Sheffield Speaking Out—What Do We Want?
by Sue Hammersley, SAME:
Why are those of us who are concerned about the appointment of the next bishop of Sheffield finding it so difficult to speak out? Is it because we all agree? Or is it because there is such an imbalance of power that it took the Dean of Christchurch, Oxford to speak out? After all, who is listening? A world hungry for conflict is looking for a fight which we don’t want to fuel. The press, baying for blood, are looking for a sacrificial victim, but we don’t need another, one was enough for our liberation. We don’t want Bp Philip North to suffer the humiliation and hurt that many of us have been through, in different ways. We want to transform the church, to be seen to be a people of hope and possibility, not an institution caught up in its own internal struggles.
But, those of us who have taken the risk of speaking out, want the Church of England to hear that this particular nomination cuts to the heart of what we understand by “mutual flourishing”. Mutuality surely has to take account of the balance of power. When one person’s “flourishing” depends upon another person’s permission, this is not mutual. Perhaps Bishop Philip is feeling a little of this at the moment? It is perceived that he is the only one who has the “power” to change this situation but his obedience to the institution is as strong as ours and he knows what is at stake in Sheffield. We admire his resilience.
Why has there not been an immediate and public outcry from the parishes in Sheffield in response to the announcement of a traditionalist bishop serving a very mixed economy diocese? Surely this means that we are completely behind this nomination? Or maybe it is because the ONLY communication which has come directly to all clergy in the Sheffield Diocese, which was released at exactly the same time as the public event at the Cathedral, was from Bishop Philip himself. And he urged us to wait.
Read also: A Pastoral Letter to Philip North by Jeremy Clines, SAME