Appointment of first Bishop of Oswestry is met with controversy

The appointment of an Anglican Bishop of Oswestry - a new title - has proved controversial.

The new Bishop of Oswestry, Father Paul Thomas photo: Duncan Lomax
The new Bishop of Oswestry, Father Paul Thomas photo: Duncan Lomax

For the Rev Paul Thomas, 47,who will be consecrated in a ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral in February, will be the Provincial Episcopal Visitor, ministering to Traditional Anglican Catholic parishes theological grounds cannot accept the priestly or episcopal ministry of women.

While his title is Bishop of Oswestry his area includes 13 dioceses covering areas across the country, including Shropshire and he will live centrally in Lichfield Diocese.

Town Councillor, Jonathon Upton has written to the Bishop of Lichfield about his concerns.

He said: "The response received to this announcement in Oswestry is one of upset and anger. The people of Oswestry feel deeply unhappy that our town's name is being used by the Anglican Church as a tool of appeasing the opponents of gender equality and modern interpretation of the Scripture.

"St. Oswald's Parish Church has declared it supports any female clergy or clergy from the LGBT community who works with it and apart from St. Oswald's and Holy Trinity Churches, the remainder of the rural parishes are served by women ordained as Vicars."

Fr Paul said: “The call of the Church to serve God in this apostolic ministry is both humbling and exhilarating. I look forward to working in close and happy collegiality with Bishop Michael, his gifted brother and sister bishops in Lichfield Diocese, and with all bishops across the 13 dioceses that fall within the new See of Oswestry.

He is married to Louisa whom he met at Cardiff University and the couple have two boys, Henry, eight, and George, four.

The Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, said: “On behalf of the diocese of Lichfield, I warmly welcome Fr Paul and look forward to the enrichment that his ministry as a suffragan bishop will bring to us all in this diocese.

“This centrally-funded appointment will ensure that the 13 dioceses, including Lichfield Diocese, in this part of the Province of Canterbury continue to receive extended pastoral and sacramental care for their traditionalist catholic parishes.

“I greatly value and have benefitted from the ministry of women as deacons, priests and bishops, as has this whole diocese of Lichfield. We also recognise the integrity of those who for theological reasons are unable to accept the ministry of female priests or bishops. It is as a sign of that mutual flourishing that Paul is to be appointed as Bishop of Oswestry, where he will work closely alongside Bishop Sarah and me; I would like to think that could be seen as a sign of hope for our divided church and world.

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