Norfolk vicar ‘will not accept’ female bishop

A vicar has said he would not accept a female bishop’s authority if a woman were next to be appointed in the position.

The Reverend Canon Howard Stoker wrote to parishioners of his two churches in Norfolk, as the selection of a new Bishop of Norwich approaches.

He said he, clergy members and some worshippers could not “fully accept” a woman’s “sacramental ministry”.

Father Stoker said the parish would vote on the matter on the 18 February.

The Right Reverend Graham James retired as Norwich’s bishop in November and his successor is due to be appointed later this year.

The congregations of St Andrew the Apostle, in Holt, and All Saints, in High Kelling, received a letter – seen by the BBC – informing them the Parochial Church Council, which is divided on the matter, was due to hold a vote.

“The possibility of the appointment of a woman… suddenly brings the issue into sharp focus,”

wrote Father Stoker.

“If a woman bishop were to succeed Bishop Graham there would be those clergy and members of our congregations who, unfortunately, would be unable to accept and receive her sacramental ministry.

“If we wait until an announcement… then our response becomes personal and ungracious.”

The Bishop of Norwich, the Right Reverend Graham James
The Bishop of Norwich, the Right Reverend Graham James, officially stood down from his post last year

If Father Stoker is backed, he could request that any official parish duties normally performed by the Bishop of Norwich would be carried out by a male bishop instead.

The Church of England’s governing body, The General Synod, says parishes can request male bishops to carry out duties.

The Reverend Canon Emma Percy, from equality campaign group Women and the Church, said it was “odd” to suggest the stance was “not personal”.

“A woman can’t decide not to be a woman in order to make things easier,”

she said.

The BBC has contacted Father Stoker for comment.

First Published 05.02.19:

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