Thinking Anglicans

"Good Lord, deliver us from successful bishops"

Updated

The sermon preached by the Bishop of Chelmsford at the consecration of three new suffragan bishops in St Paul’s Cathedral on 29 September has received some attention in the media. The official press release about it is here.

Ruth Gledhill has written a news article about it in Christianity Today which is titled ‘Good Lord, deliver us from successful bishops’: A call for authentic church leadership.

The Archbishop Cranmer blog has BISHOP OF CHELMSFORD REPUDIATES EPISCOPAL “TALENT POOL

The full text is available here.

The key passage reads:

So – a new line for the litany – Good Lord deliver us from successful bishops, from too well prepared or even too well organised bishops, from ready answer in the back pocket and PowerPoint strategy self-sufficient, all efficient bishops. Take us to those high places, places of perspective and reality, where we and all our schemes are set on fire, which, paradoxically for us, are also those places where life is raw, and pain and darkness requisite. Take us to the heights of prayer, to the depths of the scriptures, to the bottom step before the altar, to a places of silent waiting where, with mitres off and staffs laid down, we will be replenished and know our need of God, and there be renewed and strengthened for the things that lie ahead as bishops of God’s church – messengers, sentinels and pastors.

Update
The Bishop of Chelmsford has published this letter, responding to some of the comments made about his sermon.

My sermon at the recent consecration of three new bishops at St Paul’s Cathedral has caused a bit of a stir.
Some have said that it was a riposte or rebuke to certain initiatives taking place in the Church of England around leadership development. This was never meant to be the case.
The intention of the sermon was to reconfirm the perspective of all our initiatives and all our plans and remind us of the calling of the bishop as messenger, sentinel and pastor, and at the same time enable us to smile at ourselves…

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Father David
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Father David

That’s one in the eye for the Green Report, “the talent pool” and managerial-style bishops! I get a sense that this brilliant oration was delivered by the next Ebor?

John
Guest
John

Wonderful sermon. Cheered me up no end when I needed it most.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“he Bishop of Maidstone was appointed in 2015 to have a national role in encouraging and helping those local churches which want to be active in the Church of England, but whose understanding of the Bible leads them to conclude that men and women should have ‘complementary’ rather than identical ministries in the Church” – Bp.of Maidstone web-site. Is the latter part of this statement the official doctrine of the Church of England? Or, is the new Bishop of Maidstone a ‘new breed’ of bishop, not unlike the women bishops he seems to disown? If this is the case, then… Read more »

Revd Jean Mayland
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Revd Jean Mayland

Super sermon – cheered me up too and gave me hope.

Julia Redfern
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Julia Redfern

There are heart-warming (to my mind) photographs on the Bishop of London’s website http://bishopoflondon.org. Agree about the sermon. I thought the question in the sermon, ‘Are we just going to be a church for those gathered in; or once again a church for all the world?’ was helpful.

Father David
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Father David

Dare I ask if the Bishop of London was present in his cathedral church and, if so, whether or not he took part in the laying on of hands. My understanding is that he did not participate in the laying on of hands when the Bishop of Gloucester was consecrated but did take part in the recent consecration of three bishops in Canterbury cathedral when + Gloucester also participated in the laying on of hands upon two out of the three embryonic bishops. It seems to me that our Anglican consecrations are becoming rather farcical – rather like the Hokey-Cokey!… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Oh please not another thread discussing who laid hands on whom! As the Bishop himself said: … I think I would say that for our culture at this particular time, it is that in Christ you can become yourself. You can be set free from the snares and temptations of a world that tells you you aren’t good enough, good looking enough, thin enough, clever enough, young enough, and find a new identity and become completely yourself as you are meant to be in the communion with God that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ makes possible. As teacher… Read more »

Concerned Anglican
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Concerned Anglican

In London all eyes will now be on the new Bishop of Edmonton. Will he attempt to discipline Fr Andrew Foreshow-Cain for converting his civil partnership into a marriage?

If he does there will be an insurrection amongst the clergy in the diocese. If he doesn’t it will be a de facto green light in the Southern Province to give the lie to the current nonsense of pretending that civil partnerships are all right because they are arrangements for celibacy but marriages are conversely not.

