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Bishops Ian Ramsey and John V. Taylor recalled

30 January 2015


From the Bishop of Bolton

Sir, - I was both fascinated and greatly encouraged to read Bishop John Saxbee's article commemorating the centenary of the birth of Bishop Ian Ramsey (Features, 23 January).

The Durham University Mission in 1969, described in the article, was literally a life-changing few days for me. At the time, I was a first-year undergraduate, and went along, somewhat reluctantly, it has to be said, at the invitation of a friend, to hear a varied and inspiring group of speakers. These included Ramsey himself, Bishop Michael Hare-Duke, and the Revd David Watson.

As a result of that week, and especially the night that David Watson spoke, my "inherited" faith became personal in a new way, and within weeks I had a strong sense of God's calling me into ordained ministry. I know I was not the only young undergraduate to be deeply affected by that mission week.

Over the course of the next three years, until his untimely death, I had the opportunity of hearing Bishop Ian speak on a number of occasions, and little did I realise then that one day I would have the privilege as Bishop myself, of holding the title of the very town from which this working-class lad came.

Bishop's Lodge, Walkden Road, Worsley, Manchester M28 2WH

From Penny Thompson

Sir, - In 1970, the report of the Durham commission on religious education, The Fourth R, was published. The commission had worked for three years under the chairmanship of Ian Ramsey. It was a great undertaking, with sections on history of RE, contemporary theology, theology of education, moral education in county schools, collective worship, RE in other countries, and independent and church schools.

The commission and its various sub-committees were served by ten professors, and the sub-committee on theology included six professors. Serving teachers and church lay people also sat on the commission. Ramsey's successor as Nolloth Professor of the Christian Religion at Oxford, Basil Mitchell, contributed an appendix, "Indoc-trination", and also chaired the sub-committee on moral education.

The commission was set up in response to a time of great uncertainty in RE, as the logical positivists undermined old certainties about speaking about God. Its conclusions have been debated and, at the time, the pioneering work of Ninian Smart seemed to gain more attention when, with impeccable timing, he published Schools' Council Working Paper 36 a year later. It may be, however, that the support Ramsey gave to the part played by Christianity in RE has proved the more long-lasting. The 1988 ERA, with its insistence on the teaching of Christianity, is one example.

The Fourth R certainly remains a remarkable and very readable document, and an example of Ramsey's ability to respond with enormous energy at a time of crisis. PENNY THOMPSON

14 Chestnut Ave, Crosby, Liverpool L23 2SZ 

From the Revd Ian Tomlinson

Sir, - Reading Philip Welsh's essay on the position of bishops (Comment, 9 January) reminded me of the approachable Bishop John V. Taylor's response to me when I petitioned him to support the non-sale of the allotments here, owned by the diocese, for development.

He replied: "Always remember that the centre of the diocese is on the periphery." This somewhat gnomic statement went down a treat when I read it out to the PCC, who were glad to receive a letter, some time later, to let them know that their cauliflowers and potatoes were safe, as the decision to sell had been reversed.

Truly a bishop on the boundary!

The Rectory, Ragged Appleshaw, Andover SP11 9HX

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