Sermon Preached at the Northern Provincial Festival 2012
Posted on the 15th September 2012 in the Category - Sermons
Those who have listened to my preaching across the years will know that I have one abiding hope. It is that Bristol Rovers might one day win the FA Cup! Before anyone laughs too much remember that, statistically speaking, there is more chance of that happening that of anyone of us winning big time on the Lottery. And, unlike playing the lottery, my particular fantasy costs me nothing.
All of us, in one way or another, have our dreams for the future. Following the recent royal wedding a little girl told me just how much she wanted to be a princess. The hard-pressed parent who spends her last pound on a scratch card desperately hopes that this will be the win that solves her immediate financial worries. It is a hard lesson for some of us to learn. Games of chance can only truly be great fun when, from the very first, we never seriously believe that we are likely to win. You and I might hope for a better summer next year than this year's. Nothing, however, can be done about it. We just have to hope and then wait and see. Compared with such hopes for the future the subsequent fortunes of Bristol Rovers begin to look a little better every time I consider them.
We Christians, though, are called to understand hope in quite a different way. Hope, for the Bible, is not to be thought of as longing for something that might just turn up. The Bible calls us to a faith that speaks of confidence in the future. The Bible talks the language of backing an absolute certainty. Jeremiah tells us that, even where God's own people are bent on ignoring Him, those who continue to trust in the Lord will be held as securely as a tree that sends its roots ever more deeply into the ground; roots that are sure of finding the water that eventually will provide the necessary nourishment. Jeremiah's confidence that God will look after the future, even as the present is falling apart all around him might well be a feeling that many of us gathered here today recognise all too easily. Yet, even Jeremiah's confidence is as nothing when viewed in the light of Easter Day. God shows us, then, that nothing whatsoever can defeat the love Jesus has shown on Good Friday. Even death is not going to have the final word. If there is one thing above all others to underline in every preparation for Baptism or for Confirmation it is that great truth. Nothing is going to defeat God's purpose. Jesus' death and resurrection are, as it were, the seal, the rubber stamp, on God's promise never to give up on us or to let us down. The First Letter of Saint Peter, our second reading today, might even have come originally from a sermon preached to folk as they were about to be baptised and confirmed. The very first thing of which those new Christians are reminded is that in their new birth, that is their baptism, they are going to share a living hope. A living hope is one certain that all the negativity with which you and I meet in our world will never have the last word. Ruth Etchells, that great theologian from Durham, only recently died, used to speak of her father's constant reassurance during wartime. Whenever Ruth would express her fears as to how the war might end, even in the darkest moments of such times as Dunkirk or the Blitz, her father, immediately and confidently, would reassure her that eventually Hitler would be defeated. God offers a similar reassurance to you and me. Anything that stands in the way of God's loving purpose will eventually be swept aside. If you or I should doubt it, all we have to do is turn once again to the message of Good Friday and of Easter Day.
Yes, we Catholic Anglicans do live in difficult times. Some within our church still seemdetermined on backing away from the promises made to us in the Nineteen-nineties. We view,with some concern, the outcome of the recent House of Bishops Meeting. We fear a retreat from the recent proposals that seemed to throw us a lifebelt even in these latter stages of the debate about the rightness or otherwise of women bishops. Many of us here today could probably offerlong lists of seemingly unfair treatment we have received in the past, not to mention our fears for something even worse in the future. We Catholic Anglicans, though, are not to reconstitute ourselves into some kind of society for the promoting of despair. God is in charge. The Church is Christ's Body. Christ is the Church's head and no-one else. You and I need, perhaps, to see both ourselves, and our present situation, just a little more in proportion. God, in the words of the famous hymn, is working His purpose out. You and I have a living hope. We do not need to use up so much of our energy in worrying about final outcomes. T S Eliot wrote these famous lines:We had the experience but we missed the meaning. I sometimes fear that you and I are so busy seeking the meaning amongst the arguments that at present consume our church that we then lose out on the wonderful experience of what it is to live, trust and hope as a Catholic Christian in the first place.
Christ is Lord of the Church. It is His will that is going to prevail in the end. That ought to give you and me a little more confidence to live with some untidy anomalies as we wait for God's will to prevail. How strange that so many of those who wish radical1y to alter the Church's age long practice as to who might be ordained, claim, almost in the same breath, that anything that would allow a proper accommodation of our needs, would be a gross breach of Catholic Order. You and I can only hold to a doctrine of open reception on this issue because, ultimately, we believe, it is Christ, Lord of the Church, whose Spirit will lead us into all truth. We must now have the courage to go forward in such trust. It is not unreasonable, though, to seek the same humility in those who see things differently from us.
