North of Blackburn


The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, has been appointed by the Prime Minister to the bishopric of Blackburn, which has been approved by His Majesty the King. Having a Hindu appoint an Anglican bishop is the result of having a state church, but that is not my point today. Bishop Philip is from the Church’s Anglo Catholic wing, which means he is a ritualist and Rome-ward leaning. This makes him 'sound' on some matters of theology (I can also vouch for his excellent preaching) but his style of worship I could never countenance. Still, the appointment of someone who is not another wokester or tedious, anaemic liberal is to be cautiously welcomed.

Though being an Anglo Catholic who does not believe in ordaining female clergy, The Guardian puts him on record professing ‘to be in favour of “female leadership” in the church’. Despite this, women clergy organised protests to his earlier proposed move as Bishop of Whitby. It is funny how liberals, when they gain the ascendancy, refuse to give the very toleration they formerly demanded. Women and the Church (Watch), a group that campaigns within the Church of England for ‘gender equality’, complained that some female clergy would “struggle to flourish under his oversight”:

“When parishioners come to understand that their bishop is not personally confident that female priests can undertake priestly roles, such as consecrating the bread and wine, this undermines the authority of their vicar, if she is a woman.”

A far bigger problem than fretting over women’s roles is this insistence that the Church of England employs ‘priests’ of either gender. Jesus Christ is the Great High Priest, the only One through whom we must go to approach the Father. No earthly priest or priestess is required, desired or appointed by God. Wafers and wine remain wafers and wine, and no priestly ceremonies or machinations will alter this. I admire the good prelate's determination to stick with his principles even when they prove unpopular, and the shrieking mob begs to differ. Yet it would be far better if he abandoned the concept of human priesthood altogether. I think this a far greater affront to gospel truth then the gender of the one wearing the priestly robes.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Hebrews 9:11