This is an edited version of a talk I gave at St Bride's Liverpool on 26th March.

Among Christians the authority of the Bible, and how to read it, are hotly contested. The best known debates at the moment are about the ethics of same-sex partnerships and gender relationships.

On Friday 24th February Martyn Percy wrote an article questioning the nomination of Philip North, Bishop of Blackburn, to the see of Sheffield.

How, he asked, could someone who believed that women clergy and those ordained by them were not real clergy serve as bishop in a ‘woman-friendly’ diocese where women make up a third of the clergy? You could do one or the other but not both.

In the debate that has unfolded on social media since then, no-one has answered this challenge – not even Philip North himself. The evasions reveal a Church in retreat from serious theological reflection.

No, sex and women priests are not the same thing.

In the continuing debate over the Bishop of Sheffield, liberals are often accused of saying one thing about women priests and the opposite about same-sex partnerships. I am grateful to a number of correspondents, including Tiffer Robinson and David Emmott, for helping me understand the point. Still, I think it is mistaken, and this post explains my reasons.

Exclusive inclusives! Intolerant tolerance!

When Philip North announced his withdrawal from the post of Bishop of Sheffield, it was open season for his supporters to accuse liberals of being illiberal. This post is a defence of liberalism, inclusiveness and tolerance.

Altar

This is the third of three blog posts responding to the appointment of Philip North, an opponent of women priests, as Bishop of Sheffield.

In the first I described Martyn Percy’s argument that the appointment should not proceed as long as Philip rejects the priesthood of the women priests there. In the second I described the trend for ecclesiastical decrees from on high to substitute for theological analysis of the issue. This time I turn to the theological question.