farewell to three diocesan bishops


THE Chairman of the Works Council, Robert Hammond (Chelmsford), led the farewell at the close of the General Synod sessions on Tuesday afternoon paying homage to Doctor Jacqui Phillips. She had joined the national ecclesiastical institutions in 2014, he said, as synod clerk and general secretary. She had worked closely with her predecessor, Canon Sue Booys, to produce and develop the Synod app, “moving us away from paper to become a more sustainable electronic Synod”, and had facilitated the complexities of early hybrid sessions, and led the Synod support team. “Jacqui has a flair for design and style and had a constant desire to increase professionalism in our Church.”

This was demonstrated by the white decor used in York, he said. She had also supported Mr Hammond when he was elected to the committee, he continued, ‘altruistic in his time for me’. Dr Philips had also worked on the Council of Archbishops, governance reform, improving efficiency and culture, and safeguarding within the central secretariat, which “as recently as 2013” only had one full-time staff member for this task. She had identified that this needed to change and set up the National Backup Team (NCT).

Mr Hammond described her as a “women’s champion” in leadership positions and a friend to colleagues and Synod members. “We wish him all the best for the next stage of his career.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury bids farewell to the Bishop of Peterborough, the Very Reverend Donald Allister (News, July 8), who is due to retire on January 8, and was listening on Zoom. The Bishop will be remembered for his “generous and kind and principled character, humble and unassuming and amiable”, Archbishop Welby said. He had never stood on his own dignity, and his devotion to his family had been extraordinary. “He is a man of wisdom expressed in deep faith; he is someone who experienced the first words of the anthem “Amazing Grace”.

In his ministry, Bishop Allister had been deeply involved in relationships, which the Archbishop says he experienced during his diocesan visit to Peterborough. “He trusts others to take responsibility and is clear in his public support,” he said. Bishop Allister was serious about “getting things done and doing them well,” but laughed easily in his ministry. “He’s a people person.”

His leadership had enabled the leadership of others; he was also a talent scout in lay and ordained ministry, especially among the young, and in formation, Bishop Welby said. “‘The center of the diocese is the parish church’ was one of its slogans.”

His leadership during the pandemic was also commendable, having written to clergy, LLMs and churchwardens weekly with emotional intelligence. “The diocese felt held and held together,” the Archbishop said. Bishop Allister was first and foremost a teacher and preacher, and his accessible sermons had been much appreciated. “It looked simple, but the more you thought about it, the deeper it got.” He had also worked with ecumenical groups, in prison chaplaincy, charities and liaison dioceses, and was known for his pilgrimages to the Holy Land. He was not afraid of confrontation and had an “amazing” memory of canon law.

Bishop Allister had been willing to turn the tide and do things differently, and he will be greatly missed, Bishop Welby concluded.

The Archbishop of York then bade farewell to the Bishop of Blackburn, the Very Reverend Julian Henderson, who is due to retire after the Lambeth Conference, and who was in the chamber. Archbishop Cottrell had first met Bishop Henderson when the latter had chaired the business committee 12 years previously, “steering the synod through all manner of matters with a cool head, a shrewd administrative touch and a heart that was very obviously in the right place, only wanting to serve the Church.” Those same skills were “the foundation of so much joy, missionary endeavor and creativity” in the Diocese of Blackburn, Bishop Cottrell said.

He went on to recount Bishop Henderson’s ordained ministry in London, Chichester, and 20 years in the Diocese of Guildford “where, despite the burdensome demands of parish life and the duties of an archdeacon”, he had served as chaplain the mayor, chair of the criminal affairs group and the housing advisory committee, and — “wait” — the diocesan adviser for paranormal investigations.

Since 2013, when he became Bishop of Blackburn, “he has worked tirelessly to reshape the narrative and vision of the diocese by reaching people across Lancashire”. Archbishop Cottrell recalled his own recent visit to Lancashire (News, June 10), where he experienced “the great work that is going on” and was struck by “the unwavering and joyful emphasis on evangelism and witness”, “a lofty doctrine of mutual flourishing”, and “a bias for the poor”. It culminated in an evangelistic event on the “beautifully seedy” Blackpool Pleasure Beach, he said.

“As the diocese looks forward to its centenary in 2026, I want you to know that we know the time and energy you have invested will continue to pay off,” the Archbishop said. He praised the respect Bishop Henderson had earned, his listening, fostering good relationships, empathy and objectivity, and the leadership and pastoral care of the C of E Evangelical Council, which had been “hugely appreciated.” . Praising his last speech to the Lords on the upgrade (News, July 1), he said: ‘Although you are a self-identified southerner, you have been adopted by the north.’ The Archbishop also thanked Bishop Henderson’s wife and two children for their support.

Finally, Bishop Welby bid farewell to the Bishop of Birmingham, the Very Reverend David Urquhart, who will retire on October 18, at the age of 70, after 16 years in office (Actualité, May 13). He is the most senior bishop in the C of E. Bishop Urquhart had spent his sabbatical year in Uganda with CMS, where he had been invited to preach. The interpreter reportedly told the audience: “This young man doesn’t know what he’s talking about; so I’m going to give the sermon.

It was true, the Archbishop said, because as a result of his experience, Bishop Urquhart “owed his conversion” to the East African revival and the lives of Christians there. He had returned to the UK, gone to university and joined BP, “poor boy”, and served in commercial management in London and Belfast, before training for ordination and serving in Hull and Coventry.

The Bishop had “an extraordinary gift for friendship,” Bishop Welby said. He became chairman of the CMS trustees between 1994 and 2008, when he became interested in China. He was appointed Bishop of Birkenhead in 2000 and Bishop of Birmingham in 2006, when he was quoted saying he wanted to stay there until his retirement. His interreligious and ecumenical work in the diocese had been extraordinary.

“He transformed the diocese in many ways, but bringing its leaders together in a city that has always been the most secular in the UK. He started in a difficult place for the Church and worked there tirelessly and brilliantly.

He had also been an organizer for the Lords Spiritual, had formed good friendships with the Lords and had shown an interest and understanding for economics, business and local and regional government. Bishop Urquhart was Church Commissioner and President of the Council of Ridley Hall, Cambridge. He would also continue in his retirement as a senior envoy to international mining companies, working with the Transition Pathway Initiative.

Bishop Urquhart was indefatigable, went to bed late and rose early, often running, regardless of the events of the previous night. His godchildren had said that he always took them clubbing on vacation, and that they always came back before him. “What is interesting, continues Bishop Welby, is that all these children and godchildren and so many others who have been lost sheep know and love Jesus Christ. He is an evangelist of extraordinary skill, whose friendship and affections are genuine, whose sacrifice for others is continual. The Archbishop was grateful to have “gave his life every moment and in every way”.

Barry F. Howard