Comments: Paul Butler of Southwell and Nottingham to move to Durham

Rosemary has done fantastic work on the flower borders of Bishop's Manor, Southwell. She will be missed.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 10:12am BST

The fourth photo in Durham Diocese News' article (+Paul meets +Mark) is hilarious. The body language! The sheer charisma!

Posted by Dan BD at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 10:20am BST

This is an inspirational appointment, despite creating yet another diocesan vacancy. The diocese needs stability and the clear focus on mission that ++Welby started before he was poached. +Butler has exactly the gifts Durham needs and is a very experienced bishop.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 11:43am BST

Yes looks like a 'like for like' replacement in some respects - probably not surprising, since the diocese's statement of needs is unlikely to have changed much in the past year or two. Every blessing to Bishop Paul in his appointment.

Posted by PK at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 12:10pm BST

Four of the five senior bishoprics in the Church of England are held by Evangelicals. All five are held by conservatives, of whom three are deeply conservative - Chartres, Dakin, and now Butler. The senior lay official of the Church is a deeply conservative Evangelical.

Now, on one level, one should not get too concerned about the career progression of liberal bishops. On another level, two things are worrying: the lack of awareness by the Evangelical establishment that they are seen by many as threatening, domineering, and intolerant of dissent;,and the lack of humility from a group of people largely responsible for the Church of England being seen as a sexist, homophobic, national embarrassment.

Whatever Paul Butler's personal qualities may or may not be, this is not a good appointment for those of us who believe in a broad Church.

Posted by The Rev'd Mervyn Noote at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 12:28pm BST

I don't know Bishop Paul though I am sure he will be very good. And while I am not sure I agree with the characterisation of evangelicalism by the previous commentator, I do think it is a concern that four of the five of the senior bishops in the Church (Canterbury, York, Durham, and Winchester) ]emerged from evangelical backgrounds.

This suggests an urgent need for some balancing of the bench in upcoming appointments to give greater weight to Anglo-Catholics, liberals, and those who don't really adhere to any particular tradition in the church.

I have no idea how the dynamics of the CNC work, but might it be that the weight given to the diocese's preferences is now too great, and what we see here is the result of diocesan representatives (very understandably) seeing the diocese's needs as more important than those of the CofE as a whole?

Posted by Philip Hobday at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 1:42pm BST

This man is on public as anti-gay - so I cannot get worked up about his partner's skills in the garden.

Nor can I applaud such a narrow-minded choice.

Three Evangelicals successively seems a bit much to me.

Glad to see one NSM ministry being perhaps, validated.

Are we now to be told 'he is on a journey' ?

Posted by Rev'd Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 1:53pm BST

I think it is interesting to call Paul B 'deeply conservative'. On what measure? He might be theologically, in some senses, but contrary to the following comment, he is very far from 'threatening, domineering, and intolerant of dissent.'

He is very aware of media and of social engagement, and is about to do a series in our church which is very creative and risk-taking.

Posted by Ian Paul at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 1:53pm BST

As a priest in Durham Diocese and a member of the vacancy in see committee, can I say in reply to The Rev'd Mervyn Noote that, while acknowledging the needs and hopes of the wider church, we very much need a bishop that will focus on our diocese at a time of great challenge and great opportunity and that wider church politics were not high on our list of priorities.
And in response to pk: the priorities might not have changed greatly since +Justin was with us for so short a time, but we did re-write the statement of needs completely from scratch. I very much look forward to having Bishop Paul with us and give thanks for his appointment

Fr. Graeme Buttery SSC

Posted by Graeme Buttery at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 1:59pm BST

You have a point - but who you mean by the 'Evangelical Establishment'. There is no such body. And I think you are in danger of generalising. Evangelicalism within the CofE is actually a very diverse group negotiating within itself some considerable tensions around precisely the issues that concern you. It seems to me that those of the Broad, Liberal tradition need to challenged in their tendency to assume evangelical = conservative. It doesn't.

