Farewell Tribute to the Bishop of London by the Bishop of Willesden
The text of the Farewell Tribute to the Bishop of London at Candlemas 2017, delivered by The Right Reverend Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden. During the service, Bishop Richard handed his crozier to the Bishop of Willesden, who assumes his role as Acting Bishop during the interregnum.
Richard, you have been rightly insistent that the prolonging of farewells is not something to which you are particularly predisposed. Indeed, I’ve heard you on several occasions declare that you don’t wish to hear a succession of versions of your own obituary! But I think we must detain you briefly at the end of this service, if we may. Here, you are among friends and colleagues. You’ve customarily addressed us as “Beloved”, as “Partners in the Gospel”, and I think that is what we have become. So, I want to address you on behalf of this great congregation gathered here in St Paul’s and outside in the Square as our friend, our beloved Bishop, with no sense of maudlin pathos, but with a genuine affection.
Plenty has already been said in different contexts about your achievements over these past 21 years, from the restoration of St Ethelburga’s to the establishing of St Mellitus College, from the way in which you have liberated and facilitated church planting, to the way in which we have achieved financial stability and enabled dreams and visions to come to fruition.
When you started as Bishop of London, it was the era of Toy Story and Braveheart. Hillary Clinton was the First Lady. Amazon sold its first book. Windows 95 was the operating system. Facebook was nine years away; the iphone didn’t appear till 2007.
Quite simply, the Diocese of London is unrecognisable from the introverted, self-regarding, melancholy place of prissiness and factions that many of us knew in the 1980s. You have turned this Diocese around. If folk want to read the story, you have helpfully detailed it in your Lambeth Lecture New Fire in London, which tells it as it is.
So, let me, from your friends, speak of one or two themes that have marked your episcopate and for which we want to show our appreciation. In the ipsissima verba of Richard Chartres, we have learned, firstly, that “everyone should have a spoon in the soup”. You have valued and affirmed the contribution of every part of the Church – catholic, evangelical, liberal, charismatic, middle of the road – and have drawn us together as part of a commitment to generous orthodoxy. It’s gloriously easy to feel a part of this Diocese. You worship with us wherever and however we are, gladly accepting the proffered earplugs when in the front row with HTB – though I don’t think you have yet succumbed to dancing! That inclusion has been about flourishing, for every parish and priest, from your old stomping grounds of Stepney through to the fleshpots of SW1. You have described yourself as a holarch, with the ability to see the big picture – a conductor of the orchestra.
Secondly, we haven’t been allowed to forget that this is a Great World City – both in that bigger vision of the Kingdom that has embraced the diversity of faiths, cultures and nationalities here in London; and in our relationship as a Diocese with the wider world through our links with Berlin, New York, Angola and Mozambique. Your own ambassadorial relationships with the Great Churches of the East have enriched our life here. You have nourished our ecumenical links here in London. We are grateful that representatives of some of those links and themes are represented by those attending this service.
A third theme is that of being Ambassadors for Jesus Christ. You have not neglected the preaching of the gospel – the need to bring men and women into relationship with Jesus Christ – and then to bring us all deeper into the divine mystery and then be sent out in the power of the Holy Spirit to live for Christ in the world. Indeed, you have led by example, as an Ambassador in the public square here in London, appreciated for your engagement with the City, the institutions of government and commerce, and the breadth of the community.
As part of Capital Vision 2020, which you have been instrumental in developing, we have been training and commissioning Ambassadors – knowing that the baptised people of God exercise their discipleship in the world. An outward-looking Church, living and serving in God’s world.
Finally, you have been wonderfully impatient of structures and procedures that do not serve the Kingdom of God. You have rightly called us to be a Diocese where it’s all about “Add up, not Add on.” From the bonfire of our committees to your well-known aversion to General Synod and all its works; from your extraordinary capacity not to involve yourself in the inessentials of church controversy – a style which can best be characterised as “unstated and understated”; and the way in which, heedless of bureaucracy, you have just enabled things to happen for the sake of the gospel, we are deeply thankful.
In all this, Caroline has supported you, keeping you sane, steering life, both domestic and social, behind the scenes, exercising hospitality and giving counsel. We salute her as we salute you.
There is still plenty to do. I know that there is gratitude that you will continue to keep your pastoral and civic duties as Dean of the Chapels Royal, and that you have several projects to pursue in the next stage. As part of your legacy to London, I was privileged, as were others here this evening, to be present at the launch of the Richard Chartres Fund for London – where our aim is to raise £1.4m and more to continue to build on the heritage you leave behind you here.
My text should have been Luke 6:26 – “beware when all people speak well of you.” But we do want to speak well. You have been fond of quoting the words of St Augustine “For you I am a bishop, but with you I am… a Christian.” You have been both of these to us. Many can testify to your pastoral care and kindness in times of pastoral crisis. Many are thankful that you have been a bishop to the whole Diocese, visiting parishes even in the wilds of Hillingdon to join with them in thanksgiving and celebration. All of us are grateful that, as our Bishop, you have prayed for us and cared for us. Thank you.