New Bishop of Whitby withdraws from post

Father Philip North
Father Philip North

THE man who was appointed as the new Bishop of Whitby has withdrawn from the post.

Father Philip North, said he made the decision in light of the vote by the General Synod of the Church of England not to allow women to become Bishops after a narrow vote.

Fr North, who took up the role earlier this year replacing the Rt Revd Martin Warner, has notified the Archbishop of York John Sentamu and his current Bishop, the Bishop of London Richard Chartres, of his decision.

He will now remain as Team Rector of the Parish of Old St Pancras in North London.

It is not yet known when a new Bishop for Whitby will be appointed but the decision has been referred to the Dioceses Commission which is to soon review the Diocese, its structures, boundaries and delivery of mission.

Fr North said: “It was a great honour to be chosen for this role and I had been very much looking forward to taking up the position. “However, in the light of the recent vote in the General Synod and having listened to the views of people in the Archdeaconry of Cleveland, I have concluded that it is not possible for me, at this difficult time for our Church, to be a focus for unity. I have therefore decided that it is better to step aside at this stage.

“I have reached this decision after a time of deep reflection and feel sure that it is for the best. I now look forward to refocusing my energies on the pastoral needs of my parish.”

The news comes as the issue of whether women should be appointed as bishops in the future was debated at a full meeting of Whitby Town Council.

Members voted that they did not want to see women appointed but would have to accept it with seven councillors voting in favour of the move, four against and three abstaining from the vote altogether.

Since the news of Fr North withdrawing, Archbishop Sentamu has written to all clergy and Readers in the Archdeaconry of Cleveland and said: “It is with sadness that I have heard from Revd Philip North of his decision to withdraw his acceptance of the post of Bishop of Whitby.

“This has come as a great disappointment to me personally and I am sure to many in the wider church, the Diocese and the Archdeaconry of Cleveland.

“Philip North is not a single-issue priest. As a gifted pastor-teacher he is deeply committed to the flourishing of the diverse ministries of all God’s people - lay and ordained. His dynamic vision for making Christ visible in mission and ministry, as well as serving the poor, would have been a great asset to us all.”

The Bishop of London added: “I can understand the reasons for Philip’s decision. He is a gifted and energetic priest and I am glad that he remains in this Diocese to continue his outstanding work in Camden Town.