Dear brothers and sisters, Dear Friends:
Now that my appointment is announced, I am eager to be with the people who belong to the See of Ebbsfleet, and be a bishop for you.
This new mission comes after eight years supporting the Archbishop of Canterbury's wider ministry ecumenically. In that role I have had the privilege of seeing at close quarters the infinite variety of ways in which the Church is alive and active around the world, and sharing in the joys and in the sufferings of fellow Christians.
Now I am asked to be of direct service to the Church myself – as a bishop, and especially as one of the episcopal visitors for the Province of Canterbury. This vocation is humbling, disorienting and challenging. I am very conscious of the trust that the Lord, through the Archbishop and those who have advised him in making the appointment, has placed in me. I hope that, through the grace of ordination and the prayers and support of many, I will be able to honour that trust.
The Provincial Episcopal Visitors are given a special responsibility: to care for those who, following catholic conscience, cannot accept the ministry of women in the priesthood and episcopate, to advise them and be spokesmen for them. Now is not the time for comment on that topic, or indeed on any other that is testing the communion of our church at present. What is entrusted to me now—as to any bishop—is more fundamental than that: it is the care and nurture of the Church, the body of Christ, in which and through which the Lord gathers to himself what is most precious to him – human beings.
Bishops seem to be talked about more but understood less these days. The bishop's main task is to be at the heart of the Church, proclaiming the Gospel in deed and word, a pastor of people. He is the heir of the apostolic tradition; and the spiritual guide of the Church. His job is to unite in communion the parishes and communities assigned to his care, and to maintain their unity with the churches in other places, through his relationship of communion with their bishops.
In practical terms, that will mean focusing on supporting you, working to deepen your communion and promoting your contribution to the Church's life locally. It means helping us grow in number, in prayer and in discipleship; helping us all to be close to the poor and people who have no other help; and encouraging dialogue with people who are far from faith. That means we must all foster vocations to marriage, to priesthood, to Christian community life, especially among the young.
Having been a member of the Society of the Holy Cross for over twenty years, I already know some of the priests of the See of Ebbsfleet. I now look forward to visiting all the clergy and the parishes in their care, so that I can know you and your setting, and be known by you.
I look forward to sharing my work in a special way with the Bishops of Richborough, Beverley and Fulham (my much-loved predecessor, and namesake!), and the other bishops of the Society, in serving parishes that hold traditional Anglican faith and practice. Together we must offer reassurance and support, journeying alongside our parishes through rapidly changing times that will leave no part of the Church unaffected. Christ shows us, and our discipleship tells us, that without the reality of loss and death it simply is not possible to give ourselves totally, fully, into the hands of God – so we must face it and dare to take the risks of faith.
And I shall want to work closely with all the bishops, especially the diocesan and suffragan bishops of the thirteen dioceses of the Ebbsfleet episcopal area, to promote mutual trust and reconciliation and thus increase our shared capacity for the kind of new evangelization that is so urgently needed in our country.
My ordination will be in Westminster Abbey on 25 September. I hope very much that it will be possible for you to be with me on that occasion. It will be the feast of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, a brilliant light of profound apostolic faith in a very testing period for the Church in this land. That day I hope our whole church will be praying the collect for his feast with real sincerity: "perfect in us that which is lacking in your gifts: of faith, to increase it; of hope, to establish it; of love, to kindle it."
Please pray for me and for Sarah my wife, as we have already been praying for you.
in the Lord:
2 August 2013