I was visited by the new bishop of Durham today. The fact that a couple of weeks ago he contacted me to arrange the meet up and was insistent that he would come to my home had already won him huge kudos points as far as I was concerned. As you know, I'm a stickler for good manners and correct pastoral protocol. I was very impressed.

Our chat together was, as they say, satisfactory. In fact, it was a very pleasant hour and a half. I'm sure that, in respect of how I felt, this had a lot to do with the fact that I wasn't after any from him other than friendship and care. I no longer want to be a full time parish priest (at least, not in the rigid, constraining, unimaginative form this ministry takes at this moment in time in England), Mrs MP would throw a thrombie if I even suggested it and neither of us have any intention of ever leaving out humble, little abode. Also, I do not let other people down for my own gain and having built up a ministry on the internet I'm not going to discard it. Of course, I would love to to offer my skills and enthusiasm to the Church of England and get involved in my new bishop's initiatives but, if that is not to be, then I will survive and I will still have a priestly ministry. I am incredibly fortunate in being a priest through ordination and, also, by acclamation. I wasn't foisted on anybody and I enjoy the self responsibility that goes with being dependent on my "congregation."

My first impression of Bishop Justin Welby (and, as you know, my first impressions are always correct - ahem), is that he is a man of very little guile. To be honest, I think he would have problems being deliberately deceitful as you can see his whole life in his eyes. And there's a lot of sadness there which, although redeemed by his love for his family and his God, will always be with him. This is good as his discernment and understanding of what makes individuals tick is based on his own experience of life, not on stuff he has read in a book or been told in a seminar on leadership. He will be capable of making tough decisions, he has done many times in the past, but I have a sneakin' suspicion that that every person he hurts, even when it is arguably necessary, will be on his conscience for ever after. I don't think he is able to tap into that vein of psycoticism that allows so many "natural" leaders of business, government and church to sleep at night.

Intellectually, his main concern is to bring more people into the worshipping life of the Church and, more importantly, to bring them into a "loving relationship with Christ." My guess is that emotionally his primary concern is to stop the pain in individual human beings. Both of these concerns mean that I think it unlikely that he will be flying all over the world telling other people what to do like his predecessor did. In fact, I think he will begrudge any time taken up by duties outside of the diocese which take him away from working towards what he wants to achieve in the diocese. And he will be enthusiastic about  church growth and stuff, and this, along with his evangelical background, will make many priests in Durham diocese suspicious of him. But he's clever enough to realise that people don't just do as they are told even if you are the bishop and plans to visit each priest in their own homes over the coming year or so. I think he is a very personable man who will find this collaborating and caring approach will pay huge dividends as far as getting people enthused with his vision is concerned. I think anybody of any tradition will be able to work with him and count him among their friends. That is except the lazy and stubbornly unimaginative who will probably find his episcopacy a bit of a bumpy ride.

He's still quite worried about what being a bishop is all about but hopefully he will soon realise that there are no hard and fast rules and that he can make being a bishop about whatever he likes.

Of course, I could be wrong about all this. Only time will tell. But as I have stuck my neck out so unconditionally he better not turn out to be another boring, bank manager bishop. If he does there will be a new cartoon series at OCICBW... pretty damn quick and that's for certain.

We didn't discuss anything specific about my future which, as I said at the beginning, was not my concern anyway. But I think something new will come out of our conversation. Whether this is a big thing or a little thing I don't know, but  I am pretty positive that, for the first time in my dealings with the church authorities for a long, long time, it will be a positive thing. I even feel just a little bit excited.



  1. How encouraging it to have something positive to say.

    But, to be honest, I have never gone on about my own life that much unless I need your prayers. My personal life with my wife and my animals is quite lovely most of the time.

  2. Oh thank God. Just… Thank God for that. A real answer to prayer – and this after you were so rude about him. Good for him, and good for you.

  3. I wasn’t rude about him, was I?
    Healthy suspicion is good. If I had been more healthily suspicious in the past I wouldn’t be in the shit position I am now.

  4. I wonder if you will receive the PTO which would provide the opportunities for ministry in ways other than purely being a Parish Priest.

    Not a Priest for Hire, but one who can offer so much in different ways, that it would enhance the worship, spiritual and prayer lives of those you meet along the way.

    I sincerely hope so.

  5. That would certainly make me feel more complete, UKViewer. But we didn’t really discuss anything specific so I will have to wait and see. I just hope he doesn’t go down the “hoop jumping” route. I’m too old for such silliness. He has all the information he needs to make a simple yes or no decision.

  6. Well, the sign on this dialog box says”leave your comment” and so I am trying to do that, but I am stunned in such a nice way just glad all over and happy for him for visiting and happy for you that it was such a positive thing. Glad, dammit, just. Plain glad!!

    bless u both!


  7. This is such hopefully good news, Jonathan, and the Lady Elaine and I hope that some positive things can come of this. As your podcast stats show, you have a higher “church” attendance than many of the churches in England. Certainly this could be a way to show the church there are alternatives to brick and mortar buildings for serving the flock.

  8. 🙂 big smiles 🙂
    so pleased for you (and for him!)
    almost restores your faith in the Church of England….;)

    hugs redx

  9. If he has a clue, he will offer you a staff spot from which to carry on a training and development mission to his clergy. They need you, the church needs you and you would be a great fit. Time will tell.


  10. Excellent news! May this visit be the beginning of a long, friendly, useful relationship between you and the bishop.

  11. excellent news, MP — it sounds like a good new beginning for the diocese and for you, and I pray that it will bear fruit in due time

    wv “topily” this is indeed topily news

  12. You go on about your personal life at least a little bit, when you post pictures of some of the Mad Gang’s excursions – which I always view with huge delight!

  13. Happy, hopeful and thinking that this could be the beginning of a lovely relationship that will benefit you both.- and of course, the Church. -:)

  14. The good Bishop did follow the star
    To a bungalow not very far
    Where he met the Mad Priest
    Who esteemed him not least
    Though he left all the gifts in the car.