I hope that this is to be an ‘unsuccessful’ bishop.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Superb sermon by Bishop Stephen about the heart of gospel ministry.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Concerned Anglican,
Andrew Foreshew-Cain was given a formal reprimand some weeks after his marriage. That was one of the options that were also open to Bishop Inwood when he disciplined Jeremy Pemberton.

Barry
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Barry

Erika,

Was a formal reprimand also an option available to the Archbishop of York when he decided to deprive Jeremy Timm of his permission to officiate as a Lay Reader?

Incidentally, I hear that Jeremy and his partner have now become legally married. I have not seen anyone on Thinking Anglicans noticing this. Does that mean that ++ Sentamu’s policy of “say nothing and eventually those who are complaining will forget about it” has succeeded?

Laurence Cunnington
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Laurence Cunnington

“Will he attempt to discipline Fr Andrew Foreshow-Cain for converting his civil partnership into a marriage?” Concerned Anglican

Whether or not Andrew Foreshew-Cain was given a reprimand last year, disciplinary action cannot now be taken as the marriage took place more than a year ago. A complaint has to be lodged by a person with a proper interest within twelve months of the act complained of.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Barry, I believe a reprimand would have been available to the Archbishop of York. Although Jeremy Timm was a Lay Reader, the rules aparently applied to him because Lay Readership is a formal licensed Ministry and therefore comes under the same rules as ordained Ministry. If that’s the case, then the options for punishment of the same transgression would also be the same. The whole thing is a mess because the rules were made on the back of an envelope when the Bishops realised that they had lost the fight against marriage equality and that their own priests would get… Read more »

Malcolm Dixon
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Malcolm Dixon

Your prognostication about the next ++Ebor may well be right, Fr David, but I sense it will be less likely after this brave and prophetic sermon. Why, even now, the rebuttals unit in Lambeth Palace must be working overtime to produce a comprehensive denial, complete with Powerpoint backing, that +Stephen ever intended any criticism of his archbishop or of the dash for managerial bishops.
But just think, if +Stephen had been preferred for even higher office when opportunity last presented, no-one would now be needing to deplore the takeover of episcopal selection and training by management science.

Turbulent Priest
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Turbulent Priest

Barry, the short answer is yes. In the case of a lay reader I think that the bishop can do whatever he likes.

Observer
Guest
Observer

Thanks for the information – so it seems that Fr Andrew Foreshaw-Cain was given a symbolic rap over the knuckles – and no-one complained/noticed for a year (how could they be so brutal as to do so anyway) but the two in the Northern Province have been poorly treated. I guess that Fr Andrew was in a stronger position than some as he has (as I understand it) an old style freehold and can’t really be touched. It might not be so easy for a ‘common tenure’ priest? However, it would be hard for the Diocese of London or the… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

“Oh please not another thread discussing who laid hands on whom!” I seem to recall that this significant act is given much prominence in both Old and New Testaments: call me old fashioned but if we are to take the Word of God at all seriously then shouldn’t this liturgical act have relevance in the 21st century and so be worthy of discussion? The Bishop of Willesden has not yet responded with his usual helpful clarification as to who did or did not do what to whom! Fear not, an item on an excellent sermon by Sentamu’s possible successor at… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

In non-Episcopal churches in the U.S. (certainly among the Tele-Evangelists of the Republican Party), the laying on of hands is not restricted to Bishops. Entrepreneur Donald Trump just received the ‘laying on of hands’ with prophecy from this religious constituency, anointing him in the expectation of his promotion the the ranks of President of the U.S.

Here is the proof:

http://religiondispatches.org/republican-presidential-candidate-courts-televangelists-so-what-else-is-new/

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Father David,
yes, I’m not saying it’s not an important topic, but it’s not the only topic.
There is already a thread just one or two below this one where people are discussing laying on of hands.
This one is about a sermon that has absolutely nothing to do with women bishops.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Observer, I’m not sure that the only risk priests are facing is lack of preferment. They will never be able to leave their posts and move to another one, as the bishop will then be able to deny them the new parish. There’s workplace bullying too. I believe Andrew Foreshew-Cain set up an incredibly inventive play-scheme inside his church and a post office cum cafe when the old post office was forced to close down. It was acclaimed by many, it made the BBC news, Glenda Jackson was there at the opening… and Andrew has said publicly that despite being… Read more »

