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Feeding the Lord’s sheep

by
27 June 2014

John Flack reads an account of the office and work of a bishop

A Bishop's Ministry: Reflections and resources for church leadership
David Tustin
Paragon Publishing £14.95
(978-1-78222-148-7)

DAVID TUSTIN was Bishop of Grimsby from 1979 to 2001. Besides serving as a suffragan bishop in a large diocese, he has had a considerable national and international ministry, notably in the field of ecumenical dialogue. There is thus no one better qualified to prepare a book on the wide scope of Anglican episcopal ministry.

A Bishop's Ministry draws heavily on Tustin's own pilgrimage, from the moment he received an invitation to discuss the possibility of becoming a bishop through to his retirement. Along the way, he helps us to understand the meaning of episcopal ordination, and how he made the transition from parish priest to suffragan bishop. He gives a good insight into what this transition meant for himself, his wife, and his family, and the changes that he had to make to his spiritual and theological journey.

We are given a detailed account of a bishop's ministry within the Church in its teaching, preaching, liturgical, and missional aspects. The reader is left in no doubt about the meaning of episcopal oversight. There is an excellent section (20 pages) on the process of selecting, training, ordaining, and supporting ordained ministers.

Tustin also explains the importance of belonging to an episcopal team, and the sharing of learning, friendship, and support which he received from Bishops Simon Phipps, Bob Hardy, Bill Ind, and Alistair Redfern.

The book moves on to describe the bishop's ministry beyond the Church in building bridges in society, and relating to civic authorities, industry, and education. And - as we would expect - there is a formidable chapter on "fostering visible Christian unity". I found myself reading this chapter three times in order to digest everything in it. It is well worth the read for any keen ecumenist.

Tustin is a noted linguist, and in this book he interprets (and sometimes re-translates) the Latin writings of St Gregory the Great and St Bernard of Clairvaux, who have so much wisdom to impart on the theology and practice of episcopacy. Even though these were first written in the sixth and 12th centuries, Tustin makes them relevant for today. There are more than 20 pages of quotations from Gregory and Bernard scattered throughout the book. Anyone who is about to become a bishop will read and study these pages with profit, and will return to them many times.

There is a short section in this book which explores the balance between episcopal and synodical government. This relationship remains challenging in the contemporary Church of England, and it would have been helpful to have a longer reflection on it, with some examples.

Not every bishop will want to do things Tustin's way, as we are all shaped by our own personalities - which this book makes clear. And be careful: A Bishop's Ministry is not a book to be read at one sitting. It is, rather, a resource that may be consulted at any time on a range of episcopal issues and experiences. Indeed, trying to read it all at once may well put off anyone preparing for episcopal ordination. But it is a book to have on the episcopal shelf, a quarry of wisdom and insight excavated by long experience.

Older bishops might use chapter 3 "What consecration means" as a way of observing the anniversary of their own consecration. The same applies to the sermon by Michael Mayne which can be found in the appendix.

All in all, this book is worth the £14.95 it costs; but have a twinkle in your eye when you read it.

The Rt Revd John Flack is an honorary assistant bishop in the dioceses of Peterborough, Ely, and Europe.

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