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General Synod digest: Farewells to Bishops Hancock, Holtam, and Foster, and Canon Booys

30 April 2021

(left to right) the Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock; the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam; and the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster

(left to right) the Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock; the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam; and the Bishop of Por...

THE General Synod bade farewell to the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam; the Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, and the former chair of the Business Committee, Canon Sue Booys.

From the first debate on women bishops in 2013 to the current pandemic, all of the Synod staff had benefited from working with Canon Booys, whose term in office had been “bookended by crises”, the Secretary General, William Nye, said. “Sue’s calm leadership, her warmth and even-handedness, and human sympathy has ensured that the committee has always stepped up to meet whatever challenges they might be facing.”

She had also led the introduction of more efficient digital working, concluding in the recent Zoom-only sessions. “I would like to thank her for her outstanding contribution to the life of the Synod,” Mr Nye concluded.

The Archbishop of Canterbury then led farewells to Bishop Holtam, who was due to retire before the next meeting of the Synod. After serving in London diocese and working at Lincoln Theological College, Bishop Holtam had been consecrated for the see of Salisbury in 2011. “Nick and Helen have been mavericks, but the kind of mavericks we really want,” Archbishop Welby said. “They have been forthright, clear, different, challenging, and passionate.”

When Vicar of the Isle of Dogs, Bishop Holtam had stood up against the election of a British National Party (BNP) councillor locally, giving his community a voice at a difficult time. “He has consistently acted in that way in the time I have known him,” the Archbishop said.

In his next post at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Bishop Holtam had overseen a £36-million building project to restore the church as one that stood for the marginalised and the poor. As Bishop of Salisbury, he had led efforts on environmental issues, particularly at the 2015 Paris climate talks, besides leading a city and diocese traumatised by the 2018 chemical-weapons attack (News, 13 July 2018).

“The Church of England is extraordinarily grateful to you, Nick, and I am as well,” the Archbishop said. “We look forward to your retirement being as effective as your ministry has been.”

The Archbishop then bade farewell to Bishop Hancock, who continues his recovery from treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia (News, 19 March). He was diagnosed last July and stepped back from his duties in August (News, 14 August 2020) before beginning hospital treatment (News, 4 December 2020).

Bishop Hancock served in Portsmouth and Salisbury dioceses before being consecrated to serve as Suffragan Bishop of Basingstoke, in Winchester diocese, in 2010. He was translated to Bath & Wells in 2014. “You have served God and the Church not just in your pastoral care and calm consideration, but with enormous courage,” Archbishop Welby told him. In the past year in particular, Bishop Hancock had ministered through illness superbly, the Archbishop said.

On his time as the Church’s lead bishop on safeguarding, the Archbishop said that he “hardly knew how to thank you for that”. Bishop Hancock had taken the Church through the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse with energy and commitment, but also with deep pastoral care for victims and survivors. “This was a heavy burden, and we bless you for bearing it,” the Archbishop concluded.

Paying warm tribute to the retiring Bishop of Portsmouth, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that he hoped Bishop Foster would now have time both to enjoy retirement and “relish the opportunities for future service”. The Archbishop revealed the Bishop to be “a setter of pub quizzes on the Isle of Wight ferry” and “an accomplished chimney-sweep with his own brushes”.

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