Tuesday, 21 January 2014

New Bishop of Exeter is announced

10 Downing Street has announced: Diocese of Exeter: Robert Atwell nomination approved:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Robert Ronald Atwell, BA, MLitt, Suffragan Bishop of Stockport, for election as Bishop of Exeter in succession to the Right Reverend Michael Laurence Langrish, BSocSc, MA, DD, on his resignation on 31 August 2013.

Robert Atwell, aged 59, studied for the ordained ministry at Westcott House, Cambridge. He served his first curacy at John Keble Church, Mill Hill, London from 1978 to 1981.

From 1981 to 1987 he was Chaplain at Trinity College, Cambridge. From 1987 to 1998 he was a Benedictine monk at Burford Priory, Oxfordshire.

From 1998 to 2008 he was Vicar of St Mary’s, Primrose Hill, and Director of Post-Ordination Training in the Edmonton Area of the Diocese of London. Since 2008 he has been Suffragan Bishop of Stockport.

Robert Atwell is single. His interests include gardening, theatre, films, music and novels.

The Diocese of Exeter has announced: Next Bishop of Exeter Named:

The next Bishop of Exeter is the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, currently Bishop of Stockport in the Diocese of Chester. His appointment was announced this morning by the Prime Minister’s office.

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Bishop Robert will become the 71st bishop of the Diocese of Exeter which comprises more than 500 parishes across the county of Devon…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 10:12am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

I note that the 'Topic' for this press release on the Government webpage is, "Arts and culture"! Does this say something about the PM's real view of the place of the C of E in society?

Posted by: David Lamming on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 2:31pm GMT

Thank heavens for a bishop who doesn't pretend to be an avid follower of some football team.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 3:05pm GMT

Thank heavens for a new diocesan who is older. Over young appointments to the hierarchy, of which there are far too many in the C of E, can seriously distort Church life. Anyway an older candidate still has plenty of time to make his/her mark but not so much as to cause permanent damage!

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 4:42pm GMT

How good it is to get a Bishop in the Church of England who has spent 10 years in a Benedictine monastery! I'm sure that the Church and the Diocese of Exeter will value his experience of prayer alone. Let's hope this bishop will be focussed more on what unites us all, rather than what divides us. We can do with a contemplative - especially in the modern task of bishopping.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 8:17pm GMT

Looks like a good choice to me (Well done the Holy Spirit!). Not only has Bishop Robert spent a decade in prayer as a Benedictine monk but he has also served as a Cambridge College Chaplain and has significant parochial experience not least as Percy Dearmer's successor at St. Mary's, Primrose Hill. Not to mention his episcopal experience as a Suffragan Bishop in the diocese of Chester. The diocese of Exeter seems to have fallen on its feet in the choice of its new Father in God.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 at 5:54am GMT

I wonder why he instantly has to parrot the party line on same-sex marriage? -
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-25814982 - when we are only weeks away from the reality of his churches having same-sex married couples in them. I guess it is a sort of loyalty test for the club he in now joining. His weasel words about wanting to welcome LBGT and opposing homophobia won't wash when he has to tell them to their faces that he doesn't think they are married. (Somehow I don't suppose he will do that - too unAnglican and definite).

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 at 6:38am GMT

I wonder if 'a single bishop' feels he must, Jeremy ?

Btw David, he must be really old to 'have succeeded Percy Dearmer at St. Mary's.'

Posted by: Revd Laurie Roberts on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 at 11:51am GMT

Rev'd Mr. Roberts. I very much doubt if Father Atwell was Father Dearmer's immediate successor at Primrose Hill I think you will find that there were a few in between. In the same sense that Justin Welby is Saint Augustine's successor but again there were about 100 others in between.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 at 1:22pm GMT

It is disappointing that the new Bishop's first reported pronouncement is to scratch the itch of our position on homosexuality.

Although he suggests that opposite sex marriages do better at bringing up children than same sex marriages, and that same sex marriage is opposed to "good family life", neither is the case.

