The business of bishoping

Last week’s Church Times has an article by Bishop Kenneth Stevenson which was titled Rootless, isolated, and churched out.

This was edited from his farewell address to the Portsmouth diocesan synod which can be found in full at THE BUSINESS OF BISHOPING – A BOTTOM UP THEOLOGY.

WHEN I went to my first meeting of the House of Bishops as a member in October 1995, I sat at the back (like a good Anglican) and watched.

This provoked me into playing two games. The first, an easy one, was to identify who were the prefects and who were the rogues. I soon came to the conclusion that the system — the Church — produced too many of the former, and too few of the latter.

The second game was to spot the defining job that someone held be­fore he became a bishop, and how this affected the way he was ap­proaching the discussion. Some bishops are manifestly former parish priests; others were theological teachers; some were involved in lay training; others worked a great deal with ordinands. Some ran cath­edrals, often giving them a convinc­ing civic awareness, while others were arch­deacons, who seemed to know the ropes better than the others…


  • Pluralist says:

    “Bishops can, moreover, be enticed into ‘playing the role’ all the time, for which there is sometimes a huge price to pay, including when over-subsuming personal convictions in order to hold a common line they really believe to be untenable.”

    Perhaps like his boss.

  • Father Ron Smith says:

    With the current controversy about the ministry of bishops in the Church, one wonders whether the primitive idea of episcopal oversight has been seriously neglected – in favour of appointing political careerists, whose lack of practical knowledge and experience of parish ministry does not equip them for the type of evangelism which Jesus calls forth from his lead disciples.

    The old idea of a bishop being securely grounded in the work of a parish – as well as ministering on a wider basis – did at least ensure that the practical priestly calling had a distinct priority over the empire-building strategy of some of our latter day aspirants to episcopate.
    A grounding in the religious life was also an effective way of ensuring the spirituality of those called to advise the clergy in their daily devotional observances – which form the basis of a godly discipline at the heart of the preaching of the Gospel.

    Political nous – though useful in the world of competitive ideologies – may not be the best foundation for offering the redemption of Jesus Christ to a needy world. Nor does ecclesiastical preferment guarantee the wisdom needed for the task of discernment of the priorities of the Gospel message in the modern world. We do need bishops, but do they need to be ‘high-profile’?

    Perhaps the abandonment of episcopal palaces might bring the bishops back into the main-stream of parish life – which is where the evangel is needed most; where the people are more concerned about coping with the business of survival, than with whether the priest is male, female or gay.

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