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Archbishop ordains and consecrates Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Tewkesbury

Credit: Andrew Dunsmore/Westminster Abbey

Wednesday 25th September 2013

The Archbishop of Canterbury ordained and consecrated two new suffragan bishops this morning at Westminster Abbey.

The Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall, who served for seven years as Ecumenical Secretary at Lambeth Palace, was ordained and consecrated Suffragan Bishop of Ebbsfleet, together with the new Suffragan Bishop of Tewkesbury, Rt Revd Martyn Snow, the former Archdeacon of Sheffield and Rotherham.

At the start of the service, Archbishop Justin said that the people of Peshawar and Nairobi, who suffered attacks over the weekend, would be in the congregation’s hearts and minds.

The Archbishop expressed delight that his predecessor Lord Williams of Oystermouth was preaching. Lord Williams’s sermon drew on the writings of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, who died on this day in 1626.

Lord Williams, in his sermon, said: "Lancelot Andrewes points us to the reality of the failed, fragmented churches littering the world. If we think we have problems in the 21st century with that, we’d better refresh our Reformation history. Failed churches, fragmented churches: all in a day’s work in a sense. But the continuity and health, the spiritual vitality and integrity of the Church lies quite simply in the promise and act of Jesus Christ.”

The ministry of a bishop, Lord Williams said, was “a ministry of unity primarily because it’s a ministry of hope. You are messengers from the future, speaking of a future to which the path is often bitterly and painfully unclear, and yet which is given in that great sacrament of unity”.

Lord Williams urged the new bishops to “speak from the heart of the Church in the Eucharist. Speak from the security of Christ’s promise. And, whatever else you do with your bishop’s ministry, that will mean that you have been in your own way a witness to the resurrection, a witness to the words and acts and power of the risen Christ.”

Bishop Goodall has been commissioned by Archbishop Welby to serve, in line with the 1993 Act of Synod, as one of two Provincial Episcopal Visitors for the Province of Canterbury, who work with diocesan bishops to provide extended sacramental ministry and pastoral provision on the Archbishop’s behalf, to ensure that “the integrity of differing beliefs and positions concerning the ordination of women to the priesthood should be mutually recognised and respected”.

Bishop Snow will serve as Suffragan Bishop of Tewkesbury in the Diocese of Gloucester. 

Listen to the sermon

Read a transcript below:

The service for the ordination of bishops is full of instruction. You’re told over and over again – it might even be just a little too often – exactly what you’re going to be doing and exactly how difficult it is. But the real problem is under the surface. The real problem is that, despite all this stuff about the job you’re going to be doing, what the Church is calling you to today is being a symbol. And that’s where your difficulties really start.

You might imagine your long-suffering families adapting that pious old Victorian phrase and say, ‘Daddy’s gone to be a symbol.’ Symbols are there to mean something, and what they mean is not necessarily bound up with particular thing they do or say. It just is there. And what you’re a symbol for, although it will vary in the eyes and minds of quite a lot of people, is generally agreed to be the unity of Christ’s body. And because all sorts of people have very clear views about what the unity of Christ’s body entails, your life as symbols will be just a little bit like the life of a billboard open to the inventive activity of graffiti artists.

But what is this unity of which you are to be symbols for us and for God’s people? What kind of unity is this? A unity achieved in the past? A unity that has been lost or fractured by unfaithfulness, by division? A unity that is now our agenda to work for? Well, yes, in some ways all of this. But there is another level to which Lancelot Andrewes, whom we celebrate today, points us in one of his lectures. Aptly, a lecture which lay unpublished in Lambeth Palace Library for many centuries and only appeared in print about six years ago.

Andrewes asks: how can we be sure that the Church will continue, the visible Church of Christ on earth? And his answer is really rather austere. He says, in so many words, this has nothing to do with the nature of the Church in itself. There have been wonderfully solid and impressive churches; successful, expansive, well-organised which have disappeared without trace. There have been long ages, says Andrewes, in which the Church has apparently flourished but you’d be rather hard put to it to find a Christian. It’s nothing to do with what the Church is in itself. It’s to do with Jesus Christ and his promise, says Andrewes.

And that, Jonathan and Martin, that is where you will need to start, morning by morning. Yes, you’re going to be symbols, with all the hard work and hard non-work that involves; but symbols not of something primarily about the Church, but of something about God in Jesus Christ. Symbols of the promise of God; symbols of God’s future, as well as God’s history with us. Lancelot Andrewes points us to the reality of the failed, fragmented churches littering the world. If we think we have problems in the 21st century with that, we’d better refresh our Reformation history. Failed churches, fragmented churches: all in a day’s work in a sense. But the continuity and health, the spiritual vitality and integrity of the Church lies quite simply in the promise and act of Jesus Christ.

