with a 10 minute silence.