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General Synod: appointments and farewells

01 March 2019

Geoff Crawford

The Rt Revd Graham James and his wife, Julie, and the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott and his wife, Margaret, in the gallery

The Rt Revd Graham James and his wife, Julie, and the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott and his wife, Margaret, in the gallery

THE Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, moved the Synod’s approval of the appointment of the new Chair of the Pensions Board, Clive Mather. After an executive career in business, Mr Mather had previously chaired Tearfund and also the Shell pensions trust. The motion was carried.

The Archbishop of Canterbury proposed the appointment of two new members of the Archbishops’ Council: the Revd Charlotte Cook and Joseph Diwakar. She was previously a member of the Church of England Youth Council, while he was currently a pioneer missioner on one of the newest estates in London. Their commitment to “sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and seeing the Church of England thrive and grow will prove vital”, the Archbishop said.

The Chair of the House of Laity, Dr Jamie Harrison (Durham), thank the two retiring members for their service and supported the new appointments.

David Lamming (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) also welcomed the appointments, and asked whether the two new members — who would be ex officio Synod members — had been invited to join the rest of this group of sessions.

Annika Matthews (Church of England Youth Council) had attended the church where Ms Cook was assistant curate last year and “heartily” endorsed her appointment. She also praised the diversity of the interviewees for the appointments.

Archbishop Welby said the pair had not been invited because it would have been presumptuous to do so before their appointments had been formally confirmed by the General Synod. This was then done.



THERE were farewells on Friday and Saturday afternoons.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said farewell to the retiring Bishop of Dover (Canterbury), the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, who was in the gallery with his wife, Margaret. “He knows his strengths and his weaknesses,” Archbishop Welby said. “He is one of the hardest-working bishops I have come across in the House,” and had done much of the “unseen work”. The Archbishop thanked Bishop Willmott for adding to his portfolio his care of the Channel Islands. “I know how much they have appreciated your ministry.”

Being the Bishop of Dover was one of the most demanding and difficult jobs, “doing all the yucky, miserable bits, the grind, labour, and toil, and then this wretched character breezes in and takes all the fun bits. I am conscious that, when I turn up . . . I am treading on paths Trevor has laid.”

Bishop Willmott and his wife were extraordinarily hospitable wherever they went, and many refugees had been made to feel loved and nurtured by God.

The Synod applauded.

The Archbishop then bade farewell to the Bishop of Norwich since 1999, the Rt Revd Graham James, speaking of his “clear vision” and profound love for the people of his diocese. “He chairs bishops’ meetings wisely, he made it clear that no more words were needed, or welcome.” Many Synod members would remember his “prompt and brisk” answers to questions. He had been known as the “great dictator” at Lambeth on account of his laborious note-taking. The go-to media bishop, he was willing to talk about difficult and complex issues when others were unavailable, and had been one of the most effective performers in the public square, with a “profound sense of history”.

Bishop James had been chairing the independent Inquiry into the conviction of surgeon Ian Paterson “profoundly and effectively”, the Archbishop said; and he himself would miss “straightforward and wise words”.

Synod members stood to applaud.

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, bade farewell to Stephen Slack, the Synod’s Chief Legal Adviser since 2001, and “the human face of ecclesiastical law”. There was a standing ovation to him. He had brought together the legal functions at Church House into a single team, and brought great legal wisdom to the civil-partnership act and equalities legislation to ensure that freedom of religion was included in legislation. His work had also been crucial in the legislation allowing women to be consecrated bishops, Dr Sentamu said.

Archbishop Welby also paid tribute to Dr Jonathan Spencer, the chair of the Pensions Board. He said that Dr Spencer had a “calm and reassuring” approach, but had not been afraid to challenge when necessary. He had stayed on an extra year after the death of the board’s CEO, in a voluntary capacity, and had been at the forefront of ethical and responsible investment. He has done much to change the pension world’s attitude towards climate change.


New Year Honours list.

A FORMER Liverpool Diocesan Registrar and Cathedral Chapter Clerk, Roger Arden, was among the churchpeople honoured in the New Year Honours list. He was appointed MBE for services to the community in Liverpool. He is a trustee of the Francis Neilson Trust, which supports the musical education and opportunities for cathedral choristers. He has also led the Rosemary Project, a charitable housing-scheme for young people.

Click here to read about other General Synod debates and motions

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