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General Synod digest: Farewells to Dr Eve Poole, Caroline Boddington, Bishop Lowson, and Bishop Hardman

26 November 2021
Geoff Crawford/Church Times

The retiring Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Christine Hardman, is applauded by the Synod on the Wednesday afternoon

The retiring Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Christine Hardman, is applauded by the Synod on the Wednesday afternoon


BEFORE the prorogation of the General Synod on the Wednesday afternoon, the Bishop of Manchester paid tribute to Dr Eve Poole, who had stepped down as the Third Church Estates Commissioner. She was a “uniquely drawn person of different complementary facets”, a “Pointillist artist”, and a creative leader who could see both the big picture and the detail, the Bishop said.

He described Dr Poole, whose doctorate was in theology and capitalism, as “a proud Scot who was adept at working with the English Establishment”. Her energetic listening in piloting the new Cathedrals Measure (News, 4 December 2020) had “got us over the line”. It had been an extraordinary journey, and had made a huge contribution to the life of Church and nation, he said.

Recognition of the unique place of cathedrals had led to the £10 million granted to the Cathedrals Sustainability Fund and a further £10 million to help them to survive and develop (News, 11 July 2020). Dr Poole had also done “imaginative work” on closed churches, Dr Walker said. She was a “governance guru”. He spoke of her “endless supply of Tunnocks chocolate biscuits”, and concluded: “Already we miss you very much.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury then paid tribute to the Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments and Development, Caroline Boddington, who was attending her last meeting of the Synod. He described her as “a devoted servant of the Church” whose faith was essential to her life.

Having overseen the appointment of all the diocesan bishops, archbishops, and almost all of the deans, it was not for nothing that had she been called the most powerful person in the Church of England, Archbishop Welby said. He made teasing and affectionate reference to Ms Boddington’s insistence on process and his own dislike of it: “She is indeed the the most powerful person in the Church of England.”

Ms Boddington was also “extraordinarily insightful”, he said, and someone who was able to spot strengths and weaknesses immediately. “She understands the ‘hows’ of governance as well as the ‘whats’.” She and her husband (the retired Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern) were a formidable couple. “No words are adequate to express our thanks,” the Archbishop concluded. “You have taught the Church to sing better in tune with its service to God.”

Archbishop Welby then paid tribute to the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, who is due to retire before the next group of sessions in February. It was inevitable, he said soberly, that the “extraordinary events” that Bishop Lowson had endured in recent years had had “a devastating impact on him and the whole Church” — a reference to the Bishop’s prolonged suspension over allegations of safeguarding failures (News, 23 July).

“I was sorry for the way the matter had been handled by me,” he said. “I want to say sorry again in public for the terrible pain of your lives, for which I feel a great deal of personal responsibility.” There was clearly much work still to be done on reforming the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), Archishop Welby said, but he expressed hope of “a tiny bit of comfort” for the Bishop in knowing that this “grim experience” would help towards more kindly thinking.

He praised Bishop Lowson for his warmth, generosity, and creativity, and as someone who had taken risks and transformed governance after inheriting a “very difficult situation” in Lincoln. The diocese had had many issues to grapple with. Bishop Lowson had shown wisdom and experience and had “asked the right questions”. His ministry had been faithful, confident, and joyful.

“It has been a more than difficult final year, and we can’t ignore the impact it will have had on you and on the Church. We acknowledge your faithful service and discipleship and pray that God will bless you in your continuing ministry.”

The Archbishop of York paid tribute to the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Christine Hardman — who became the first female diocesan bishop in 2015 (News, 4 September 2015) — who is due to retire before the next group of sessions (News, 20 August). “Being first is something we have learned to expect,” Archbishop Cottrell said. “For an example of what a bishop can achieve in a relatively short space of time, look no further. Your ministry has been a joy and absolutely transformative.”

Under her leadership, the diocese of Newcastle had become “much more out-facing, rooted . . . so alive with a desire to reach and serve people. What a champion for the north-east you have been.”

He also praised the Bishop — known for her love of the outdoors — for her tenacity, faithfulness, and “great desire to get things done. . . Your tenacious and robust kindness is one of the greater gifts you have brought to the Church you love.”

It was a tribute to Bishop Hardman that she was the first ever faith leader to be given the Freedom of the City of Newcastle, “truly showing how the Church can be the Church for the whole nation and not just for itself”.

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