06 February 2008

The Ven. Leslie Stanbridge writes:

Enthusiast for the Church’s healing ministry: Bishop Maddocks in 1993 KEITH ELLIS

Enthusiast for the Church’s healing ministry: Bishop Maddocks in 1993 KEITH ELLIS

THE Rt Revd Morris Maddocks, who died on 19 January, aged 79, was noted above all for his development of the healing ministry in the Church of England.

Morris came from Chichester Theological College in 1954 to begin his ministry in west London, where he served two curacies. In 1958, he moved to York diocese, at the invitation of Archbishop Ramsey, to care for three rural parishes in the Yorkshire Wolds — Weaverthorpe, Helperthorpe, and Luttons Ambo — where his infectious enthusiasm, and that of Anne, his wife, produced the unlikely result of a church choir and a local musical festival.

After three years on the Wolds, Morris and Anne moved to the fashionable seaside high-church parish of St Martin’s, Scarborough, where Morris encouraged its fine tradition of good music and thoughtful preaching. He developed a notable pastoral ministry to holidaymakers, to the five schools in the parish, and to the actors at the Futurist Theatre, where at one time he was preparing nine of the Black and White Minstrels for confirmation.

It was during his time at Scarborough, in 1968, that Morris first heard George Bennett speak about his vision for the healing ministry in the Church. George was Director of the Divine Healing Mission, and had a nationwide ministry aimed at making healing part of the work of every parish. Morris was in many ways his successor in calling on the Church to take seriously the call not only to preach the gospel, but to heal the sick.

George conducted a Healing Mission at St Martin’s, and soon there was an Intercession Group to support Morris’s own ministry of healing. It became clear to him at this point that the Church needed a strong theology of healing to support its ministry. He eventually produced The Christian Healing Ministry, on the theology, history and practice of healing in the Church (SPCK, 1981). This was followed later by smaller books on healing, to bring an understanding of the ministry to lay people.


In the meantime, Morris had in 1972 joined Archbishop Coggan’s staff as Bishop of Selby, sharing the pastoral responsibility with me, the Archdeacon of York, of more than 200 parishes in York and the surrounding countryside. Morris and Anne were much loved by the clergy and lay people, and affectionately known as “Morris and Anne our Bishop”. Morris’s smile was famous — I often thought of him as Tigger (with myself as Eeyore) — and his thoughtful and profound preaching was widely valued. He was responsible for setting up an Industrial Mission in the Selby Coalfield.

His vision for healing ministry soon issued in training courses for clergy and laity, and the beginning of the ministry in many parishes. The Healing Prayer Fellowship, which he founded, still continues its work. Seeing a need in the north of England for a home of healing like Burrswood in Sussex, Morris set up a house at Spennithorne in Wensleydale. This work has continued, and flourishes in Holy Rood House at Thirsk, now a notable centre of study, research, and ministry in the varied work of healing, as well as a place of quiet care and retreat.

After the publication of his book in 1981, it is perhaps not surprising that two years later a call came to Morris from Archbishop Runcie to be Adviser on the Ministry of Health and Healing to the two Archbishops. No stipend was offered. In a great leap of faith, Morris and Anne accepted this challenge, and left the pleasant and enjoyable work in York for an unknown and insecure future.

An impressive service in Wells Cathedral inaugurated Morris’s new ministry, which was to be based in that diocese, but the search for a suitable house proved fruitless, and in the event Morris and Anne settled in Salisbury.

Meanwhile, in order to support his ministry financially, and to extend his work, Morris, with the help of an exceptionally able and committed group of laymen, founded the Acorn Christian Healing Trust. In every diocese, Morris encouraged the Bishop to appoint an adviser on healing, and in nearly all the cathedrals he arranged a Festival of Healing.

When he came to York for such a festival in 1991, the congregation filling the cathedral nave came from every part of Yorkshire, and included many who were not Anglicans; for Morris worked across the denominational boundaries, and aimed at making healing a part of the mainstream ministry of all the Churches.


Through generous gifts, the Acorn Trust was able to set up a fine headquarters at Borden, in Hampshire, where a community undergirded Morris’s own ministry, and developed the work of healing in new ways, not least in the development of the ministry of listening.

The House of Bishops’ report on healing, A Time to Heal, published in 2000, acknowledged Morris and Anne’s valuable contribution to the healing ministry by founding the Acorn Trust and encouraging the Church of England “to engage in this ministry more expectantly”.

Morris and Anne spent their retirement in Chichester, living in the cathedral close and enjoying the daily worship of the Cathedral, while Morris continued a fruitful personal ministry. Anne died in 2006. They left no children.

The Revd Russell Parker adds: In 1983, Morris resigned as Suffragan Bishop of Selby in order to become Founding Director of the Acorn Christian Healing Foundation. Its purpose was to resource the teaching and practice of Christian healing as a normal part of the Church’s mission.

Any man who surrenders his bishop’s mantle to become an itinerant, with no permanent home, must have had a passion about what he is getting himself into. For Morris, his most lasting legacy will be the Acorn Foundation, and its impact on the proper practice of Christian healing in the Church of England and far beyond. He made it safe: he rescued it from being regarded as an obsession or an oddity of the reckless and unsafe few.

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