According to the joint submission of the American Psychological Association, the California Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Association For Marriage And Family Therapy in the Californian same sex marriage case:

“Although it is sometimes asserted in policy debates that heterosexual couples are inherently better parents than same-sex couples, or that the children of lesbian or gay parents fare worse than children raised by heterosexual parents, those assertions find no support in the scientific research literature.”

See also the joint submission of the American Anthropological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the National Association Of Social Workers, the American Sociological Association, and the American Academy Of Pediatrics, California:

"...gay adolescents have, among other things, a materially greater suicide attempt rate than their peers. This results from the pain of being stigmatized and, ironically, the self-hatred associated with internalizing the social values that led to the stigmatization in the first place."

"There is no place at all for homophobia in the Church" is there? But you have just said that homosexual people cannot get married, although the law says they can, and that homosexual couples are not "the best and solid way for the nurturing of children", although that is contrary to the evidence, and that homosexual marriage is to be contrasted with "Good family life" which "makes for a good strong society". Aren't gay families good? Do they not exist? Where do gay offspring fit into this?

Posted by: badman on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 at 1:27pm GMT

I wish churchy people didn't oppose same sex marriage because they believe children should be brought up in straight families. It betrays their complete ignorance about the legal reality in this country.
Gay people, single or partnered, have been fostering and adopting on equal terms since the revision of the Children and Adoption Act 2003 that even pre-dates Civil Partnerships.

The sky has not fallen in, there is no evidence that any of the children parented in approx 8600 gay families are suffering.

The other mild disconnect is that that we will have marriage equality shortly, whether bishops agree with it or not.
We are not asking them about their personal views of gay marriage any longer.
What we do need is a coherent church policy about the gay priests in its ranks who will shortly be getting married, and about a possible official liturgy for the gay married couples among its congregation.

It would be so refreshing if they started to engage with reality some time soon.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 at 3:30pm GMT

Just as Forward in Faith is obsessed with a single issue so it would seem is Thinking Anglicans in that so many blogs and comments seem to end up commenting upon homosexuality. Can we not instead rejoice that the next Bishop of Exeter is a firm believer in the power of prayer and is also a firm believer in the Incarnation and Resurrection?

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 at 3:51pm GMT

It would be lovely to talk about the topics you mention, David, if there were a level playing field in ministry, marriage and - more broadly - human rights. Unfortunately, the 'single issue' you mention keeps cropping up on this blog because of a number of factors, it seems to me:

- as one of the criteria by which Communion is defined (see the Windsor and Anglican Covenant documents);
- how bishops are chosen (remember Reading and New Hampshire)
- what relationships are permitted for ordained and lay people (see Issues and Some Issues)
- who can get married (see Church of England response to the Same Sex Marriage bill and 'Men and Women in Marriage');
- what the Church of England's response should be to human rights violations abroad (e.g. Nigeria, Uganda, Jamaica)
- bullying in faith schools

and so on.

So even though our cycle of prayer and worship during the liturgical calendar is determined by Incarnation and Resurrection themes, the 'single issue' dominates the Church's involvement in public life, whether we like it or not.

Posted by: Andrew on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 at 7:21pm GMT

Headline could have read "Bishop doesn't support gay people in equality issues!" It is easy now to be pro-women in Holy Orders. It takes courage and personal integrity to support the equality of gay men and women in the Church. Do you think this man will ever have that?

Posted by: commentator on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 at 9:50pm GMT

"Can we not instead rejoice that the next Bishop of Exeter is a firm believer in the power of prayer and is also a firm believer in the Incarnation and Resurrection?"

If he's simultaneously got his proverbial boot on the necks of the Imago Dei made LGBT?

No. No, we cannot. [I believe the Biblical prophets were quite clear about this sort of God-rejected religiosity (e.g., Isaiah 1:14-17)]

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 6:11am GMT

Point taken Andrew but the two controversial issues of women bishops and homosexuality which have received so much attention not least from the media in the last decade have said to have been the cause of diverting the Church away from its primary tasks of mission and evangelism. By the way I have long been a cheer leader in promoting Jeffrey John to become a diocesan bishop. With so many dioceses vacant or about to become vacant it will be a scandal if a man of his immense gifts and talents isn't given a mitre.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 7:25am GMT

The reason I deprecated the new bishop "scratching the itch" was that, on the day of his appointment, he didn't talk to the BBC about the power of prayer. Or the incarnation. Or the resurrection. He talked about women bishops and homosexuality. On homosexuality, what he said was the usual dismaying, embarrassing nonsense. He raised the subject, not us. I appreciate that the BBC was probably more inclined to report him saying those things than anything about the incarnation. But it's a bishop's job to choose his text and to get it across.

