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Unholy row over women ministers
THE row over women priests has spilled over to Bridport and split the ministry.
Five out of six churches in the Bridport team are happy to embrace women – but one is not.
And now Father Peter Edwards of St Swithun’s is not being allowed to take services at any of the other Bridport churches, except for weddings and funerals.
Team Rector Andrew Evans said he was saddened by developments.
He said: “Bridport is a microcosm of the whole Church of England. Women are not welcome at St Swithun’s under any circumstances.
“While this view is respected, it is terribly sad that the outstanding ministry of our women priests and ministers, from which thousands of Bridport residents have benefited over many years, is not welcomed in one church of the team.”
Father Peter Edwards said in an open letter to parishioners that he had been personally hurt – as had others – by the decision and the way it was done. He said: “I know there has been a considerable amount of hurt felt, in which I share personally, at the way in which this decision was taken and announced.
“It is my vision that at St Swithun’s we can continue to welcome all people, irrespective of their views on this issue, to join with us in worship.”
Fr Edwards called an open meeting to talk about the decision to isolate him and St Swithun’s.
The Rev Evans said everything had been done strictly ‘by the book’ with the approval of the Salisbury Diocese bishops and archdeacons. He said: “I have some sympathy with Father Edwards because it was unpleasant, inevitably it was a hard meeting but it was done absolutely by the book.”
He said Father Edwards’ refusal to work with woman priests – there are four priests in Bridport and three licensed ministers – was ‘unacceptable’.
Mr Evans said Father Edwards was not comfortable working with women and that meant if he comes to one of the other churches a woman can’t.
He said: “That it is unacceptable in the churches where women’s ministry is welcomed for them to be denied because he is attending. That is the crux of it. Our women are outstanding priests and they have been unbelievably gracious about this in the face of some rather harsh treatment and comments.”
The Bridport team is the only parish in the Salisbury Diocese where a church affiliated to Forward in Faith (which does not accept women in the church) is legally joined together in a team.