On 30 June 2022, the Church of England announced the following changes in the episcopal oversight to parishes that cannot accept the priestly or episcopal ministry of women. A Statement from the Society is also attached.
Bishops of Maidstone, Ebbsfleet and Oswestry
A series of changes have been announced to the names of bishops who offer extended episcopal care to parishes that cannot accept the priestly or episcopal ministry of women. Under these changes, now approved by the Dioceses Commission, the Bishop of Maidstone Rod Thomas’s successor will now be known as the Bishop of Ebbsfleet. Meanwhile the role of the previous Bishop of Ebbsfleet – whose ministry was to traditional catholic parishes – will move to become that of the Bishop of Oswestry in the Diocese of Lichfield.
Bishop Rod, who will retire in October, has had a special national ministry since 2015 providing a voice in the College of Bishops and advocacy for those who cannot, on the grounds of complementarian evangelical theology, accept the priestly or episcopal ministry of women. The future Bishop of Ebbsfleet, who will take on this responsibility when Bishop Rod retires, will live either in London or the M4 corridor for ease of travel and will minister nationally to complementarian evangelical parishes.
The combined effect of these changes means that the See of Maidstone will become vacant and could potentially revert to local use within the Diocese of Canterbury in the future. Up until now, Bishops of Ebbsfleet – one of the Church of England’s three ‘Provincial Episcopal Visitors’, who minister to traditional catholic parishes – have been responsible primarily for churches in the western half of the Church of England’s Province of Canterbury.
Consultations on a successor to Jonathan Goodall, the previous Bishop of Ebbsfleet, strongly suggested that it would be helpful for the new postholder be rooted in a diocese. The Dioceses Commission has therefore agreed that Lichfield provides a good location for this ministry to this part of the Province and that Bishop Jonathan’s successor should therefore be designated as the Bishop of Oswestry.
- The Provincial Episcopal Visitors – the Bishops Beverley, Richborough and Ebbsfleet – were created as part of the arrangements in 1992 which first enabled women to be ordained as priests.
- The See of Maidstone was appointed in 2015 in accordance with the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests 2014 and associated guidance, to provide a voice within the College of Bishops for those within the Church of England who cannot, on the grounds of complementary theology, accept the priestly or episcopal ministry of women and to act as an advocate for those who hold that position.
- The See of Oswestry was one of a number of sees created in the 19th Century but never filled
- Further information about the ministry of the current Bishop of Maidstone
Further information about The Society (more fully, The Society under the patronage of Saint Wilfrid and Saint Hilda).
Statement from the Council of Bishop of the Society supported by Forward in Faith
Now that the proposed revival of the See of Oswestry has received the approval of both the Dioceses Commission and the Lichfield Diocesan Synod, The Society’s Council of Bishops would like to record its gratitude to the Bishop of Lichfield, the Bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and their staff for their hard work to get us to this point.
The Society expects the new arrangements to operate in a broadly similar fashion to how the existing Provincial Episcopal Visitor (PEV) arrangements have operated up to now in Ebbsfleet and elsewhere with the additional benefit of local support at a diocesan level, as is the case with the See of Fulham under the London Plan.
The next challenge is to make sure that the Society parishes in the South-West of England, which will be a three to four hour journey from the new Bishop of Oswestry’s permanent base in the Diocese of Lichfield, receive the level of support they need and options are current being explored to ensure that happens. We continue to pray for Society parishes in what is now the See of Oswestry.
- + TONY WAKEFIELD, The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield, Chairman of The Society’s Council of Bishops.
- + PHILIP BURNLEY, The Rt Revd Philip North, Bishop of Burnley.
- + MARTIN CICESTR, The Rt Revd Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester.
- + JONATHAN FULHAM, The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham.
- + WILLIAM LEWES, The Rt Revd Will Hazlewood, Bishop of Lewes.
- + NORMAN RICHBOROUGH, The Rt Revd Norman Banks, Bishop of Richborough