Dr David Hope, a former Archbishop of York, issued an urgent warning today for the Church to shake off “the disabling shackles of hierarchy and bureaucracy” and to focus instead on meeting people where they are.
Preaching in York Minster at the consecration of Canon Glyn Webster as the new Bishop of Beverley, Dr Hope gave clear advice to the new newly ordained bishop and to the wider church which he served as Archbishop of York for a decade until 2006.
He described the challenges of contemporary ministry as demanding and said that bishops clergy and laity should concentrate on
“those personal relationships, networks and interactions which make for the wholeness and well-being of family, community and society.”
Whilst in office, the former Archbishop was a frequent critic of the church’s reliance on committees and synods and he reminded his congregation that Jesus had never “formed a committee, set up a working party or dreamed up a Synod. No – he simply met people where they were – Peter and James and John – and called them – 'come follow me'; an invitation to discipleship – later to become an appointment to apostleship.”
He added: “How the church today needs urgently to shake off the disabling shackles of hierarchy and bureaucracy so that it can be free to travel light, to embrace an altogether new asceticism – a theology of 'enoughness' as Lambeth 1998 puts it, to live the gospel so that the light and life of Jesus may be the more manifest to all and for all.
Dr Hope suggested that difference in the Christian Community on a wide range of issues could be dealt with differently: “Where there are differences and disputes, instead of acrimony there ought to be sensitivity, a readiness to listen deeply and carefully to the one with whom we differ.”
With particular reference to the vote at General Synod on women bishops Dr Hope, a traditionalist, said: “ [all] need to exercise particular care in ensuring that their sometimes strongly felt and strongly held views in this matter, as indeed in others, are expressed with care and understanding one towards another.”
Dr Hope then urged the congregation to be the first to engage in what they were really called to be: “the one single issue which ought to be occupying all our endeavours - the one thing on which surely all can unite is our commitment to evangelisation - the challenge in the world of the super highway, in a nation where there is anxiety for the present and fear for the future on the part of so many, is how we communicate effectively and convincingly and without compromise the astringent message of God's love for us.”