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Posts Tagged "Candidates for Canterbury":

Candidates for Cantuar: Stephen Cottrell

It is very hard to dislike someone who introduces himself as ‘a bit of an oik from Essex’, as Bishop Stephen does in this 2011 address to Sheffield diocese. And I defy you to dislike Bishop Stephen Cottrell. Dare I insist that you listen to the first 9.55 minutes of this 47.55 minute video? You will not regret it. It is masterly, both as a memorable sermon in the truest meaning of the word and as an example of showmanship, the orator’s art of slowly drawing the audience in. And then please listen to the rest of it as well.

I have never met Bishop Stephen, but I too have been drawn in to the group of his followers. I became hooked one August, when researching a ‘thought for the day‘ for a service of Matins which I was due to take. I came across Bishop Stephen’s ‘Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop‘. I was entranced. Realising that I needed to quote a large chunk of it for full effect, I thought I had better ask the bishop whether he minded. So I, the smallest of small fry, emailed the Bishop of Reading, as he then was. I don’t know what I expected – a standard reply from a minion perhaps – but instead I had the most charming personal reply from Bishop Stephen himself, wishing me (I don’t think he used the word ‘luck’) as a lay worship leader.

Bishop Stephen has his own website, though I don’t think he has yet been persuaded to blog or twitter. His Wikipedia page is here.


Stephen Geoffrey Cottrell, born 31 August 1958, in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, was educated at Belfairs High School and the Polytechnic of Central London. After studying at St Stephen’s House, Oxford he was ordained in 1985. He is married to Rebecca, and they have three teenage children.


The Crockford’s entry reads as follows:

+COTTRELL, The Rt Revd Stephen Geoffrey. b 58. Poly Cen Lon BA79. St Steph Ho Ox 81. d 84 p 85 c 04. C Forest Hill Ch Ch S’wark 84-88; P-in-c Parklands St Wilfrid CD Chich 88-93; Asst Dir Past Studies Chich Th Coll 88-93; Dioc Missr Wakef 93-98; Bp’s Chapl for Evang 93-98; Springboard Missr and Consultant in Evang 98-01; Can Res Pet Cathl 01-04; Area Bp Reading Ox 04-10; Bp Chelmsf from 10


He was nominated Bishop of Reading in 2004 after the  Jeffrey John affair. Cottrell had been a supporter of Jeffrey John’s original appointment. He said of his nomination:

I am looking forward to becoming the next Bishop of Reading with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.I believe my work in mission and evangelism has prepared me well for the challenges facing the church in this new century.I hope and pray that my love for and understanding of the different traditions of the Church of England will enable me to be a focus for unity in the Reading Episcopal area.

Bishop Stephen has been  Bishop of Chelmsford since 7 October 2010.


Bishop Stephen is a prolific writer, his Amazon coverage running to three pages (allowing for one or two other Cottrells to have crept in).  It says much to the credit of both, I think, that he has written several books with Bishop Steven Croft, the Evangelical, although he is an Affirming Catholic.

His most recent book is ‘Christ in the Wilderness: Reflecting on the Paintings by Stanley Spencer ‘ which was published this month by SPCK.


The Wikipedia entry on Affirming Catholicism describes it as follows:

The movement represents a liberal strand of Anglo-Catholicism and is particularly noted for holding that Anglo-Catholic belief and practice is compatible with the ordination of women. It also generally supports ordination into the threefold ministry (bishops, priests, deacons) regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The movement was formalised on 9 June 1990, at St Alban’s Church Holborn in London by a number of Anglo-Catholic clergy in the Diocese of London who had been marginalised within, or expelled from, existing Anglo-Catholic groups because of their support for women’s ordination to the priesthood. It developed a theological stance which was staunchly liberal in matters of inclusivity but traditionally Catholic in matters of liturgy and the centrality and theology of the sacraments whilst believing that traditional restrictions on who may receive them should be re-examined.

Bishop Stephen’s diocese, Chelmsford, rejected the Covenant. Bishop Steven himself abstained, as has now been confirmed by one of the comments on this blog.

On the question of women, Bishop Stephen voted in favour of  adjourning the debate to enable reconsideration of amendment 5.1.c, a position generally taken by those in favour of women bishops.

Leap in the dark assessment

When we first made the list in the priority suggested by Oddschecker, Bishop Stephen was 13th in line to the archiepiscopal throne. Today he is 11th, having overtaken Bishops John Packer and Tom Wright in the last couple of days.

A passionate proponent of mission and evangelism, Bishop Stephen’s inclusive attitude and charm might be just the right prescription for the Anglican Communion and Church of England at this juncture?

Candidate for Cantuar: N T or Tom Wright?


