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‘The post should be open to a man or a woman’ - reaction to rector who objects to woman bishop for Norwich

PUBLISHED: 17:34 05 February 2019 | UPDATED: 19:08 05 February 2019

The Bishop of Thetford and acting Bishop of Norwich Alan Winton. Picture: Ian Burt

The Bishop of Thetford and acting Bishop of Norwich Alan Winton. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2013

Father Howard Stocker may object to a female bishop for Norwich, but public opinion seems to be in favour of the idea.

And Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford and the acting Bishop of Norwich, told Radio Norfolk he would be happy for Norwich to have a female bishop.

He said: “Absolutely, and the diocese has taken that view. When Bishop Graham announced his retirement we had to meet together to form a view of the kind of bishop that we would want to succeed him, and there was absolute agreement that the post should be open to a man or a woman.”

Father Howard, from Holt, wrote to his parishioners to say a vote should be held at his parochial church council should a female bishop be appointed, to decide whether episcopal care in the parish should then be exercised by a male bishop instead.

Bishop Alan said Father Howard may believe that the Church of England should follow the lead of the much larger catholic and orthodox branches of the Christian church.

Father Howard Stoker at St Andrew's Church in Holt. Picture: ArchantFather Howard Stoker at St Andrew's Church in Holt. Picture: Archant

He said: “I think Father Howard’s opinion might well be that the Church of England did not have the authority to make that change, that we should wait until it’s a change that all the churches make together.”

A poll on this newspaper’s website showed 82pc of people supported women bishops, and many readers shared their thoughts on our Facebook pages. Kirsty Wilson said: “If he can’t ‘fully accept’ what was passed in 2014 then it’s his problem”.

Liz Henze added: “I’m against people using their religion to try and legitimatise prejudice and discrimination.”

Figures from 2017 showed more women than men were training for ordination in the Church of England, and women made up 29pc of active clerics. The church’s first female bishop was Libby Lane, who became Bishop of Stockport in 2014 and is just about to become the new Bishop of Derby. There are now 18 female bishops in the Church of England.

“Live well with difference” - A letter from Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford and the acting Bishop of Norwich, in response to Father Howard’s views

“There are now 18 female bishops in the Church of England and in this Diocese we are delighted to have, among our senior staff, our first female Dean of Norwich Cathedral, the Very Revd Jane Hedges, as well as the Ven Karen Hutchinson as Archdeacon of Norwich.

“In drawing up the profile for the appointment of the next Bishop of Norwich, the Vacancy-in-See committee was clear that the Diocese of Norwich would welcome a woman or a man as our next bishop.

“If there are proper theological convictions that prevent a parish being able to welcome the sacramental ministry (the celebration of holy communion or ordination of new priests) of a female bishop, then the church council (PCC) can request that such ministry is provided by a male bishop. However, the parish would still come under the care of the female bishop of the diocese. This is in accordance with the provision made at the 2014 General Synod when the decision was taken that led to the first woman bishop being consecrated.

“This arrangement is already in place in a number of other dioceses where a female diocesan bishop has been appointed. It is to the credit of our first female diocesan bishops that they have all been prepared to show such grace and generosity in acting in accordance with this decision of the General Synod.

“The Church of England is endeavouring to learn how to live well with difference. Not all Anglican Christians agree about everything, but we are united in our desire to share God’s love with others, and we do everything we can to stay together as a family.”

The Rt Revd​ Jonathan Meyrick, Bishop of Lynn, said he agreed with the acting Bishop of Norwich, and said: “Personally, I rejoice in the ministry offered by our women priests and bishops; I am clear that we need to do all we can to respect the differences of theological conviction that exist and to hold together in Christian love, charity and graciousness to one another; and I pray that God, Her Majesty and her Crown Nominations Commission will give us the best person for the task facing us all in this diocese.”

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