In our 11 March post we expressed our agreement with the comments in Dr Sentamu’s announcement that “there must now be time for us all to reflect” on events in Sheffield and in the wider Church”; we also suggested that it would be appropriate to refer the matter for assessment by the Independent Reviewer, Sir Philip Mawer under the terms of paragraph 27 in the House of Bishops Declaration GS Misc 1087:
Today, the Archbishops of Canterbury and of York issued the following joint statement indicating that they had written to Sir Philip Mawer to address the concerns that have arisen in the Church following recent events.
Bishop of Sheffield: Joint statement by Archbishops of Canterbury and York
Friday 24th March 2017
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York made this joint statement today on the recent events surrounding the nomination of Bishop Philip North as Bishop of Sheffield.
“The recent events surrounding the nomination of Bishop Philip North as Bishop of Sheffield, including his withdrawal from the process, have understandably raised great concern amongst many in the Church of England. The status of the House of Bishops Declaration of June 2014 has been questioned by some and its meaning has also been challenged.
“We have therefore written to Sir Philip Mawer, the Independent Reviewer under the Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests, (Resolution of Disputes Procedure Regulations) 2014, to address the concerns that have arisen in the Church following these recent events. We attach our letter to Sir Philip, in which we reaffirm clearly our commitment, and the commitment of the House of Bishops, to its Declaration, to the principles contained in it, and to the overriding principle of mutual flourishing.
“Finally, in this period of Lent, as part of our preparation for the glorious celebration of the extraordinary grace of God in the events of Holy Week and Easter, we call on all those in the Church to pray openly for the flourishing of those with whom they disagree, to demonstrate the mutual love which we are called to share and to proclaim confidently in word and deed that in Christ we find our true identities, and the overcoming of those things which in ourselves we find so divisive.”
+ Justin Cantuar: +Sentamu Eboracensis
The approach by the Archbishops to the Sir Philip Mawer is provided for within the terms of the House of Bishops Declaration GS Misc 1087, [our emphasis],
Raising of concerns about the operation of the House of Bishops’ declaration
. Any person may raise a concern, in writing, with the Independent Reviewer in relation to any aspect of the operation of the House of Bishops’ Declaration. Any such concern may relate to more than one act or omission under the House of Bishops’ Declaration and to more than one parish or diocese.”
To us, this seemed a ready-made means of taking the issue “off-line” for an initial review by an independent party who has fully versed in the issues since his appointment in 2014. The Church in Wales does not appear to have an equivalent role to provide an assessment and degree of transparency to the claims and counter-claims surrounding the appointment of the next Bishop of Llandaff and the related resignation of the Assistant Bishop of Llandaff.