(This is the text of remarks by Julian Mann at an open consultation on September 8th in Sheffield Cathedral with the Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments, Caroline Boddington, and the Prime Minister’s Secretary for Appointments, Edward Chaplin, about the next Bishop of Sheffield.)
In thinking about our new diocesan bishop, it might be worth exploring the difference between what might be termed a vocational bishop or minister and what might be termed a more career-oriented bishop or minister
Now, of course, it would be wrong to be dogmatic in individual cases because none of us can truly judge another person’s motivation. Only God can do that and of course if we are honest our own motivations in ministry can be mixed at times. So, those entrusted with the task of discernment have a very difficult job.
But it might be helpful to consider the difference in terms of the bishop or minister’s discourse. A vocational bishop would tend to talk about the need faithfully to proclaim the true biblical gospel, to uphold the truth of God’s Word, the Bible, to defend the truth of God’s Word and the need for unity in biblical truth. A vocational bishop would talk about the eternal salvation of souls in and through our Lord Jesus Christ and in and through him alone and the need to reach the lost. A vocational bishop would be concerned for the spiritual health of local churches and keen to be a loving pastor to frontline clergy.
Whereas it would appear that the career bishop or minister would tend to talk about themselves and them being the focus of unity amidst the diversity of traditions, even when these theological approaches seem to contradict one another on important issues. Also, the career bishop would appear to be rather quick to issue public statements about standing shoulder to shoulder with people of all faiths and none, appearing thus to want the approval of the secular world.
So this is an appeal for a vocational diocesan bishop who will want to serve our Lord and our Lord’s people under the supreme and final authority of the Bible. Surely that is the kind of bishop who will best serve the frontline of ministry and mission in our diocese, namely the parishes?