Posted by David at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 2:48pm BST

"I cannot get worked up about his partner's skills in the garden." Laurence Roberts

I was damning with faint praise! In other words, the only thing I will miss about Paul Butler's presence in this diocese, is his wife.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 3:06pm BST

Thank you Fr Graeme, I certainly wasn't implying that the CNC didn't thoroughly think through their current needs or follow the appropriate processes. My sense is that +Paul will be the sort of person to take the diocese forward - let's hope he isn't poached by York ! ;-)

Posted by PK at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 3:24pm BST

Interestingly enough, I have heard conservative evangelicals - i.e. conservative on the issue of the ordination of women - complain that they do not have a single bishop on the English bench who represents their point of view. Truly, perspective makes all the difference.

And let's not forget that there was a time not so very long ago - in the 1940s and 50s - when evangelicals in the Church of England were completely ignored by the establishment. That's still pretty much the case in my denomination, the Anglican Church of Canada, everywhere except the Diocese of the Arctic. I've been in full time ministry for 35 years and for only seven of them have I worked in a diocese with an evangelical bishop. I appear to have survived quite well.

And I don't think evangelicals will worry too much about how they are seen by the public at large. After all, C.S. Lewis (no evangelical) reminded us that the Great Commission was not "Go into all the world and tell them that they are quite right already". Evangelicals tend to agree with him.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 3:29pm BST

Wasn't it the case that during Welby's very brief (I, of course, think shamefully brief) 'occupation', attendance in the Durham diocese declined by 9% (one of the worst in the country)?

I of course wish it had been Jeffrey John. Now that would have been an inspired appointment, it would have gone some way to remedying scandalous past injustices, it would actually have been welcomed by a very wide constituency, including the likes of Father David and Evangelicals of many stripes, and it would have signalled that the C of E was actually doing something about the homophobia of some of its parts. And it would have given Welby the opportunity to face down some of the worst homophobes in a battle he would certainly have won.

Defenders of the actual decision (and the man) make some valid points, but surely the principle of 'turn-about' has not been observed here.

Posted by John at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 3:35pm BST

Has the supply of Anglo-Catholic bishops completely dried up? A B.A. From Nottingham hardly puts the next Bishop of Durham in the same league as Westcott and Lightfoot, Henson and Habgood and the two Ramseys. Not only is there a great paucity of Catholic bishops in the CofE but also, alas, of scholar bishops! Nevertheless I wish the next Dunelm well as he prepares to be enthroned in the greatest cathedral on planet earth, bar none.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 3:38pm BST

From the Church Times report linked above:

On same-sex marriage, the Bishop said that his position would be viewed as "traditional, orthodox, in terms of my view of marriage between a man and a woman, but I also believe that we need to look at that, and think through how we respond best to those committing themselves to life-long same-sex relationships. I have a deep concern about sexual licence and freedom in all its forms - stability has to be something we look for and encourage. At present, I would not be in a position to feel we could offer blessings of same-sex unions, but I recognise that it is an ongoing discussion. We have to keep working at that."

That's less conservative than I had expected...

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 3:43pm BST

On the one hand Paul Butler thinks :

'I have a deep concern about sexual licence and freedom in all its forms - stability has to be something we look for and encourage.'

BUT on the other, he will not support stability in action:

'At present, I would not be in a position to feel we could offer blessings of same-sex unions,'

That just won't do bishop.

Nor will this :

"...but I recognise that it is an ongoing discussion. We have to keep working at that."

Carry-On Talking -- you'll soon find it a solitary activity. The time for 'discussion' is well past.

Time to get real or remain cloistered in the world of make-beleive that passes for English anglicansim...

Posted by Rev'd Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 4:08pm BST

John , I would indeed have welcomed Jeffrey John as the next Bishop of Durham. A scholar bishop once more upon the highest throne in Christendom. Alas, with the present John at Ebor that was always an unlikely prospect.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 4:25pm BST

I don't call being a signatory to the Coalition 4 Marriage as being anything less than staunchly conservative.

