Provincial episcopal visitor

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A provincial episcopal visitor (PEV), popularly known as a flying bishop, is a Church of England bishop assigned to minister to many of the clergy, laity and parishes who do not in conscience, or theology, accept the ministry of women priests.

The system by which said bishops provide certain churches with oversight is referred to as Alternative Episcopal Oversight (AEO).[1]

The Church of England ordained its first women priests in 1994. According to acts of the General Synod passed the previous year, if a parish rejects the ministry of women priests it can formally request that none be appointed to minister to it. Likewise, if the local bishop has participated in the ordination of women as priests, a parish can request to be under the pastoral and sacramental care of another bishop who has not participated in such ordinations. In such a case the parish still remains in the diocese of the local diocesan bishop, at whose invitation the "flying bishop" makes his visitation.

To these ends, the act empowers the metropolitans of the Church of England's two provinces to appoint "provincial episcopal visitors", suffragan bishops whose main purpose is to be available for such visits to parishes across the province. Accordingly, three PEV bishops have been appointed, across the two provinces. They are:

Province of Canterbury:

Province of York:

Individual dioceses can also appoint suffragan bishops to fulfil this role locally. Examples include:

During the 2010–13 vacancy in the see of Fulham, those duties were temporarily assigned to the Bishop of Edmonton (Peter Wheatley).

As of 3 July 2014, the Bishop of Beverley ministerED in 9 of the 12 dioceses in the northern province. The other three dioceses utilised different suffragan bishops:

Until the appointment of Paul Ferguson in 2014, the Bishop of Whitby provided AEO in York diocese; with Ferguson's appointment, that oversight lapses to the Bishop of Beverley as PEV.[7] Following the retirement of John Goddard, Bishop of Burnley, on 19 July 2014, no announcement regarding AEO in Blackburn or Carlisle has yet been made.

In the southern province, the Bishops of Ebbsfleet and of Richborough each minister in 13 of the 30 dioceses. Three of the remaining four dioceses, London, Southwark and Rochester, are ministered to by the Bishop of Fulham. In the Diocese in Europe, the suffragan (currently also acting diocesan) does not ordain women as priests (so there is no need for AEO.)[8] The Bishop of Ebbsfleet serves the western 13 dioceses (Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry, Derby, Exeter, Gloucester, Hereford, Lichfield, Oxford, Salisbury, Truro, Bath and Wells and Worcester)[9] while the Bishop of Richborough serves the eastern half (Canterbury, Chelmsford, Chichester, Ely, Guildford, St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, Leicester, Lincoln, Norwich, Peterborough, Portsmouth, St Albans and Winchester).[10]

In the Church in Wales, the Rt Revd David Thomas was appointed to the analogous office of Provincial Assistant Bishop in 1996 when the province voted to ordain women to the priesthood. No successor was appointed when Thomas retired in 2008.[11]

In December 2010, the then Bishops of Richborough and Ebbsfleet resigned to join the Roman Catholic Church. On 5 May 2011, their successors as PEVs were announced.[12]

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