RPNewark
Guest
RPNewark

Father David, Your P.S. at 0515 on 02/10/2015 raises three separate questions. As to the first, I would expect the favoured candidate to come from either Oxford, Wycliffe Hall or Cambridge, Ridley Hall. Either the present +Dunelm or +Southwell & Nottingham might fit his bill but there are others. +Chelmsford, in my view, would be unlikely – Oxford, S. Stephen’s House, SCP, AffCath (president) – not in +Cantuar’s mould. As to the second, I don’t know the business management qualifications of any of our bishops; but, to be honest, I don’t see them anywhere in the role of a bishop… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Personally I’d commend the Bishop of Stepney, who is humble-hearted, genuinely pastoral and – I know from first-hand experience – very inclusive.

Can suffragan bishops leap-frog into positions of high office in the Church of England (not that he’d particularly welcome it).

Stepney is an ordinary and modern man, with real presence and goodness when you meet him. He would make a wonderful Archbishop.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Erika: “…in Christ you can become yourself. You can be set free from the snares and temptations of a world that tells you you aren’t good enough, good looking enough, thin enough, clever enough, young enough, and find a new identity and become completely yourself as you are meant to be in the communion with God that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ makes possible…” Fantastic words, Erika. This is such an important gospel message for our days. And we become more of the best of who we are as we open our hearts to love, and set that… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

If the Bishop of Stepney were to become the next Archbishop of York, it would not be the first time in recent Church history that this had happened. In 1909 Cosmo Gordon Lang made that very same leap. I seem to remember that the present occupant of the Suffragan See of Stepney, like the Bishop of Chelmsford, preached a most inspiring and uplifting sermon at another consecration.

David Walker
Guest
David Walker

May be worth looking at the letter Stephen Cottrell has written to the Church Times today, in response to comments here and elsewhere about his sermon.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

The letter from Stephen Cottrell to which David Walker refers can be found here.
http://www.stephencottrell.org/uploads/letter.pdf

I will also add a link to it in the main article above.

David Runcorn
Guest

Now why did +Stephen feel he had to write that letter explaining his sermon was not what it was? And who is so sensitive to such wise and faithful reflection that it can’t be left said?
It moved me to tears and said things that need saying.

Jeremy Pemberton
Guest
Jeremy Pemberton

Concerned Anglican – the new Bishop of Edmonton can do nothing at all about Andrew Foreshew-Cain, even if he were minded so to do. That is because there is a limit of one year in which people can make complaints under the CDM about something that a clergyperson is alleged to have done, and as both A F-C and myself are well past the year limit nothing of that kind can be done any more. Just to remind readers, both Andrew and I received written rebukes from our bishops acting in their capacity as Ordinary. These stay on our files… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Was it Benjamin Disraeli who once said “never complain and never explain”? I was rather sorry to read the Bishop of Chelmsford’s defensive explanation in the letter he wrote to the Church Times as it seems to take the sting out of a most excellent and hard hitting address. Recently at the Evening Office I read this from the Acts (Jerusalem Bible 24: 5) concerning St. Paul – “We have found this man a perfect pest”. Perhaps in addition to the three categories of “messenger, sentinel and pastor” as ideal roles for those called to the office of bishop, a… Read more »

John
Guest
John

Might be a pity on one level but surely the effect is precisely to highlight the crude strong-arm tactics of our top leaders. There can never be enough exposure of that. And surely Bishop Stephen knows this as well as anyone. Like all here, I was genuinely heartened by the original address, as rarely happens when bishops speak.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

John has it right. If Bishop Stephen has to clarify what he did not mean to say, this simply keeps the story going, and focuses everyone on the message he says he did not mean to deliver.

It furthers the idea of tension between the wonderful things he said and the “successful bishop” programme.

I’d say Bishop Stephen needs no training from successful bishops in public relations and communications strategy.

Who needs PowerPoint, when we have the Gospel?