It's another case of words pointing this way, actions the other.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 4:29pm BST

I think there is a general concern about the lack of scholar-bishops. In my view this is due to increasing administrative demands, legislative challenges, and (IMHO) the move to a 'tick the box' approach to the appointment of bishops.

I am not sure we will ever be able to return to the era of bishops as thinkers and theological leaders. The demand to be CEO of the diocese is too great.

Posted by Ian Paul at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 4:52pm BST

Ian, perhaps potential scholar bishops might not be sufficiently "street wise" to get through the interview ordeal which, I believe, is now part of the appointment process.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 5:07pm BST

"He is very aware of media" Ian Paul

Aware he may be, but I think he needs a bit more media training before being let loose in front of a microphone again if this cringeworthy performance is anything to go by:

17.21m to 20.55m

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 5:08pm BST

I read somewhere that the Diocese had said that they wanted someone who was gay friendly. If the new Bishop appears not to be so does this mean that the wishes of Dioceses are now being ignored?

Posted by Stephen at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 5:41pm BST

I find this a very disappointing appointment. Jeffrey John would have been brilliant and given so many people hope. With the connection with the University Durham needs a scholar as well as someone who understands the people. There has not been a liberal Catholic scholar bishop in Durham since the days of Michael Ramsey, Ian Ramsey John Habgood and David Jenkins. All these men also understood the needs of the other people of their Diocese. It was high time for another. Both Durham Diocese and the Church of England are poorer as a result

Posted by Jean Mayland at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 5:43pm BST

'I have a deep concern about sexual licence...'

But I'm certainly not going to countenance anything which might encourage fidelity and commitment because it means that I wil have to think about sex and we bishops don't like doing that. And of course we all know that homosexuals are always at it like rabbits and we don't like to think about that either, so we will denounce it instead and fall back on some lazy stereotypes.

'Sexual licence'. Who on earth uses language like that these days, except bishops? Oh god, not another one!

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 6:18pm BST

I'm not sure we need to worry quite yet about the loss of scholar bishops, given that ++Rowan and +Tom Wright have only recently left their seats. However my sense is that Durham was looking for a bishop who this time round could give some attention to the local congregations rather than working on books or lecturing around the country - fair enough in my view.

Laurence, your initial post was too subtle for the Thinking Anglicans faithful! I'm not sure if your aversion is to evangelicals generally or to +Paul personally, but if it's the former given your diocese's overall tradition your best bet to keep your equilibrium is probably to move counties.

Posted by PK at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 6:31pm BST

Not sure that the evangelicals recently appointed diocesan are particularly conservative (unless that is defined as not being as liberal as "Thinking Anglicans")... But it is rather pleasant to see the hugely disproportionate number of Liberal Catholics and Modern Church members in the hierarchy finally being redressed.

Since the 1980s about 2/3rd of the people going into ordination training have been evangelicals (of various types) but the majority of people appointed Bishop or Dean were from liberal colleges (formerly Cuddesdon was dominant, recently Westcott came to the fore).

Posted by DavidRevd at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 7:27pm BST

Fr Roberts, I am glad I am not the only one who noticed the disconnect between the lip service to valuing "stability" and the reluctance to act on that (very noble and in the best sense conservative!) sentiment. It would seem (with a few brave exceptions) that it's ok for bishops to say nice things about the need for stable relationships as long as the church doesn't actually have to do anything to strengthen or support them.

Posted by Geoff at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 7:50pm BST

Well, I wouldn't call him 'polished.' But he is remarkably accessible and very personable. (I'm sure others will have a different view, but I'm not clear that we are short of pomposity in the C of E!)

More importantly, he has been a significant personal encourager of mission, and the diocese here has found that refreshing and effective--measurable, even.

Posted by Ian Paul at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 8:19pm BST

"I don't call being a signatory to the Coalition 4 Marriage as being anything less than staunchly conservative."

Quite. Yet again, Matthew 7:15 is strangely, er, prophetic.

