The consecration of Fr Philip North as Bishop of Burnley at York Minister on Candlemas Day was a glorious occasion. A packed cathedral saw the ordination not only of one of the brightest and best priests of the Catholic movement, but also of a new bishop for the Church of God who will bring great gifts to the whole Church of England, not least in the service of the people of Lancashire.
We are delighted to be able to publish, in this issue of NEW DIRECTIONS, a reflection on that Candlemas event by someone who would not be in sympathy with every aspect of Bishop North’s theology and ecclesiology. The Revd Dr Hannah Cleugh generously recognizes, in her article, not only the fact of Fr Philip’s consecration to be good news for the Church of England, but also that the manner in which it was carried out is likewise to be welcomed. We are grateful for Dr Cleugh’s words and hope that her article will play a part in enabling every tradition within the Church of England to feel encouraged and affirmed by the events in York Minster on 2 February – as indeed by the consecration of the Bishop of Stockport a week earlier.
The Church of England needs that sense of mutual encouragement and affirmation more than ever right now. Over the next two years, every Parochial Church Council which once operated according to the Resolutions (‘A’ and ‘B’) under the old Women Priests’ Measure, including those who received extended episcopal care under the now-decunct Act of Synod, will have to consider passing a new Resolution in accordance with the provisions of the House of Bishops’ Declaration. Some parishes, which had not hitherto passed the old Resolutions, will no doubt want to pass a Resolution under the Declaration now that the landscape of the Church of England has changed with the coming of women in the episcopate. We hope that all involved in the governance of the Church of England will recognize that impulse, where it is authentic, and not seek to stand in the way of those parishes which see taking this step as an important expression of the character of their discipleship. Some, perhaps, will not pass a new Resolution, and will, therefore, within two years, be parishes in which the ordained ministry is potentially open to both women and men at every level. Naturally, NEW DIRECTIONS hopes for a numerically strong cohort of ‘Resolution’ parishes. But, much more importantly, we hope and pray for the flourishing of Eucharistic communities strong in their faith in Jesus Christ, alive with hope in the Gospel, and characterized by love and service; places where the sacramental life and the beauty of holiness can transform hearts, lives and neighbourhoods.
The Masses with the Blessing of Oils – the ‘Chrism Masses’ – which bishops of The Society will concelebrate with their priests, assisted by their deacons and supported (we hope) by large numbers of the faithful, this coming Holy Week, will be vital occasions in fostering this vision of faith, hope and love which is the only reliable means for the flourishing of the Catholic movement in the Church of England. There is a Chrism Mass presided over by a Society Bishop in practically every region in England; please make every effort to attend one if you possibly can. The framework for the future may have been hammered out in committee rooms and on the floor of General Synod; but renewal can come only as we gather in prayer around the altar of sacrifice of the New Covenant, sharers in the Passover of the Lord.
Cameron railed, apparently (we wonder if he was really that upset). Certainly, it won the Church of England column inches, both good and bad. NEW DIRECTIONS has only one comment to make this month on the House of Bishops Pastoral Letter in advance of the General Election. It was too long. As a senior army officer (who saw some merit in the text of the document) said to your Editor, ‘At Staff College we were taught how to make a point, make it sharply, and stick to it.’ We tend to agree. T.S. Eliot needed Ezra Pound. A House of Bishops Pastoral Letter is not The Waste Land, but bishops as much as poets need their editors. Please, can someone be appointed to wield the blue pencil? ND