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10 October 2014


Hard-working Bishop of Winchester: the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt

Hard-working Bishop of Winchester: the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt

The Rt Revd Dr Geoffrey Rowell writes:

THE Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, who died on 27 September, aged 71, served as Bishop of Stafford from 1992 to 1995, and then for 15 years as Bishop of Winchester, until his retirement in 2011.

A tall and imposing figure, he was the son of classical musicians. His father, George, was making a reputation as a bass singer, attracting the appreciative notice of Sir John Barbirolli. When he abandoned his professional singing to respond to a call to ordination, it was a decision that contributed powerfully to Michael's own sense that he, too, might be called to the priesthood.

Educated at Bradfield (where he played leading roles in the Greek play), and at King's College, Cambridge, reading Classics and then Theology, he gained a First, under the wise but demanding supervision of Alec Vidler, at a time of theological ferment (Honest to God and Soundings). As Cambridge contemporaries, he and I were involved in many of the theological discussions that flourished at this time, including a survey of all Cambridge clergy, from professors to curates, about what ordination meant to them.

From Cambridge, he went on to train at Cuddesdon, under Robert Runcie, in 1965, marrying Lou, a fellow-classicist from Cambridge, the same year. His marriage and three children (Hannah, Matthew, and Jeremy) were significant and sustaining throughout his ministry. Runcie invited him to stay on as curate in the parish, and teaching biblical studies. After a short time as a team vicar in Newbury, where his pastoral care and responsibility for educational work were noted, he moved to Bicester in 1975, becoming Team Rector in a new team, really learning to be a parish priest, and bringing new life and energy to a tired parish. A further move, in 1982, took him to St Albans, as a canon residentiary, serving also as Director of Ordinands, and of Post-Ordination Training.

In 1992, Keith Sutton, the Bishop of Lichfield, appointed him as Area Bishop of Stafford, where his pastoral ministry, his enquiring mind, and disciplined spirituality became widely appreciated. The different culture of the North Midlands enlarged his horizons: involvement with the miners at the time of the closure of collieries, and interfaith bridge-building with the Muslim community in Stoke-on-Trent. The clergy appreciated his fair-mindedness, sensing that he was both humble and knowledgeable, as they did the generous and hospitable welcome that they characteristically received from him and Lou. He began to build a global view of the Church, through the Lichfield link with Malaysia, to which he went on an extended visit in 1993.

When the see of Winchester fell vacant, on the retirement of Colin James in 1995, Michael Scott-Joynt was appointed to succeed him, though after a long interregnum (resulting, it was thought, from unsuccessful attempts to persuade a diocesan bishop to accept translation, which had been usual for Winchester). Building on his experience at Stafford, Michael was soon perceived as a dedicated, hard-working bishop, knowing the clergy, and being known by them. His vision for the clergy and congregations of the diocese was that they should bear a "well-formed and confident witness to Christ".

His distinctive horizontal hand-writing earned him the nickname from some of "Linear M", and his concern with detail could lead to letters of long sentences with a multiplicity of semi-colons (one was once pinned to a school noticeboard illustrating how a single sentence could make up a substantial paragraph). At his farewell, there was a tongue-in-cheek reference to his "helping the diocese to understand mission by the use of subordinate clauses"!

If the downside of duty was a concern with micro-management, he was capable always of drawing out real warmth and affection, in which the hospitality of Wolvesey played an important part. He was widely respected and loved in the county, engaged across the area with local communities, civic leaders, and charities, and made great efforts to understand the unique patrimony of the Channel Islands.

Winchester had strong links with the Great Lakes region of Africa, together with an older link with Myanmar (Burma). These became very dear to his heart - particularly the Church in the Congo, which he visited on occasions; he was seen by the Congolese church leaders as one of their great friends. In the House of Lords, he made many challenging and informed speeches about the need to respond to the appalling abuse and violence in the north-west of that country. The sharp questioning of some of the mantras of contemporary culture, and of ethical issues related to marriage, sexuality, and the family, also featured in interventions in the House of Lords. On his retirement, Lord Strathclyde told the House that he would be "remembered for many great speeches".

His commitment to upholding the Church's traditional teaching on marriage, the family, and sexual relations, was rooted in his deep conviction that scripture and tradition had a normative authority for Christians in the ordering of their lives, to enable the human flourishing that was God's will. He read deeply and widely in this area, having a significant involvement in the various reports issued by the Church of England. He was always mindful of what we shared with the poorest Churches of the Anglican Communion in seeking the mind of the Church.

Rooted in an Anglican Catholic spirituality, he served for a number of years as Bishop Protector of the Franciscans, and valued his links with the Sisters of the Love of God at Fairacres. Although convinced of the rightness of the Church of England's decision to ordain women to the priesthood, he was always concerned for appropriate provision for those for whom this represented a departure from Catholic order and ministry.

He was disciplined, dutiful, and dedicated, with a strong sense of the importance of the Anglican Communion, and of the need to teach, preach, pray, and live a faith rooted in scripture. We give thanks for his witness and ministry.

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