Bishop Timothy Martin Thornton is the most elusive bishop that I have so far attempted to describe.
His Wikipedia entry, which in the case of some bishops runs to 6 pages, runs instead to six lines:
Timothy Martin “Tim” Thornton (born 14 April 1957) is the current Bishop of Truro, having previously been the Bishop of Sherborne from 2001 to 2008. Thornton was educated at Devonport High School for Boys, the University of Southampton and King’s College London. Ordained in 1980, following priestly formation at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, he began his ministry with a curacy at Todmorden followed by a spell as Priest-in-charge at Walsden. He then became Bishop’s Chaplain to David Hope: successively in the Diocese of Wakefield and the Diocese of London. From 1994 until 1998 he was Principal of the North Thames Ministerial Training Course. His final post before his ordination to the episcopate was as the vicar of Kensington.
Very good. Seeking further information from his diocesan website a week ago, I found a link to a profile page, which I followed only to be greeted with a dreaded ’404′ message (‘Page not found’ – if you follow the link now, it is still there). Nothing daunted, I then telephoned the diocesan office and asked to speak to someone who could perhaps send me a copy of the information on the page. Did the diocese have a press officer? The person on the switchboard assured me that someone would ring back but I was not altogether surprised when nothing happened. The website has a nice line in self-deprecation, at least when describing their bishop. If you search ‘Thornton’, you will get no illuminating results and when Bishop Tim joins some teenagers on an Outward Bound-type course, he is described as ‘tagging along‘ (somehow I cannot imagine the Bishop of London being described as ‘tagging along’ to anything) which he gamely did, despite admitting to having no head for heights.
Bishop Tim is chairman of the national Continuing Ministerial Development Panel, which would indicate that he does have some experience of the Church of England at a national level.
The Crockford’s entry reads as follows:
|+THORNTON, The Rt Revd Timothy Martin. b 57. Southn Univ BA78 K Coll Lon MA97. St Steph Ho Ox 78. d 80 p 81 c01. C Todmorden Wakef 80-82; P-in-c Walsden 82-85; Lect Univ of Wales (Cardiff) Llan 85-87; Chapl 85-86; Sen Chapl 86-87; Bp’s Chapl Wakef 87-91; Dir of Ords 88-91; Bp’s Chapl Lon 91-94; Dep P in O 92-01; Prin NTMTC 94-98; V Kensington St Mary Abbots w St Geo Lon 98-01; AD Kensington 00-01; Area Bp Sherborne Sarum 01-08; Bp Truro from 08.|
I have not been able to find any. There is just one YouTube clip, but don’t blink or you will miss it (less than 5 seconds)
Attitude to Same-Sex Marriage
Bishop Tim wrote in December 2010 in The Daily Telegraph:
There is a difference between marriage and what are at the moment called civil partnerships. We need to be honest about that.
From my faith perspective and background, marriage is about the relationship between a man and a woman who commit themselves to a lifelong faithful partnership out of which in many cases, but not all, can come the gift of children.
That is a different thing from a civil partnership.
Speaking as the chairman of the Children’s Society, I don’t have any problem in understanding that civil partnerships can be places where children are adopted and they have very good relationships. I know of such couples who are very good parents. I don’t have a problem with that.
Speaking as a bishop, I do not myself see that at this stage it would be right for us to be making a significant change.
Colin Coward of ‘Changing Attitude’ commented on this article:
Even younger and supposedly more alert bishops like Tim Thornton, recently moved from Sherborne to Truro, can write an article about civil partnerships and marriage for the Daily Telegraph which is defensive and badly argued. He talks about the blessing of ‘homosexual practice, to put it in crude terms’ which is, from Changing Attitude’s perspective, to put it in very crude terms indeed, Tim.
Bishop Tim thinks the most significant thing is the danger of a confusion between different things, marriage and civil partnerships, which, “if we open ourselves up to blurring that difference … would be unhelpful for all concerned.” This is a problem for a minority, for bishops who spinelessly toe the line and other Christians who still think gay relationships are unlike heterosexual relationships.
Bishop Tim was one of the very few bishops actually to vote against the Anglican Covenant, in November 2011, which would have needed a degree of moral courage and shows a principled stand.
He also voted at General Synod in favour of adjourning the debate to enable reconsideration of amendment 5.1.c, the position generally taken by those in favour of women bishops.
Is it reasonable to infer that Bishop Tim is an Anglo-Catholic from his chairmanship of the English Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee, together with the RC Archbishop of Birmingham, announced in March this year?
English ARC, which was established in 1974, now comprises ten Roman Catholic and ten Anglican members, with the General Secretary of Churches Together in England as an observer. It is chaired by the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Revd Bernard Longley, and the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton.
The Archbishop of Birmingham said, ‘I look forward to working with the members of English ARC to find new paths towards the unity for which Our Lord prayed.’
The Bishop of Truro said, ‘I am excited by the commitment of English ARC’s new members and the prospect of a programme of work which will make a difference to our churches and their common witness both nationally and at the local level’.
Edwardian books on etiquette advised that ladies should only appear in the press on three occasions in their life: birth, marriage and death. Although my experience might lead me to suppose that Bishop Tim is attempting to live his life according to the precepts of genteel Edwardian womanhood, I am drawn instead to a different and more interesting inference.
I think it is perhaps likely that Bishop Tim is a genuinely humble man. It may be that he takes seriously the various versions of: So the last shall be first, and the first last (Matthew 20.16).
Leap in the dark assessment
If the Crown Nominations Commission are looking for a Servant King, Bishop Tim Thornton could be their man.
The illustration is from the BBC (the Wikipedia entry contains no picture of Bishop Tim). Google images show that there are not many photographs in the public domain and those that there are tend to be of low resolution. The one I have used is a thumbnail, which I have magnified three times before inserting in this blog post.