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Norfolk rector does not want woman bishop to replace Bishop of Norwich

PUBLISHED: 18:06 05 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:39 06 February 2019

The topic of women bishops is again a talking point after a Holt rector said he was against a female replacing the retiring Bishop of Norwich.

The Church of England reduced barriers to entry for women in 1994 and the General Synod voted to allow female bishops in 2014.

But Father Howard Stoker from Holt said he still could not “fully accept their sacramental ministry in the Church”.

He has written to his parishioners to say that a vote will be held, should a female bishop be appointed, at the next parochial church council meeting on February 18.

This will decide on whether episcopal care in the parish should then be exercised by a male bishop instead.

If that is the decision, then Father Howard said they would look to the Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Revd Norman Banks, who was already an assistant bishop in the diocese.

Any decision could be rescinded at a future date, he said.

In the letter, the Revd Canon Howard Stoker, who is rector of St Andrew’s, Holt, and All Saints, High Kelling, said: “Ever since the ordination of women as priests and more recently as bishops there are those like myself who still cannot fully accept their sacramental ministry in the Church.

“Such a position is not lightly held and is one based upon an understanding of scripture, apostolic tradition and the authority of the Church of England in relation to the wider one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, and nothing has happened to make me change my opinion.

“The possibility of the appointment of a woman as the diocesan bishop of Norwich suddenly brings the issue into sharp focus for both the majority of the clergy of the parish and a significant number of laity in our congregations who, unfortunately, would be unable to accept and receive her sacramental ministry.”

He said the Church of England had made provision for those against women bishops to request the oversight and ministry of a male bishop, should one be appointed.

He added in the letter: “In reality very little will change in the parish and we will continue to play our part in Holt deanery and in the diocese.

“I am fully aware the differing views of members of the PCC will be reflected in the wider congregation yet I hope that whatever the decision made by the PCC, we can continue to be united in faith, hope and love.”

The candidates to replace the Rt Revd Graham James who retired after nearly two decades serving the diocese as Bishop of Norwich, have not yet been announced.

Father Howard did not wish to make any further comment.

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