The lives of many of us here today have been overshadowed, for the past forty or so years, by the wonderful work of ARCIC, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. That great work is only going to be finally brought to completion when our two churches are once again united. If ever that great day is to come, there must first, surely, be a consistent and determined group of Anglicans who hold to a Catholic understanding of the Church and are determined to win around the rest of our Church to that same viewpoint. Conviction politicians do not give up when they are losing in the polls. They seek, rather, to hold their ground and fight for a comeback. Unless, or until, the Church of England should take from us the guarantees of a true Catholic ministry, refusing us genuine bishops, we should be seeking to hold firm and to fight the battle confident in our living hope, Jesus Christ. And, dare I say it, even if, as we sometimes fear in our worst moments, there were eventually to be no honourable place for us within the Church of England and you and I had to go, we would do so without bitterness. We would still remain confident in Christ, our living hope, who would in His own time and His own way, resolve the situation.
Movements within the Church rise and fall. Even Bishops of Beverley come and go! This particular Northern Festival, for me, of course, is overshadowed by the fact that it will be the last I share with you as Bishop of Beverley. The future, though, belongs to Christ; not to any of us, no matter how important we might think ourselves to be.
When the General Synod was meeting in February a young Anglican rightly asked us to start talking about Jesus and not of such items as the ordination of women to the episcopate. How right she is; save for one thing. The Church is Christ's Body. The ministry within it is Jesus' ministry. You and I seek nothing more than to proclaim Jesus. Our passion for Catholicism stems only from the conviction that within it we find Jesus most authentically proclaimed. Here today you and I, in this Holy Mass, show the Lord's death until He comes again. Jesus, ourliving hope, is here with us. You and I are caught up, once again, in the timeless worship of heaven. Our living hope is now a present reality. Your concern and mine is to offer that saving experience to our world.
Posted on the 1st September 2012 in the Category - News
THANK YOU. I had not thought to issue another bulletin but the events of the past few weeks have quite changed my mind. Betty and I have been overwhelmed by the greetings and gifts that have been showered on us. Things have been written and said that we will long remember. Many of you, together with folk from your parishes, have contributed very generously to the farewell gifts that were presented to us at York. Betty is now the proud owner of a powerful lamp that will help to facilitate her botanical painting. I am now the proud owner of a laptop computer. Without Lynn’s guiding hand to lead me around the remarkable world of the internet the mastery of the laptop should present the first major challenge of retirement! We now plan a somewhat more substantial holiday than we had envisaged for next year. Do be sure to pass our thanks to all your people and know how grateful we are to you.
THE NEW BISHOP OF BEVERLEY. An added joy of the past few weeks has been to learn that my successor is to be Canon Glyn Webster of York Minster. Across the past twelve years he has been a key figure in helping the Northern Provincial Festival to run smoothly and to see that our needs were well understood and provided for when we worshipped in York Minster. CanonWebster was an early member of he support group I established early on in my time as PEV, to advise me as I found my feet in what to me was then a new ministry. He is a long serving member of the Catholic Group in the General Synod and widely acclaimed as a skilled pastor. We are greatly blessed by his appointment and assure him both of our prayers and of our loyalty.
A NEW PROVINCIAL MASTER FOR SSC. Whether or not we are brethren of the Society of the Holy Cross we all recognise the important role that the Society and its Master play in promoting the ‘traditionalist’ cause within our church. In England alone there are some eight hundred brethren and many of them are to be numbered among those who serve in the Northern Province. It is therefore a particular delight that the new Provincial Master is from among our number. We congratulate Father Nicholas Spicer, vicar of Worksop Priory, on his election and assure him of our prayer as he fulfils such an important ministry within our church.
IN MEMORIAM. Since the previous bulletin we record the following deaths:
Brian Godsell (Durham), Robert Mace (Wakefield), John Andrews (York), HarryOgden (Blackburn),
Ivon Baker (York), and Geoffrey Good (Wakefield). May they rest in peace and rise in glory.
Be assured of my prayers and good wishes. Please remember Betty and me in your prayers as, for a final time, I sign off the Bishop of Beverley’s Bulletin.
Annoucement of the next Bishop of Beverley
Posted on the 29th August 2012 in the Category - Announcements
Her Majesty The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Canon Glyn Webster, to the Suffragan See of Beverley, in the Diocese of York. The announcement was formally made at York Minster this morning.
The Archbishop of York said:
“I am most grateful to Her Majesty the Queen for her approval of the appointment of The Revd Canon Glyn Webster, Canon Chancellor and Acting Dean of York Minster, in succession to the Right Reverend Martyn Jarrett on his retirement on 30 September 2012.
“The Bishop of Beverley is a Suffragan Bishop in the Province of York. The Bishop’s role is that of a Provincial Episcopal Visitor, assisting in the pastoral care of those parishes that have petitioned for Extended Episcopal Care under the Act of Synod – the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood.
