Comments: Bishop of Newcastle announces his retirement.

This offers the perfect opportunity to return the diocese of Newcastle to its rightful and true mother Durham cathedral, thus further reducing the number of dioceses in the Northern Province, following the example of the new diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales.
With the strong possibility of Scottish independence later this year and with Newcastle restored to Durham we shall probably have to resurrect the title of Prince Bishop for the new Dunelm and once more give to the fourth highest prelate in the land a standing army and his own Mint. Doesn't the legend on Prebends Bridge describe Durham as half church of God and half castle 'gainst the Scot? If Scotland does go its own way come September I hope the newly created Bishop of Durham knows where to lay his hand upon the sword of Anthony Bek, just in case!

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 5:33am BST

It may be time to revisit the age limits for ecclesiastical offices. Much as we all like young, fresh-faced and energetic bishops (well, some of them anyway), there's something to be said for the view - as expressed in the Book of Proverbs - that "a hoary head is a crown of glory." And in a culture increasingly dismissive of the elderly as an irrelevance or an inconvenience, surely the Church should insist on the active and important role that older people have in leadership.

Not only that but our churches are themselves full of old people (despite the fashionable craze for trying to make Christianity hip and down with the kids). I don't profess to know what the kids want these days, but I very much doubt it is hip young bishops who have their own twitter handle. I'm fairly sure that that's not a priority for the middle-aged and elderly people who are the backbone of our church life either.

And finally, seventy is much younger than it used to be. Even in the last forty years, the number of sprightly and active seventy-year-olds has increased enormously. My grandparents recently celebrated their ninetieth birthdays, and they are still hugely active in church and community groups. Either of them would make a fine bishop in my view!

So let's not throw out our bishops as soon as they turn 70. Let's give them the option of carrying on for as long as the Spirit moves them, not just because it is ageist to insist that they are no longer useful when they hit three score years and ten, and not just because priests should have a long long period of pastoral experience as a parish priest before putting on a pointy hat, and not just because a rapid turnover of bishops with long and disruptive interregnums is undesirable, but also because we corporately recognise the unfashionable truth that "with the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding."

Posted by rjb at Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 7:09am BST

Well written rjb and may the same be said to apply to Vicars and Rectors. Let us have more bishops in office like the late great Dr. Kemp of Chichester to bring back more resurrection joy to the Church.

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 8:26am BST

I've a lot of sympathy with rjb. Maybe we increase the retirement age to 75 - clergy can retire earlier if they wish.

We have had a rule (In Norwich diocese) that Readrs become Emeritus / emerita at age 70 which meant no-one entered training after the age of 60. While we do want to encourage younger vocations we sometimes found someone aged 60+ who was clearly called to Reader ministry - so we have bent the rule occasionally. It's about being open to whom the Spirit is calling -and indeed when she calls!

Posted by Charles Read at Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 10:19am BST

We should remember that the principle that Bishops should retire at 70 was brought in by Eric Kemp, who stayed in post until his mid 80s. It was a rule he thought should be applied to other people, but not to him.

Posted by Peter at Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 1:26pm BST

There is a lot to be said for increasing the Ecclesiastical retirement age to 80. Many people in their 70s still have much to contribute - and it would ease the pressure on the church's pension funds.

Posted by Erasmus at Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 1:39pm BST

We're expecting quite a few retirements this year, which is a shame.

Probably +Peter Wheatley (Bishop of Edmonton) will announce his retirement towards the end of the year.

Posted by Graham W at Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 3:29pm BST

I think that our retirement age in TEC is 72.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 4:39pm BST

rjb - Amen to that!

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 5:13pm BST

I can understand the argument,but alongside it would also want to see more free flowing traffic between Bishops and parish ministry. Some people have had/done enough when they get to 70, and there are numerous local parish examples of people who stayed on because it was best for them, not for the parish or the church. You don't want the same thing happening with a Diocese. How to guard against that, if it's entirely down to the individual and whether they want to carry on or not?

Posted by David Keen at Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 9:54pm BST

Diocesans can go on for up to a further year after their 70th birthday if the archbishop is in agreement. Think +McCulloch did a bit more, but he had ongoing NCI responsibilities at the time. No, the CofE has such a flat structure that allowing bishops to go on goes against, as they say, inter-generational fairness. Most are burned out at 65, quite apart from 70. And frankly the church needs fresh leadership, which means more +Baines' and +Butlers etc. It also badly needs women in episcopal leadership, so letting the grey haired men continue is no recipe for all that.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 10:02pm BST

Worth adding to this thread that Bishop Martin will be greatly missed in that diocese.

Posted by ExRevd at Tuesday, 29 April 2014 at 10:21pm BST

One answer to the "job blocker" issue is to have fixed-term appointments, not a retirement age. For people in employment, a retirement age has to be "clearly justified": see If there were a ten year fixed term for bishops (say) then the posts could be open to much younger candidates without the "risk" they would sit in it for decades. And an older candidate could negotiate for a shorter fixed term. At the moment the appointment system encourages potential age discrimination in both directions: against 40 year olds because they would serve 30 years, and against 67 year olds because they would only serve 3.

God isn't subject to equalities legislation, but apart from "the days of man are threescore and ten" most of the biblical material suggests that God does not discriminate on grounds of age.