Professor N T Wright, or Tom Wright,  is so well-known to all likely readers of this post that I hesitate to write at all, but it would be unfair not to subject him to the same sort of summary that I have offered for other potential candidates, so here goes. I was rather surprised to find that Tom Wright has a LinkedIn profile. He is still listed as Bishop of Durham, and only has one connection. This is rather the point – Bishop Tom has no need of a LinkedIn page, he is already a household name.

Bishop Tom was born in Morpeth, Northumberland and educated at Sedbergh, established in 1525. He read classics at Exeter College, Oxford, followed by a theology degree from Exeter University. In addition to his Doctor of Divinity degree from Oxford,  he  has also been awarded multitudinous other honorary doctoral degrees.



As the entry in Crockford’s makes clear, he is essentially a theologian and does not appear to have had any experience as a priest at parish level. His seven years at Durham, however, would have given him oversight of all the parishes in the diocese.

* +WRIGHT, The Rt Revd Prof Nicholas Thomas. b 48. Ex Coll Ox BA71 MA75 DPhil81 DD00. Wycliffe Hall Ox BA73. d75 p 76 c 03. Fell Mert Coll Ox 75-78; Chapl 76-78; Chapl and Fell Down Coll Cam 78-81; Asst Prof NT Studies McGill Univ Montreal 81-86; Chapl and Fell Worc Coll Ox and Univ Lect Th 86-93; Dean Lich 93-99; Can Th Cov Cathl 92-99; Lector Theologiae and Can Westmr Abbey 00-03; Bp Dur 03-10; Chair NT and Early Christianity St Andr Univ from 10.

He was  Bishop of Durham from 2003 until 2010, when he left to take up a new appointment as Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews.



He has an astonishing 69 books currently in print, according to his Amazon pages. Lay Anglicana reviewed his 2012 book on Mark, released in time to be studied for Lent around the globe, under the leadership of the Big Bible Project; Lay Anglicana also ran an ‘online house group‘ to discuss a page every day of the text.

There is no doubt that he is an excellent communicator – his ease of manner and attractive speaking voice make him a pleasure to listen to, even when one does not necessarily agree with what he is saying.

He publishes under two names: ‘Professor N T Wright’ when he is writing for grown-up theologians, and the matier ‘Tom Wright’ when he is writing what I call ‘Goldilocks theology’, works which are neither too difficult nor too easy, but just [w]right.  This habit of writing different sorts of work under different names is of course quite common in the publishing world (Ruth Rendell, for example, also writes as Barbara Vine) and there may be good reasons for doing it, particularly in fiction, but for works of theology it makes me a little uneasy, I know not why.




Bishop Tom’s theological views would require a post of their own, running to several thousand words. He is well-represented on YouTube, if you would like to explore further and the Wikipedia entry combined with his fan website should provide a good introduction to his beliefs, if you have time to spare.
If you don’t have time to spare, I recommend the page on Thinking Anglicans summarising his interview in 2010 by the Church of Ireland Gazette:

“Bishop Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham and now a Research Professor at the University of St Andrews, has said that the Church of England should not proceed to the consecration of women as Bishops if the move were to create a large division.

He said: “my own position is quite clear on this, that I have supported women Bishops in print and in person. I’ve spoken in Synod in favour of going that route, but I don’t think it’s something that ought to be done at the cost of a major division in the Church.”

Bishop Wright warned that if the Church of England were not able to resolve the matter “a ‘quick fix’ resolution” would be “a recipe for long-term disaster”…

And asked about the Anglican Covenant, he said this:

Asked if he thought the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant, aimed at keeping the global Communion together, would become a reality, Bishop Wright said: “I think so, because I don’t think really there’s any alternative.” He said the Communion could not afford to have “the kind of unstructured mess that we’ve had”.


It seems clear that Bishop Tom abhors ‘unstructured mess’.
He has already made it clear what he thinks should happen next to Cantuar, in an ‘appreciation’ in Fulcrum of Archbishop Rowan’s term of office (my bolding):

A new Archbishop must be allowed to lead. Yes, there are deep divisions. Part of the next Archbishop’s task will be to discern and clarify the difference between the things that really do divide and the things that people believe will do so but which need not. But, at the same time, there are problems of structure and organization that slow things down and soak up energy, problems that can and should be fixed so that the church and its leaders can be released for their mission, and to tackle properly the problems we face.

Who, after all, is running the Church of England? We have Lambeth Palace, the House of Bishops, General Synod, the Archbishops’ Council, the Anglican Communion Office, and (don’t get me started) the Church Commissioners. How does it all work? In an episcopal church, the bishops should be the leaders. Rowan hasn’t bothered much about structures, but with six hands grabbing at the steering wheel someone now needs to take charge. I wouldn’t bet on the Crown Nominations Commission proposing someone with the right combination of spirituality, wisdom and strategic thinking, plus boundless, multi-tasking energy. But that’s what I shall be praying for.


Leap in the dark assessment

An authoritarian autocrat in a cuddly teddy-bear’s clothing?

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