“Glyn worked as a State Registered Nurse at the Royal Infirmary, Blackburn, before training for the ministry at Cranmer Hall, Durham.
“After eleven years as Vicar of St Luke’s York, and part-time Senior Chaplain of York District Hospital, he became the full-time Chaplain there. He served as Rural Dean of the Deanery of York for ten years. He was appointed as Canon Treasurer of York Minster in 2000, and has been Canon Chancellor there since 2003. He is currently the Acting Dean of York Minster.
“Canon Webster brings a wealth of experience of work in the Cathedral, the Diocese of York, the Province of York as Prolocutor of the Convocation of York since 2000, and in the national Church, where he has served on General Synod since 1995. He is a member of the Crown Nominations Commission and serves on the Archbishops’ Council. He is also Chaplain to Her Majesty The Queen.
“This rich experience and his deep trust in God and love for all people, will help the people and clergy in the Province of York .
“We welcome The Revd Canon Glyn Webster most warmly to this new
Glyn Webster, Bishop of Beverley Designate, said:
"I am honoured and humbled to have been approached to take on this role as a Suffragan Bishop of Beverley at this very crucial time in the church. I am passionately committed to the unity of the whole life of the Church of England; never wanting to encourage people to operate as a church within a church.
"It’s really important to our future life together if we are going to make any impact on this nation of ours with the gospel of Christ that we remain together. I hope to make my contribution in this new role and I look forward to serving with the Archbishop."
Bishop Martyn Jarrett has said he is delighted by Father Webster's appointment:
“Father Webster is a fine priest with great pastoral sympathies, as well as being someone who has wide experience within the Church of England. We will all be great enriched by the ministry of our new Provincial Episcopal Visitor.”
For photos from this morning’s announcement, please visit:
Sermon for the Staff Mass prior to the commencement of General Synod
Posted on the 6th July 2012 in the Category - Sermons
For I came not to call the righteous but sinners.
Matthew 9, v13
It seems basically to be the same agenda. There are concerns about public life and civil disorder. People wonder how to bring lasting peace to the world. There is an immense dispute raging over the right understanding of ordained ministry, where power ultimately resides when it comes to making hard decisions and how far dissenters can and should be accommodated.
No, I am not talking about the agenda ahead of us for the meeting of the General Synod but of the issues pressing in upon the national Church in the middle years of the reign of King Henry VIII. It was on this day, 6th July 1535, that Thomas More was executed, just two weeks after the same fate had befallen John Fisher, the saintly Bishop of Rochester. In my more unguarded moments, something that gives me some consolation as I look through the names of the many Englishmen and women who have had their names commemorated in our Common Worship calendar, is that one of the qualities that so many of them share seems to be an immense capacity for always parting ways with the majority opinion within the Established Church!
Henry VIII’s England was increasingly at risk from civil disorder, not least as he moved against those who questioned his divorce and subsequent attack on parts of the Church. Perhaps, more threatening, as Thomas More, himself, clearly identified, were those who had imbibed parts of the new Protestant theology now gaining ground in mainland Europe. They were busy telling folk that they were free under God to believe what they could discern from the Scriptures without need of reference to either king or bishop. Changes were afoot as to how the Church should be governed. For the minority who dissented, the choice was stark as the fate of Fisher and More demonstrates so clearly. And, as this sad period of history moved onwards, there would be those who thought that mission and evangelisation should rather be the main claim on the Church’s energy. By the time that Henry’s daughters were on the throne, people like Francis Xavier would be proclaiming the Gospel in parts of the world beyond Europe, despairing at a Church that had become so caught up in its own internal struggles.
There is then a real sense in the life of the Church of ‘what goes around comes around’. In this, as in every age, the Gospel is entrusted to us. With that responsibility, though, there ever comes both the demand for faithfulness and also, it seems, the persistent temptation to be distracted from the essence of our mission. You and I rightly are warned, time and time again, of the danger of fiddling while Rome burns; though, perhaps, on this occasion we need to replace Rome with Canterbury!
I came not to call the righteous but sinners.
The first response of any Synod to its Lord must be that of penitence, of a change of heart. We can perhaps draw some comfort from the knowledge that only those who know they are part of an all too sinful Church can then use that self-awareness ever to generate a re-focusing on God and on His purposes. A Synod that cannot do this would be all too like that man in the parable, who was so completely lacking in self-knowledge that he could only stand in the Temple and thank God that he was not as other men are. Penitence is not just about continually beating ourselves up over the state of the Church but, rather, the constant stimulus to address our failings and then to move forwards.