And that is why, as you both know well, there is no place where a bishop is more fully and unequivocally a bishop than at the Lord’s table. That’s the one point where your life as a bishop will be and should be blindingly simple. All you have to do is be there in the name and person of the welcoming Christ, the absolving and transforming God. You are there to say ‘it’s been done once, only once and once and once for all’. And you’re there to say, paraphrasing Julian of Norwich, that God will honour his word in all things, that at the end of all things this is what there will be: the universe gathered around Jesus Christ, presented by Jesus Christ to the Father. This is what will be, and not only what will be as a remote hope, let alone what will be as a project of some sort, but what is now, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, the power of the sacrament, is that the future is now. That’s the centre from which you as bishops speak and act; the knowledge that you are, bizarre as it may sound, you are a messenger from the future. You are someone to whom has been confided the word and the promise of a unity, an infolding of all creation, not just of all believers, which is already secure in God’s hands. His peace not ours; His beauty, not ours. Just like the holiness, apostolic and catholic quality of the Church, so the unity of the Church is first an attribute of Christ, and a gift of Christ, before it’s anything to do with the way we run our business.

Part of the point of the sacraments of the Church is that they tell us that the future is in God’s hands and therefore is real. They tell us, therefore, that we may hope, we may have courage, the vision and the joy to hope. The pearl of great price has already been put into our hands. What we do with it, how much of a mess we make around it – well, we’re all painfully familiar with that. But, it is done. God has honoured and will honour his word in all things. And a bishop’s ministry which so to speak spreads, flowers outwards from that position at the Eucharist is a ministry of unity because, and primarily because, it’s a ministry of hope. You are messengers from the future, speaking of a future to which the path is often bitterly and painfully unclear, and yet which is given in that great sacrament of unity.

Andrewes preached a sermon on Easter Day in 1609 to the Court of King James I, just a few hundred yards from here in the Royal Chapel of Whitehall. It’s a sermon on Jesus’s words to his disciples when he first meets the body of the disciples after the resurrection. The first words he speaks: ‘Peace be with you.’ And Andrwes, as you can imagine, spreads himself very considerably on this. He tells us that why ‘with you’ is such a surprising thing for Jesus to say to the disciples who have not wanted to be with him and run away.  Why ‘peace’ is such a startling greeting from someone with whom the disciples have attempted to break their relationship. And yet, says Andrewes, the disciples, for all their failure and all their muddle, have stayed together in some sort of hope, and now, on Easter Day, Jesus comes and tells them what it is. ‘Shall we learn this of the disciples,’ says Andrewes. ‘If a fault fall out, not to give over school, but to continue our discipleship still.’ Not to give over school, not to stop learning in the Church, but continue our learning, our discipling. “And not to go over, to seek our Pax vobix at the hands of His enemies; to shut out both them and their peace too.” That is, not to try and substitute for the peace and promise of Christ some worldly satisfaction or reconciliation that comes and goes, bu to go into the depth of what Christ holds together.

‘And lastly’, he goes on, ‘not to forsake the fellowship, to keep together still. For being so together, we are nearer our peace. This shall make Christ come and say it to us sooner, and the more willingly.’ Don’t stop learning; don’t take refuge in apparently simple solutions of the kind that the world likes; and don’t break the fellowship. Andrewes could say that because he was manifestly a bishop for whom the centre of his bishoping was in, what he calls in the same sermon, the ‘sacrifice of peace’. His own presiding at the Lord’s table, and his prayer around that experience.

And when we take those lessons from the disciples, says Andrewes, Christ comes the nearer the more quickly. The end is nearer, the consummation is nearer, if we can learn those lessons. The future from which we speak becomes that little bit more immediate to us if we can learn those lessons.

So, dear friends, be messengers of the future. Be spokesmen for the peace of Christ. Speak from the heart of the Church in the Eucharist. Speak from the security of Christ’s promise. And that, whatever else you do with your bishop’s ministry, that will mean that you have been in your own way a witness to the resurrection, a witness to the words and acts and power of the risen Christ. You will, simply by doing that, have played your part in the well being of the Church, in the Church’s freedom to receive joyfully the kingdom, the pearl, the treasure, the end of time, the consummation of all things; just by doing that.

I can’t resist ending with Andrewes at slightly more length. It was tempting simply to read this sermon on the resurrection instead of preparing one of my own, and you’d be much more edified had I done that. But here is how Andrewes concludes. Remember, this is Easter Day.

“There hath not these 1600 years, this day passed without a peace offering. And the law of a peace offering is: he that offers it must take his part of hit, eat of it, or it doth him no good. This day therefore the Church never fails, but sets forth her peace offering. The Body whose hands were here showed, and the side whence issued the blood that pacifieth all things in earth and heaven, that we, in and by it, may this day renew the covenant of our peace. Then can it not be but a great grief to a Christian heart, to see many this day give Christ's peace the hearing, and there is all; hear it, and then turn their backs on it; every man go his way, and forsake his peace; instead of seeking it, shun it, and of pursuing, turn away from it. ‘We have not so learned Christ,’ St. Paul hath not so taught us. His rule it is; ‘Is Christ our Passover offered for us as now He was?’ Let us then keep a feast’. So to do, and even then this day when we have the peace offering in our hands, then, then to remember always, but then specially to join with Christ in His wish; to put into our hearts, and the hearts of all that profess His Name, theirs specially that are of all others most likely to effect it, that Christ may have His wish, and there may be peace through the Christian world; that we may once all partake together of one peace offering, and with one mouth and one mind glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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