On 2 February Fr Philip North CMP was ordained to the episcopate in York Minster, to serve as Bishop of Burnley in the Diocese of Blackburn. The Archbishop of York presided over the service as a whole, but delegated presidency over the Liturgy of Ordination and the Liturgy of the Eucharist to the Bishop of Chichester. The Bishops of Pontefract and Beverley alone joined the Bishop of Chichester in laying on hands, the other bishops standing in prayer around the edge of the platform. Forward in Faith issued the following statement on 3 February.
Forward in Faith expresses its gratitude to the Archbishop of York for making arrangements for the Bishop of Burnley’s ordination which gave full expression to the Guiding Principles enshrined in the House of Bishops’ Declaration.
The first Guiding Principle speaks of the respect and canonical obedience that lawful office-holders deserve. The Archbishop of York presided in York Minister and the Bishop of Burnley took the oath of due obedience to him. No one present could have been in any doubt as to the Archbishop’s metropolitical authority or the respect in which he is held.
The fourth and fifth Guiding Principles embody commitments to enabling those who, for theological reasons, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests to flourish, and to making sacramental and pastoral provision for us ‘in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing’.
The reference to a ‘degree of communion’ recognizes that full communion cannot exist where some bishops and priests are unable to receive the sacramental ministry of others. For over twenty years traditional catholic priests have been granted ordination by bishops
with whom they enjoy full communion (because they can receive the ministry of all the priests whom those bishops ordain). The ordination of women as bishops gives rise to a need for similar provision for ordination to the episcopate. Such arrangements contribute to enabling our priests and bishops to flourish, allowing them to experience at the moment of ordination the full communion with the ordaining bishops that all other ordinands enjoy.
We are grateful that the service in York Minster was nevertheless characterized by a very high degree of communion and fellowship, expressed not least in the fact that all could receive communion together. The arrangements determined by the Archbishop of York also contributed to ‘mutual flourishing’. We trust that no one imagines that the flourishing of traditional catholic ordinands could involve their being ordained by bishops whose sacramental ministry they cannot receive. If all the male bishops present had participated in the laying on of hands, the Bishop of Stockport (whose gracious presence we acknowledge with gratitude) would therefore have been alone in having to refrain from doing so. It would be difficult to see that as an expression of ‘ mutual flourishing’.
Plainly, a future female Archbishop of York could not be the principal consecrator of a traditional catholic bishop. By delegating that ministry to the Bishop of Chichester, Archbishop Sentamu has ensured that there need be no difference between his role on this occasion and that of a future female archbishop. We hope that those who support the ordination of women as bishops will agree with us that any such distinction should be avoided.
+ TONY PONTEFRACT
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Pontefract