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General Synod digest: Farewells to the First Church Estates Commissioner, retiring bishops, and others

16 July 2021
YouTube/Church of England

Synod members applaud and wave

Synod members applaud and wave

THE Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, led the farewell to the First Church Estates Commissioner, Loretta Minghella, who was the first woman to serve in that position. She began her career as a solicitor, but rapidly rose through the financial-regulation profession, ending as chief executive of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Then, from 2010, she moved sideways to run Christian Aid, before taking on the post of leading the Church Commissioners in 2017. Her big brain cohabited with an enormous heart, Dr Walker said. “Her deep faith shines through in all the work she does, and, importantly, the way she goes about it.”

She had also been a tough and trailblazing figure when needed, he said. She had been appointed OBE for her part in overseeing the paying-out of £21 billion in compensation during the financial crisis in 2008.

At the Commissioners, she had ensured excellent financial returns despite challenging conditions, and had strengthened their responsible-investment arm, particularly in the transition to a low-carbon economy, Dr Walker said. She was leaving to become the first Principal of Clare College, Cambridge.

The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, then led the farewell to the Bishop of Beverley, the Rt Revd Glyn Webster. Bishop Webster had served his ministry as an assistant curate, hospital chaplain, vicar, rural dean, residentiary canon, acting dean, and now suffragan bishop in the diocese of York. He had also served as a member of the Synod, in the Archbishops’ Council, and in many other positions in the Church, where he had been of “huge benefit to the Church”.

He had served more than 100 parishes across the Northern Province which had requested his sacramental and pastoral provision. This had not always been an easy task, but Bishop Webster had navigated through these with humour, a twinkle in his eye, and much graciousness, Archbishop Cottrell said.

The Archbishop then moved on to say farewell to the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff. He said that the Church owed him huge thanks, primarily for how he had led the process of legalising women bishops through the Synod. But he had also worked hard as the Bishop to Prisons, “speaking powerfully in the Lords on prison reform and restorative justice”. He had helped to scrutinise appointments work, and chaired efforts to boost diversity in the Church.

Bishop Langstaff was the kind of person who always got up after falling down, doing so most recently after a cancer diagnosis. The diocese and national Church would miss this “very faithful servant who often takes on the tougher and less glamorous assignments”, Archbishop Cottrell said.

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, needed little introduction. “He is something of a phenomenon: that rare thing of a person with big vision but at the same time a brilliant grasp of small detail, and a pragmatist to boot,” Archbishop Cottrell said. He had given time and creativity to the Synod, sitting on numerous committees and taking on a variety of posts since 1985.

Bishop Broadbent had moved to the London diocese in 1980, serving as Archdeacon of Northolt and latterly Bishop of Willesden. He was also one of the main drivers behind Spring Harvest, uniting Evangelical Christians across denominations, besides leading the simplification process to “shred red tape to enable the local church to be set free to proclaim the gospel”.

Bishop Broadbent was not a conventional bishop, but he would be missed, Archbishop Cottrell said, especially at the Synod.

Archbishop Cottrell then bade farewell to the former Bishop at Lambeth and Bishop to the Forces, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton. He had trained for the priesthood at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, before serving his title in the then diocese of Wakefield. Later, he became the diocesan director of ordinands and bishop’s chaplain, before moving to work in theological education in Essex and east London, and serving also in London diocese.

He had been consecrated bishop in 2001 for the see of Sherborne, and had been translated to Truro in 2008. in the House of Lords, he had spoken powerfully on children and young people, mental health, and food poverty.

“Tim is quite simply a wonderfully servant-hearted person,” hence his appointment as Bishop at Lambeth in 2017, Archbishop Cottrell told the Synod. He was hard-working, other-centred, and deeply wanted the Church of England to be the Church for England. He had led work on developing appointments in the Church, besides serving as Bishop to the Falkland Islands.

“Your handwriting won’t be missed, which is described by colleagues as the worst ever, but your care for the Church of England, faithfulness and dedication, and love for the gospel are plain to see,” Archbishop Cottrell said.

Archbishop Cottrell then placed on record thanks for all Synod members who were not standing for election again, and thanked in particular the vice-chair of the House of Laity, Elizabeth Paver; the chaplain to the Synod, the Revd Michael Gisborne; and Jonathan Neil-Smith, a longstanding senior member of staff at the National Church Institutions.

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