Posted by: badman on Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 8:52am GMT

Father David,
" but the two controversial issues of women bishops and homosexuality which have received so much attention not least from the media in the last decade have said to have been the cause of diverting the Church away from its primary tasks of mission and evangelism."

Is that because people have not let the church get on with other things instead, or is that because you cannot actually speak with credibility about morals and a faith of love while you have this immoral equality at the heart of your own church?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 9:01am GMT

badman, the bishop will not have chosen what questions he was asked nor what from amongst his answers the BBC decided to report. He could have spoken for two hours about prayer, answered 50 different questions, and the one response on this subject would inevitably have made it into the press coverage.

I'm told (by a bishop) that in their media training they are advised always to answer every question asked - and in this case, though we might wish he had done otherwise - he's done what bishops do when they wish to avoid getting caught up in controversy and given the stock official answer as provided by Church House.

It's a but much to lay into him for respecting the collegial line on the day his appointment is announced. As I say, it would have been great had he done otherwise, but it's not an unreasonable approach, especially on your first day.

Posted by: Stuart, Devon on Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 10:07am GMT

I do have sympathy with Father David. It infuriates me that the church is lagging behind on LGBT equality, I look forward to the day - which I have no doubt will come - that same sex weddings are celebrated in CofE churches.... but, we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. We may indeed be right on this issue and the others wrong, but there will be other things about which we are wrong, other subjects upon which we are insufficiently active. And if we're hoping for bishops who are perfect in every way, we will have a long wait.

What about social justice issues, what about addressing horrendous violence both against our fellow Christians and against those of other religions and none for their beliefs? ++Rowan was being roundly excoriated on here recently for his failings regarding LGBT rights, with no credit whatsoever given for him being one of the few people who has consistently spoken up for the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

So yes, we must continue to raise LGBT equality in the church, but not at the exclusion of all else, and not by being so Pharisaical about others who may well be doing more overall for the Kingdom than ourselves.

Posted by: Stuart, Devon on Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 10:28am GMT

Fair point, Stuart.

Still, I don't think it's good advice to answer every question asked when this means that your message is distorted (if it is distorted) in the reporting. He would have done better to say: "I don't want to talk about same sex marriage today. I want to talk about...."

I also accept that he is not responsible for the stock official answer from Church House, but if the answer is not very good, a bishop might be expected to discern that, and to steer away from it.

A bishop is a leader, after all.

Posted by: badman on Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 12:44pm GMT

I think the new ABC has actually made a very good start at taking on Payday loan companies and speaking out for social justice, and he has rightly been praised for that by many.

And I don't think it's entirely fair to blame others for the mess the bishops find themselves in. It's only a year ago that the church voted against women bishops, it's only 8 months ago that the ABC voted for an amendment in the House of Lords that would have denied the others the right to continue with the debate and vote on marriage equality.
General Synod will be debating women bishops again in February, the Pilling Report on how to engage with gay people will be debated next week... church itself is mired in all of this. It's not surprising that the members of this church, especially those directly affected by it, are focused on it. And it's even less surprising that the media are fascinated.

This will not end until it's been solved.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 1:40pm GMT

badman, I agree. It's bad - and frankly odd - media training to tell bishops they must answer every question; a response such as the one you suggest would have been much better.

Posted by: Stuart, Devon on Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 3:25pm GMT

"Just as Forward in Faith is obsessed with a single issue so it would seem is Thinking Anglicans in that so many blogs and comments seem to end up commenting upon homosexuality"

A cleric takes the opportunity to direct his first public remarks as bishop-elect against gay couples, but _TA_ has the obsession? Go on ...

Posted by: Geoff on Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 6:01pm GMT
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