London rector withdraws from top post over women bishops row

10:42 17 December 2012

Members of the General Synod of the Church of England voted against approving legislation introducing women bishops. File picture: PA Wire

Members of the General Synod of the Church of England voted against approving legislation introducing women bishops. File picture: PA Wire

PA Wire/Press Association Images

A London team rector will not be taking up a post as a bishop because of the row over women taking the roles in the Church of England.

Anglo-Catholic Father Philip North, based Old Saint Pancras Church said he was withdrawing from the role of Bishop of Whitby following the General Synod vote last month over women bishops.

He was among a group of General Synod clergy members who voted against giving final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops.

The legislation failed by just six votes to achieve the necessary majority from the General Synod, plunging the Church of England into crisis and recriminations.

Fr North said in a statement on the Diocese of London website: “It was a great honour to be chosen for this role and I had been very much looking forward to taking up the position.

“However, in the light of the recent vote in the General Synod and having listened to the views of people in the archdeaconry of Cleveland, I have concluded that it is not possible for me, at this difficult time for our Church, to be a focus for unity.

“I have therefore decided that it is better to step aside at this stage.

“I have reached this decision after a time of deep reflection and feel sure that it is for the best. I now look forward to refocusing my energies on the pastoral needs of my parish.”

Bishop of London the Rt Rev Richard Chartres said: “I can understand the reasons for Philip’s decision. He is a gifted and energetic priest and I am glad that he remains in this diocese to continue his outstanding work in Camden Town.”

Downing Street announced in October that Fr North had been appointed to the suffragan post as Bishop of Whitby, replacing Martin Warner, who is now Bishop of Chichester. Fr North was due to be consecrated as Bishop of Whitby in March.

The Bishop of Whitby takes his title from the town of Whitby in North Yorkshire and traditionally helps in ministering to parishes which are unable to accept women priests.

Martin Dales, spokesman for the Catholic Group on the General Synod, said: “Philip North’s decision to withdraw from acceptance from becoming Bishop of Whitby is his personal decision.

“We offer our prayerful support for him and his parish at this time.

“We also pray for the diocese of York and the archdeaconry of Cleveland where he would have served and the Archbishop of York as he seeks to make another appointment.”

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