Bishops, it would appear, have yet to learn that the internet provides a degree of transparency, such that you can't any more say different things to different communities and hope that they don't find out about each other. I guess that people who don't realise that might assume that you can utter platitudes about new insights while signing the C4M petition without anyone noticing the contradiction.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 8:33pm BST

Yes, Jeffrey John was touted pretty frequently as a possible Bishop by the press. Some (including me) were asked by the press how we would feel if he were appointed, or whether we knew if he had been. And all this interest because he's gay, not because of whether he would have been a good bishop. I think Jeffrey John should be as appointable as a Bishop as the next man (or woman), but I also think that after Tom Wright's busy schedule as an academic, and then an interregnum, and then Justin for barely a year and then another interregnum, Durham really did not need a bishop who, by virtue of his sexuality rather than his character and holiness, would have had every word and move scrutinised by a press that is as obsessed with sex, sexuality and gender as parts of the church.

As to the notion that Durham needs a scholar bishop - I see no reason for this. The Cathedral has a joint professorial post with the University and further cooperation planned. And the C of E has awarded the validation of ministerial training to the University of Durham. There is no serious shortage of academic theology in Durham that such an appointment would solve.

Does the C of E need a scholar bishop? Quite possibly. Does the Durham diocese need that person to be its bishop? I think the argument is less than convincing.

Posted by Adrian Beney at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 9:50pm BST

Ian Paul,

Do you have evidence of the effectiveness of the ministry of Bishop Paul measured by congregation sizes? (Some people may want to question whether this is a proper measure of the effectiveness of the ministry of a diocesan bishop, but it does at least give us some measurable indicator of something).

The statistics for the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham up to the latest releases (that I can find) are fairly dire. Average weekly attendances in 2009 were 17800, in 2010 it was 16800. This is a drop of 5.6% in the year before Bishop Paul came to the diocese. Do you know that congregational sizes have increased significantly since then? And can you tell us what those figures are?

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Thursday, 12 September 2013 at 11:08pm BST

Noting the comments made on this thread, I would suggest (tentatively) that the balance of party interests on the bench makes very little difference to the effectiveness, or not, of the episcopate. Most bishops are now functionaries decked out in purple, whose spiritual influence is often fairly limited. The Church strikes me as being a rather balkanised institution where each "party" takes its cue from its respective national lobby groups. Many party leaders have scarcely a prayer, still less a desire, of getting into lawn sleeves - for the twin cults of compromise and managerialism prevailing on the bench would require any party leader consecrated as a bishop to dilute the purity of his partisanship.

The dearth of scholar bishops is the natural result of academics, even in theological faculties, ceasing to take orders (or even being professing Christians). Note, for instance - how a number of colleges at Oxford and Cambridge have either abandoned theology and/or have appointed chaplains or deans of chapel who are not elected to the fellowships of those colleges (i.e., where the position of chaplain or dean of chapel has become a strictly pastoral/liturgical rather than academic position). Elsewhere, theological faculties have either become entirely secularised or (as at KCL or TCD) have become ecumenical as a prelude to secularisation. Clerical "academics" are often now concentrated in theological colleges where their influence is, of necessity, narrower. It may be that Rowan Williams and N. T. Wright were at, or near, the end of a very long line of distinguished clerical fellows who moved naturally and inevitably onto the bench.

A couple of observers have also noted the significant decline in attendance in Co. Durham and Notts. I would query whether the percentages cited represent something approaching the death rate of the last generation of regular churchgoers (those born before c. 1940). The percentages are liable to increase over the next decade as that generation disappears.

Posted by J Drever at Friday, 13 September 2013 at 12:44am BST

As Dunelm is one of the Church of England's senior bishoprics, one might think that it deserves a really capable cleric to be elected as its bishop. Whether or not this is fulfilled in the proposed bishop-elect will only be discerned by the perceived results of his appointment.