Re-focusing on Christ in penitence can also sometimes lead us to revisit the statements that so easily slip off our tongues and so see them for being exactly that. It is uncritically fashionable at the present time to set the frequent discussion within the Church concerning its right ordering against the pressing claims of the world, whether that be in terms of the Palestine-Israel conflict or the recent disruption that has taken place within some of our own cities. And all that is before we consider the immense issues of world evangelisation. It might just be that before we buy this package too uncritically you and I need to recall that this has not always been the prevailing wisdom.
Think for a moment of another great English churchman whose name has only recently been added to our Church calendar: Bishop George Bell. Bell was passionately interested in world affairs, appalled by the indiscriminate bombing of Germany, and desperate to support the Christian church in that land as it sought to witness against Nazism. It was this very concern that brought George Bell to focus on issues of Church order and to become such a prominent founding member of the Ecumenical Movement. He realised, all too well, that only a Church that was seen as part of a united, greater whole could carry sufficient weight against Nazism and that, in similar terms, only a Church in England that saw the German Church as part of itself would be able to make the right moral judgements in coming to the aid of its Christian brothers and sisters. A common ministry bonding the Church together was an essential ingredient in this quest. We may well take our different positions on the ministerial questions before the General Synod during these coming days. You and I only do so because we see how much those decisions will bear on the future mission of the Church. We should not apologise for such concern; rather we can only thank God for His call to an ever sinful Church to reform itself.
Jesus comes to sinners to make them righteous. The Church, as and other bishops have been reminding countless people at ordination services these past few days, is Christ’s Body. That is something to be taken seriously, so seriously that those to be ordained priests are warned of the punishment that will follow if they do harm to any of its members. In our concern for the Church, you and I are concerned authentically to radiate Jesus Himself, sinless, completely integrated and seeking to bring the whole world within that integration. Perhaps it is time to stop at least some of our apologies for giving time to the Church and its ministry. It is all part of seeking to maintain the Church as one so that the world might believe. Unity and mission are inseparable.
Many years ago, when the film A Man For All Seasons was first being shown, I enjoyed a meal with my with local GP. A good and pragmatic lady, she remarked to me of Thomas More: “I could not help thinking he could have saved himself a lot of trouble.” But even the pragmatist must base his or her pragmatism on some principles. More said that ultimately, if the world were to grasp the true faith, then the ministerial issue, in his day the one of papal or royal supremacy, mattered. The integrity embodied in Jesus had to be something both witnessed to and offered by the Church.
It is in allowing that process to be done and done well that those who service the work of General Synod play such an essential part. I believed it when I once worked in Church House. I believe it even more having experienced that work through the eyes of a Synod member. As long as you and I do not forget that we are but sinners in need of Christ and being sought by Him, we will all be genuine agents in ever seeking to bring the Church into greater conformity with His will. And, now, in this Eucharist, we enjoy a foretaste of that perfect Church which is completely one inChrist.
Letter to the Times from Catholic Bishops
Posted on the 3rd July 2012 in the Category - News
Sir, We support the initiative to promote unity and our common life and mission within the Church of England called Better Together.
The Church of England finds itself in a difficult place as it approaches the General Synod in July and the debate on the ordination of women to the episcopate. There remains, frustratingly for us all, a clear lack of consensus on the best way to proceed.
We believe that two principles, long accepted by the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion, remain at the heart of this debate. The first is that it is the will of the majority that women be ordained as bishops.
The second is that a way must be found to respect the minority who are unpersuaded that this is a theological development which they can, in conscience, embrace. Recognition of this conviction must benefit the Church of England as a whole.
This debate is grounded on sincerely held theological convictions. As the Archbishop of Canterbury said, this is not simply a matter of opinion but of obedience: obedience to Scripture, to Tradition, to the wider consensus of the universal Church.
On the one hand there is the majority wish of members of the Church of England, voicing, perhaps, the perceived norms of wider society around issues of equality.On the other hand, our attention is being called to the mind of the Church catholic East and West. This is that “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” of which, in its Declaration of Assent, the Church of England claims to be a part.
As bishops committed to furthering the mission of the Church of England to all the people of this nation, we are also deeply mindful of our vocation to be guardians of the faith and to work for the full visible unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ. We pray for consensus and a way forward.
We are wholeheartedly committed to honouring those women whom the Church of England calls to the ordained ministry. We ask, too, for that proper respect for conscience which will continue to allow all traditions in our Church to flourish without detriment to one another.
The Right Rev Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe;
The Right Rev Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Ebbsfleet;
The Right Rev Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester;
The Right Rev Nicholas Reade, Bishop of Blackburn;
The Right Rev Norman Banks, Bishop of Richborough;
The Right Rev John Ford, Bishop of Plymouth;
The Right Rev John Goddard, Bishop of Burnley;
The Right Rev Martyn Jarrett, Bishop of Beverley;
The Right Rev Tony Robinson, Bishop of Pontefract;
The Right Rev Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham;
The Right Rev Peter Wheatley, Bishop of Edmonton