Malcolm Dixon
Guest
Malcolm Dixon

One possible answer to your questions, David Runcorn, is contained in my post above of 8:24pm on 1st Oct. I never imagined that Lambeth would issue a rebuttal in their own name, but ‘they have ways of making you talk’. I too find it regrettable that +Stephen felt it necessary to recant, for whatever reason. His sermon was brilliant, and speaks for itself.
Incidentally, I thought that Church Times policy was only to accept letters ‘for exclusive publication’. So, since + Stephen’s letter has been published here, and all over the place by now, perhaps they won’t print it anyway!

Father David
Guest
Father David

Perhaps the last time such a prophetic sermon was preached at a consecration was when the Reverend Canon F. A. Simpson preached at the consecration of Mervyn Stockwood in Southwark cathedral on1st May 1959 when he said the following, coincidentally about preaching:- “But to you, my brother, I hesitate to say this. For to you has been given a measure of eloquence; a rare gift, a noble gift, although unharnessed it can be a dangerous gift. But harnessed, not shackled, it will be all the more valuable in your new office, since not many holders of that office possess it.”… Read more »

Jane Charman
Guest
Jane Charman

I was in St Paul’s Cathedral for the consecrations of the bishops of Aston, Islington and Taunton. I heard the Bishop of Chelmsford’s sermon, watched the Archbishop of Canterbury’s reaction (described by some as a ‘grimace’ and by others as a ‘wry smile’) and listened to the comment afterwards. Many people were heartened and relieved to hear one of our senior bishops speaking of episcopal ministry in language which is distinctively and unapologetically Christian. +Stephen’s letter of retraction leaves a feeling of discomfort and some difficult questions. +Stephen is a talented and media-savvy communicator. Senior leadership development is a controversial… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

What the original sermon, the reaction to it, the retraction and the reaction to that clearly show is that we respond to a particular authentic message authentically preached, and not to others, however carefully explained.
We are happy to be led, but we choose who we allow to lead us and who we will not be inspired by.
Is there a lesson in there for the HoB?

David Runcorn
Guest

+Stephen has been exploring these themes for a while. In 2012 he preached at the consecration of Tim Dakin and John Wraw. There too he included a powerful section on the priority of vulnerable faith, the necessity of apophatic darkness as part of Christian leadership and the need for the deep, spiritual refining of ministers and particularly bishops. It included these thoughts: ‘Sometimes it feels to me that ministry – all ministry, but maybe especially episcopal – is like running up the down escalator. The trouble is as life goes on, and the escalators longer and faster, the only option… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

David, thank you for that wonderful quote. Particularly “the necessity of apophatic darkness” which has existed all the way back to Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son. It seems to be God’s ‘modus operandi’ and something we may all face, as we get stripped of our human resources and the end of all our understanding… before God – in perfection – comes. It is very different from managerial training and human empowerment, and the concepts of corporate control on which we too easily rely, all those business models – though there may also be a place for skills like… Read more »

Mark Hart
Guest
Mark Hart

Jane is correct in saying that +Stephen is a “talented and media-savvy communicator”, so it pays to read his letter carefully and note that it contains no retraction, only a correction to the exaggerations of Ruth Gledhill and “Archbishop Cranmer”. In denying that his sermon was a “riposte or rebuke” he still allows that it was intended to be constructive criticism of “certain initiatives taking place in the Church of England”. He writes, “It never occurred to me… that this would be interpreted as being against leadership development initiatives”, thereby keeping it general. It surely did occur to him that… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

When one looks for those in the Christian Tradition, like SS Chad and Francis (of Assisi); one realises that it is in their very humility, and unwillingness to grasp a leadership, that God has wrought a great deal of good through them – despite their suspicion of taking on the mantle of responsibility for preferment. Contrast this with the current thirst for a Business Management style of Ministry.

Mark Bryant
Guest
Mark Bryant

Came across an interesting bit of Evelyn Underhill We build up the Church best, not by a mere overhaul of the fabric and the furniture, desirable as this may sometimes be, but by opening ourselves more and more with an entire and humble generosity to that Spirit-God Who is among us as one that serveth, and reaches out through His Church towards the souls of men. Thus the real life of that Church consists in the mutual love and dependence, the common prayer, adoration and self-offering of the whole inter-penetrating family of spirits who have dared to open their souls… Read more »