As witnessed by the trajectory of his immediate predecessor, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, one's faith journey may receive enlightenment by the sheer fact of being entrusted with particular responsibilities bestowed in one's new position in the Church. If the new Bishop of Durham proves to be a person of prayer, it may be that God will equip him for the task in hand - regardless of the method by which he obtained his preferment.

If leadership in the Church was once entrusted to the efficacy of drawing lots; surely, whatever the method used today could not be any less viable?

Archbishop Justin, despite inheriting the problems of our common human frailty, would appear to have experienced a change of heart on the validity of LGBT people as fellow members of the human race, deserving of respect and the affirmation of the Church. May the new Bishop of Durham be as open to the Holy Spirit's guidance in his own new ministry

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 13 September 2013 at 1:34am BST

I think that this is a very wise appointment. I know Bishop Paul personally as a suffragan in the Diocese of Winchester. He is a fine pastor, good leader. He spoke very boldly recently at General Synod over safeguarding. He has the common touch, a heart for the gospel, and given all the unsettling times that Durham has gone through recently, he will love the people and the place and will get to the heart of things pretty soon. As for a scholar, I too don't think that this is an issue. However, if you want someone with one of the best theologies and understandings of faith development in children, young people and families, then you have got one! Lucky Durham!

Posted by Tim S at Friday, 13 September 2013 at 7:45am BST

Obviously, now, one must place some hope in the new bishop.

Nevertheless, wider issues remain:

'Durham really did not need a bishop who, by virtue of his sexuality rather than his character and holiness, would have had every word and move scrutinised by a press that is as obsessed with sex, sexuality and gender as parts of the church.'

So that's what professional PR advice on the gay issue within the C of E looks like. I think it's very disturbing, it's certainly pusillanimous, and its stupidity is becoming clearer with every passing day.

John Moles.

Posted by John at Friday, 13 September 2013 at 9:18am BST

'However, if you want someone with one of the best theologies and understandings of faith development in children, young people and families, then you have got one!'

It was remarked at a seminar here (Chichester) the other month that almost all the advertisements for clergy in the Church Times require an interest in and ability to work with children, young people and families.

Since our churches are stuffed with older people, widowed and widowers, childless, divorced, single, or empty nesters, the vast majority of our congregations are apparently not worth the clergy developing theological skills to serve them.

It is high time that bishops, clergy and indeed congregations recognise that we have to work with what we have and not go hankering after some imagined past where churches were full of happy smiling families, Sunday Schools were full and the old were either dead, infirm and unseen or somehow a holy and benevolent but ignored presence.

As was remarked, we need a theology of getting older. How about it?

Posted by Richard Ashby at Friday, 13 September 2013 at 10:05am BST

I simply cannot understand why you think that to seek church leaders who can draw in young families is 'hankering after some imagined past'. Self evidently it is about the present and future of the church not the past. It is about faithful mission and growth.
(And though you seemed to have missed it, a great deal of careful resourcing has been going on relating to pastoral care in the growing proportion of elderly in our society/church)

Posted by David at Friday, 13 September 2013 at 10:42am BST

Stephen on Thursday, 12 September:

"I read somewhere that the Diocese had said that they wanted someone who was gay friendly."

Could you possibly be confusing the Durham statement of needs with that of Manchester? Just a thought.

Posted by RPNewark at Friday, 13 September 2013 at 5:43pm BST

Jeremy Pemberton.. in response to your information request, the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham recently achieved a 10% growth in church attendances, the highest growth rate of any English diocese.

I'm sure Bishop Paul would be the first to deflect praise to the clergy and laity of the churches whose hard work and prayer is behind this rise, but Bishop Paul (and his suffragan Bishop Tony) was right at the heart of this desire and work for church growth, he is a missional man with a real heart for the gospel and for people, and if Durham (and the C of E in general) are to move towards church growth and communities of missional people, which has to be something of a priority surely, Bishop Paul may well be just the right man for the job. Many in Southwell will be overjoyed at his preferment, but sad to see him go.

