By John Martin
With uncharacteristic speed the Church of England has named the next Bishop of Sheffield after the Rt. Rev. Philip North withdrew acceptance of the role. The Prime Minister’s office announced April 7 that the dean of Liverpool, the Very Rev. Pete Wilcox, is to fill the post.
North, who withdrew following concerted protests over his stance on women’s ordination, is an Anglo-Catholic. Wilcox, 55, is an evangelical who in 2012 succeeded Justin Welby — who was translated first to be Bishop of Durham and later Archbishop of Canterbury. Wilcox was likely the second choice of the Crown Appointments Committee, for whom North was the preferred choice.
“Although the journey has been unconventional, to say the least, I feel called by God to this role, and am therefore thrilled to be coming to the diocese of Sheffield,” Wilcox said in a statement, adding that the appointment was not “a second choice for me.”
When Church of England electoral panels select new bishops, they put forward two names, one of which goes to the Prime Minister and finally the Queen for rubber stamping. While rumours may abound about the identity of the second “name,” this does not become public knowledge.
The new bishop-designate faces the mammoth task to heal wounds created by the North affair. It has gradually emerged that a substantial number of Sheffield clergy were unhappy about North’s appointment.
Wilcox said, “There will be much for me to learn, but I am excited about the work which is already under way to share the good news about Jesus, and to work for the justice and peace which the kingdom of God will bring.”
The new bishop is a former residentiary canon at Lichfield Cathedral, having served his title in Preston-on-Tees (Diocese of Durham). He studied for the priesthood at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, and gained master’s and doctoral qualifications at Oxford. He is married to novelist Catherine Fox, and the couple has two sons.
North issued a statement expressing his admiration for Wilcox. “I pray that clergy and laypeople of all traditions will be able to unite around his leadership and so together continue to bring renewal to the parishes of the diocese to the glory of God,” North said.