Following a vote by the Church of England in July to allow female bishops, Rev Canon Rosie Harper has argued that after the forthcoming retirement of the current Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, the post should be given a woman.
The Rev Harper explained “We’ve got to look to the future… Obviously, you look for the best person for the job but having made the decision to have women bishops, the Church has to enact it not just leave it on the back burner.
“Oxford is seen as one of the senior posts, and the pressure is to give women more junior bishop jobs, however there are some very experienced and talented women and I see no reason why one of them might not be found to be the best person for the role.”
A public meeting will be held in Christ Church Cathedral on 11th November for people to give their views to the Church of England’s Appointment Secretaries, though the new bishop is unlikely to be enthroned until the end of 2015.
Until then the role will be held temporarily by the Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Rev Colin Fletcher, who looked after the post before the appointment of Bishop Pritchard in 2007.
The Rev Fletcher commented, “It is very exciting that for the first time in history the new Bishop of Oxford could be either a woman or a man, but as the Rev Canon Rosie Harper says the key is thing is to find the best person for the job and a great deal of thought and prayer will be going into that over the coming weeks and months”.
Hertford College Chaplain the Rev Gareth Hughes explained “There are six suffrage bishop posts also vacant (assistants to diocesan bishops), but there seems to be a will for the first woman bishop not to be appointed to one of these junior posts. The ‘stained-glass ceiling’ has left the Church of England with many talented women priests in the senior posts of archdeacons and cathedral deans and canons, and it is from among them that the first women bishops are likely to be appointed.
“The appointment process is complex, but there is desire among the bishops to have a woman among their number as quickly as possible, after the first vote for women bishops was an embarrassing failure. Oxford Diocese is well placed to get the first woman bishop in the church, but could be beaten to it.”
Chaplain Hughes added “Research shows that there are two main reasons why many people, and specially younger people find the Church of England distasteful. One is sexism and the other is homophobia. Saying that we are inclusive is not enough. We need to act in inclusive ways. This will mean actually making some women bishops.” The new bishop will be selected by the Church of England’s Oxford Vacancy in See committee, which includes both clergy and laity. Members of the public may suggest candidates by contacting the Appointment Secretaries.
Six members of the committee, at least three of them lay people will be voted onto the Crown Nominations Committee, alongside the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and members from the Houses of Laity and Clergy.
Apart from Oxford itself, the Oxford Diocese also spans Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.