Posted by Turbulent priest at Wednesday, 30 April 2014 at 7:37am BST

I agree with Turbulent's second paragraph but must take issue with his opening remark with regard to fixed-term appointments. Thanks to Dave Cameron we now have "fixed-term parliaments with the consequence that in year five, which we shall soon be entering into, the Coalition Government has run out of legislation and has nothing to do but worry about the rise and rise of Nigel Farage and his UKIP party. Similarly bishops on fixed-terms would become the lamest of lame ducks as they reach the final year of their "fixed- term".
Thinking about clergy who should be retired, does anyone know the identity of the clergyman who appeared in the latest controversial " All things bright and beautiful" BNP party political broadcast? I know he can't be Anglican for isn't there a ban on CofE clergy being members of the British National Party (similar to the ban on CofE clergy entering into same sex marriages)? Is there a similar ban, I wonder, on CofE clergy being members of UKIP, as I remember reading somewhere lately, I forget where, that UKIP has also, like the BNP, been accused of being "Racist"? I think we should be told!

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 30 April 2014 at 8:35am BST

The two "bans" are not directly comparable.

The BNP ban involves a specific amendment to a Church of England Measure, by the General Synod.

The same-sex marriage ban is pastoral guidance approved only by the House of Bishops, and in itself has no legal effect.

As Philip Jones has pointed out, it would be perfectly possible, in theory, to amend ecclesiastical legislation in a directly comparable manner to the BNP ban, but there is some doubt as to whether Parliament would agree to confirm such a change.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 30 April 2014 at 9:06am BST

I publish the "bans" of marriage between.... or rather, I don't! As ever, Simon, thank you for your clarification in pointing out that we in the Church of England have First and Second Class "bans". The ban against membership of the BNP being first Class, having been approved by the General Synod. The ban against clergy entering into same sex marriage being Second Class, as it is merely pastoral guidance issued by the House of Bishops (or rather some of them!) and awaits discussion and approval by the General Synod before it can become a First Class Ban. Thereafter, if passed by the Synod, it will go to Parliament in order to become legislation, or not, as the case may be? I presume therefore that Parliament has also approved the ban on clergy of the Established Church becoming members of the BNP?

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 30 April 2014 at 9:37am BST

Nice to see a measure of harmony between 'liberals' and 'traditionalists'. I think the C of E needs neither a bunch of superannuated bishops nor a slew of eager young evangelical bishops with nothing very much inside their brains. On the other hand, I also think very strongly that Con-Evos should have SOME representation (on the Lyndon Johnson principle regarding J Edgar Hoover: 'better to have him inside the tent p-----g out than outside the tent p-----g in').

Posted by John at Wednesday, 30 April 2014 at 12:26pm BST

"I also think very strongly that Con-Evos should have SOME representation" They could just be represented because they're part of the CofE, rather than because it's good politics. Or we could even take the radical step of picking the best candidates, regardless of which wing of the church they came from. Now there's a radical thought.

Posted by David Keen at Wednesday, 30 April 2014 at 5:18pm BST

I am on record as saying that there is a case for a ConEvo flying bishop, even in a newly created see, but the CNC will not nominate a ConEvo to a diocesan bishopric now, unless they are clearly willing to ordain women as priests and will work collaboratively with women in the episcopate, and therefore their senior staff team. The expected passing of the Measure in July will represent the settled mind of the church on the matter and it will therefore be unacceptable for the diocesan to be a non-ordainer and it would be a brave diocesan to appoint a ConEvo as a suffragan.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 30 April 2014 at 6:16pm BST

'a slew of eager young evangelical bishops with nothing very much inside their brains'

I would respectfully suggest that brainlessness, if it exists, is not limited to eager young evangelicals.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 30 April 2014 at 6:17pm BST

Father David

Thanks for your comment. You slightly misunderstood me but that is my fault for not being clearer. Fixed term employment contracts aren't like fixed term parliaments; they mean that the employment won't continue beyond the end of the term, but the employee can still go earlier if they wish (and give proper notice). Cameron's and Clegg's commitment was to a full term parliament with no earlier dissolution. That wasn't what I had in mind!

I am amused or bemused by John's ageist suggestion that 40 year olds are necessarily "eager evangelicals with nothing very much inside their brains" and 67 year olds necessarily "superannuated". They are just people with particular numbers on their birth certificates. And hopefully the same capacity to make me laugh as John did!

Posted by Turbulent priest at Wednesday, 30 April 2014 at 9:39pm BST

I write from experience, being pretty old myself.

I don't think trying to ensure a 'spread' of episcopal representation is 'just politics': it profoundly affects the overall health and harmony of the whole 'body politic' of the church. Self-evidently, I am not personally keen on ConEvos: but they need - and deserve - more representation.

Posted by John at Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 8:21am BST

Father David does not appreciate the vast tracts of countryside in Newcastle and Durham Dioceses. Newcastle goes right up to the Scottish border- beyond the Wall. We are much better as two and differ in characteristics as well. Up here we could actually be the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, but the Roman Catholics cleverly revived that name. Bishop Martin's Farewell Service is on September 21st. All these vacancies leave room for the excellent women we have to be made Bishops

Posted by Jean Mayland at Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 11:01am BST

As Father David was born and brought up in the Land of the Prince Bishops I think he knows a fair bit about the North East of England. Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't the Roman Catholic diocese of Hexham and Newcastle include both County Durham and Northumberland stretching as far North as Berwick upon Tweed and right up to the Scottish Border? As indeed did the Anglican diocese of Durham until the time of the great Bishop Lightfoot when the diocese of Newcastle was created. The Anglican diocese of Chelmsford and the Roman Catholic diocese of Brentwood are almost exactly coterminous and this has great ecumenical and missional benefits.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 7:08pm BST
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