Farewells: Tributes to bishops ‘who aren’t retiring’

15 July 2009

THE Synod said farewell to some familiar faces.

The Archbishop of York paid tribute to the retiring Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd George Cassidy, as a man who “walks tall” and who was “always ready to enter the fray. He stands no nonsense,” Dr Sentamu said. The Bishop had also had a no-nonsense determination to free diocesan structures and leaders for mission, reducing the committees and en­abling the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham to lead the way nation­ally in this respect. People were en­couraged to try out new ideas and think outside the box. The Bishop was a “fresh-air fiend”. Bishop Cassidy was “at ease with anyone, a man who makes friends wherever he goes”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury paid tribute, first, to the Rt Revd John Gladwin, retiring Bishop of Chelms­ford, who had shown a lifelong commitment to social justice. He had been director of the Shaftesbury project, chairman of Christian Aid, and secretary of the old Board for Social Responsibility.

His interventions in the House of Bishops would move the discussion to “a more sensible and constructive level”. He was retiring to Hertford­shire.

The retiring Bishop of Ports­mouth, Dr Kenneth Stevenson, had been the Bishops’ “shop steward” in the House of Lords. His chairman­ship of the Board of Education and the National Society was “hugely significant”, and he had “house-trained” many new Ministers of State in the importance of church schools. He had supported women’s ministry at every level.

He had been living with debilita­ting illness, and had used that ter­rible experience as a platform for Christian teaching and witness.

The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Stephen Venner, had “since this morn­ing” become Bishop to the Forces and remained Bishop to the Falk­land Islands. “Very few bishops actually retire,” Dr Williams said. “Stephen has taken this non-retirement to a new high.”

  In his ministry, he had spent 16 years in Southwark diocese, 18 years in Salisbury diocese, and five years as Bishop of Middleton, before becoming Bishop of Dover. He had developed a “wholly exemplary” involvement with Kent society. He was Pro-chancellor of Canterbury Christchurch University, and its development was “a very good news story”. He was “a colleague I have trusted, loved, and admired with all my heart”.

In saying farewell to the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir Ali, Dr Williams spoke of his non-attendance at last year’s Lambeth

Con­­­ference. He said that he had “toyed with the idea” that it was the absence of the Lambeth cricket match that had kept him away. “There may have been one or two other factors.” His absence had de­nied the Conference of his immense theological abilities and of an am­bidextrous spin bowler.

He was the first non-white dio­cesan bishop in the Church of Eng­land, “a very clear and tangible repres­entation of the fact that our Church of England is not a hermet­ically sealed body”.

Dr Williams praised him for his theological contributions to the Synod, including his chairing of the Ro­chester report on women in the episcopate. He had made sure that they did not make easy what was difficult nor, if it was difficult, think that it was not essential and life-giving.

The Bishop of Ely, Dr Anthony Russell, “a classical diocesan attend­ing to his patch”, had developed a unique ministry on behalf of rural England. He was sitting on a tractor on the day he had gone to theological college, and ever since he had helped raise awareness of the ever-changing and deeply problematic issues of the countryside, especially where aware­ness was lacking at the national level. He had brought a keen and scholarly perspective to bear on these issues.

The first woman Dean of the Arches since the office was created in 1426, Sheila Cameron was retiring after 52 years as a barrister. She was also one of the first women in chambers, at a time when some bar­risters would not even talk to women at the bar, and she had had to fight for equality.

She had been Chancellor in Chelmsford and London dioceses. Chancellors who were called before her were said to be like school­children summoned to see the head­mistress. She had served the Synod very, very well, and had brought a high degree of clarity to legal com­plexities, and had irradiated Synod with her warmth.

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