New Bishop quizzed over opposition to women clergy

The new Bishop of Chichester has been quizzed at a packed meeting in Midhurst over his opposition to the ordination of women.

Dr Martin Warner is a traditionalist who does not support women’s ordination. In this regard, he is the same as his predecessors, Dr John Hind and Dr Eric Kemp, and those who hoped for the appointment of a bishop with a different view have been disappointed.

But on Friday, when he met church members at the Grange Centre in Midhurst, the bishop-elect succeeded in calming some of his potential critics.

Michael Abbott, lay chairman of Midhurst Rural Deanery which voted to support the ministry of women bishops, said later he was impressed.

“He was very open and clear about his views, which are well known, but he has a huge respect for others who do not take the same view. He listened very carefully and gave engaging answers.

“The view of Midhurst Deanery about a new bishop was we hoped for someone committed to ordaining women as priests. Bishop Martin is not in that category but he is immensely communicative, articulate, very dignified, and a holy man.

““He did make it very clear that in due course he would be looking to appoint a suffragan bishop who will ordain women.”

Last year, in a consultation on women bishops, deaneries across the diocese voted overwhelmingly in favour. But when the issue went before the Diocesan Synod, the vote was reversed.

Despite the position of the Midhurst Deanery, Mr Abbott said of Dr Warner: “I think we will be able to do business with him, and people I have spoken to since are of the same mind. They are very encouraged.”

Dr Warner is described by church sources as a traditionalist, but one who has worked ‘resolutely’ in recent years to encourage provision in which people of all views can remain together.