A LEADING female priest in Oxford said the Bishop of Burnley was right to withdraw his nomination to be the next Bishop of Sheffield, following protests over his views on women clergy.

The Rt Rev Philip North was nominated by the Crown Nominations Commission to succeed the Rt Rev Steven Croft – now Bishop of Oxford. His election was due next month.

But the nomination attracted protests due to the Rt Rev North’s opposition to the ordination of women as priests.

Last week the bishop said he was withdrawing for "personal reasons" and added "the highly individualised nature" of the attacks on him had been hard to bear.

The Rev Canon Dr Emma Percy, chaplain of Trinity College, is chairwoman of WATCH (Women and the Church), which opposed Rt Rev North's nomination, as did her husband, the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Rev Prof Martyn Percy.

When asked if the Rt Rev North had taken the right decision by withdrawing his nomination, the Rev Dr Percy said: "Yes, I think he probably has."

Most of the concerns centred on whether the Rt Rev North, who does not support the ordination of women as priests or bishops, could lead a diocese where a third of clergy were women.

The Dean of Christ Church earlier urged the Rt Rev North to renounce his membership of The Society, an organisation opposing female priests, or decline his nomination as Bishop of Sheffield.

The Rev Dr Percy added: "We were saying it seems very difficult for him to be in charge of a diocese with a lot of women priests in it if he is part of a society that treats women priests differently from male priests.

"From what I can understand, he he has made this decision because he realised it would not be possible to work well with all of Sheffield Diocese because of these differences.

"I am sorry it has happened in this way – it has clearly been an extraordinarily unpleasant and painful experience for him.

"The Church has not served him well by not thinking this through more before he was nominated.

"Bridges now need to be built. When the General Synod voted for women to be bishops, an agreement was made that those who could not accept this could flourish in the church, as well as those who could accept it.

"We are trying to work out what that means and we need a better conversation about how we hold these two things together."

A statement from 10 Downing Street said: "The Rt Rev Philip North has withdrawn, for personal reasons, acceptance of his nomination by the Crown Nominations Commission as the next Bishop of Sheffield."

In a statement Rt Rev North said: "It is with regret and sadness that I have decided that I am unable to take up the nomination as Bishop of Sheffield.

"The news of my nomination has elicited a strong reaction within the diocese and some areas of the wider Church.

"It is clear that the level of feeling is such that my arrival would be counter-productive in terms of the mission of the Church in South Yorkshire and that my leadership would not be acceptable to many."