New Bishop of Sheffield explains opposition to ordaining women into priesthood

The next Bishop of Sheffield Philip North.

The next Bishop of Sheffield Philip North.

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The new Bishop of Sheffield has sought to explain his controversial views on opposing the ordination of women into the priesthood.

The Rt Rev Philip North will take over as the city's bishop in June following a two-year stint as Bishop of Burnley.

The outspoken 50-year-old has won praise for championing people who are economically and socially marginalised and he said he wanted to engage with poorer communities in Sheffield.

However, he has also drawn criticism from the Watch (Women and the Church) group over his opposition to women being ordained as priests.

He said he would ordain a woman as a deacon - which is considered to be less highly ranked than a priest - but not into the priesthood.

In a radio interview this afternoon, he said: "I am what you call a traditionalist so for reasons around the unity of the church it is a development that I struggle with personally."

But he added: "This week I am going to meet the women priests in the Diocese of Sheffield. I have worked incredible closely with women clergy throughout my ministry.

"I am absolutely committed 'A' to being a bishop to everyone and not just for one group, and 'B' to developing and enhancing the ministry with women.

"The Church of England is committed to something called 'mutual flourishing', which is where you work together and look out for each other and we want to see each other flourish.

"I will strengthen women's ministry in Sheffield."

He added that he will also focus on engaging poorer communities with the church.

He said: "I think we have problems in fostering leaders from working class communities and from non-white communities.

"I think there can be a tendency in sections of the centre of the church to be a bit white executive middle class.

"That said, we go on being present in the poorest areas.

"One thing I am going to be passionate about in the Diocese of Sheffield is building up and developing our presence in those poorest communities."