Independent Reviewer’s report on the See of Sheffield

October 1, 2017

On 15 September, Sir Philip Mawer, the Independent Reviewer appointed under the Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests (Resolution of Disputes Procedure) Regulations 2014, published his review of the nomination to the See of Sheffield. The review was requested by the Archbishops in March, following the announcement that the Bishop of Burnley, Philip North, was to withdraw from nomination to the Diocese of Sheffield. He makes four recommendations, principally to the House of Bishops, designed to enable the whole Church to address the issues raised:

  1. That the House of Bishops commissions a group with balanced membership to review what has been done to inform and educate clergy and laity about the Settlement agreed in 2014; distil examples of good practice within dioceses; and provide resources to help dioceses, deaneries and parishes, and theological training institutions to engage in further consideration of the issues.
  2. That questions raised in the Review over whether the current procedures relating to a Vacancy in See committee and to the Crown Nominations Commission are capable of improvement be considered alongside the outcome of a separate review of the Crown Nominations Commission led by Professor Oliver O’Donovan. These should include the issue of the extent to which the cloak of confidentiality currently surrounding the work of the Commission can be relaxed in order to ensure the degree of preparation for the announcement of a nomination commensurate with the controversy it is likely to arouse.
  3. That the House of Bishops invites the Faith and Order Commission to examine the theological challenge which has been posed to the 2014 Settlement and that the results of this work – together with the House’s response to the pastoral challenge as to what the nomination of a non-ordaining bishop as a diocesan implies for the ministry of women clergy and lay ministers – inform the ongoing process of discussion and education about the Settlement. In addressing this challenge, it will also be appropriate to address the implications of appointing a woman bishop for her pastoral relationship with those male clergy in her diocese who are unable on theological grounds to accept the sacramental validity of her orders.
  4. That, together with his colleagues in the National Church Institutions, and those involved in the dioceses of Sheffield and Blackburn, the Secretary General reviews the lessons to be learned from what happened in order to plan better for handling any such events in future.

Report and Appendices.