Posted by James P at Friday, 13 September 2013 at 5:58pm BST

Fr David, your response illustrates precisely what is wrong with the condescending approach of the church to older people. Quite frankly, the last thing I want as an older person is 'pastoral care' any more than I want it as a gay man.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Friday, 13 September 2013 at 10:27pm BST

John Moles.

I don't know why you as ascribe my comment about Durham not needing the glare of publicity to a professional PR person. That I am not, nor have I been advised to say that. I said it, and stand by it, as a long standing lay member of the diocese who attended David Jenkins' installation as he preached a balanced and profoundly wise sermon on the catastrophic miners' strike in Co Durham. A sermon reported the next day by sections of the press under the headline "Scargill must win, says Bishop." That, combined with terrible reporting of +David's theology profoundly harmed aspects of his ministry in this diocese, in my view, not least by creating animosity on the part of some parishes which did not need to have happened.

It is that which I would not wish on our diocese, especially after so much leadership change and that which I think Jeffrey John's appointment would have caused, through absolutely no fault of his own.

Posted by Adrian Beney at Friday, 13 September 2013 at 10:56pm BST

And as for Dean Jeffrey John. There is still the prospect of York, is there not? He would make a good offsider for Archbishop Justin - in my not so humble opinion.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 14 September 2013 at 1:17am BST

Richard, You ignore my main point and this is off thread but since moving to a new region a year ago I have been looking for a church to join and worship with. Local choice is limited. Dwindling congregations where I am the youngest by some distance and a few town centre churches running services aimed at families (with some success and skill but which I find personally unendurable). It has felt very isolating. But we are part of a church facing huge challenges for its future. If I ask for a place in such a church for the years I have left on earth it must not be on such terms that when I die the church dies with me.

Posted by David at Saturday, 14 September 2013 at 7:02am BST

David. I am sure that our esteemed moderator would have said something if he thought that we were going off track. The issue in this post is about the suitability or otherwise of the person appointed to the Bishopric of Durham. Most contributors have chosen to focus on his views on homosexuality, One, Tim S, broadened out the discussion to include the contribution the Bishop might be expected to make in another area. I am merely following that up with a further contribution.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 14 September 2013 at 8:53am BST


I was not implying you were a professional PR spokesman for the C of E. However, you are a professional fund-raiser (including for Durham Cathedral) and you do claim to help influence people in a good way. What you said was classic PR stuff. My view - which I repeat - is that it is shameful. Obviously, I think JJ would have been a better bishop than PB, but it's the issue that's important. JJ has been dreadfully treated at least twice (and possibly a third time, because some people - not just 'liberals' - here in Durham think early touting of his name in the present case was precisely a spoiling tactic) by people at the very top of the C of E. He is totally in compliance with official policy. There are of course many others like him. Yet they are debarred from preferment because the leaders of the C of E are so lacking in moral fibre. You worry about bad press - the press is worse precisely because of this feebleness and shameful abnegation of moral responsibility. And the press - sex-obsessed as it is - is not more sex-obsessed than the C of E people of whom people like yourself are so scared. In fact, the press is quite right to go after Welby and others over the gay issue - and Welby and others will only respond to better counsels - if they do respond - because they are shamed into doing so.

In PB's case, as in so many others, we read 'Bishop x' is married to y and they have four children'. Whew! What a relief! Not one of them! Just a pity so few of these prolific gentlemen have any (begins with 'b').

Posted by John at Saturday, 14 September 2013 at 2:23pm BST

Richard Ashby - please don' t confuse your Davids. The David you refer to is not the same person as Father David. As for Father Ron's choice for the next Archbishop of York, as much as I admire the brilliance of the Dean of St. Albans, I think the present Bishop of Chelmsford would be the ideal candidate to be the next Ebor. Besides when has someone only in priest's orders been elevated to an Archbishopric in recent decades?

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 14 September 2013 at 6:26pm BST

"please don' t confuse your Davids"

Maybe if the Davids weren't all semi anonymous we wouldn't confuse them?

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 15 September 2013 at 12:18pm BST
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