A public consultation meeting was held (Saturday 16th) by the Diocese of Durham to help inform the process of selecting the next Bishop of Durham following the departure earlier this month of the then Right Revd Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham to take up position as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.
The public meeting held at Durham Johnston School, Durham on Saturday 16 February 2013 attracted more than 150 members of the Diocese and general public - all keen to offer their opinion on the next Bishop of Durham.
The meeting was part of the formal process in the selection of the next Bishop. It was arranged by the Diocese of Durham ‘Vacancy In See Committee’ (ViS) on behalf of the Archbishops’ and Prime Minister's appointments secretaries Caroline Boddington and Sir Paul Britton respectively (both present at the meeting).
Introducing the meeting, chair of the ViS committee and Diocesan chair of the house of laity Dr Jamie Harrison said: “As always, we thank you for coming to this important meeting in such numbers. The meeting is designed for you to inform the process of preparation of a person and role brief that the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) will later use in selecting the next Bishop of Durham from candidates interviewed. Two names will then be submitted to the Prime Minister who would normally accept the first choice and pass it on for approval by the Queen.”
Caroline Boddington - the Archbishops’ appointments secretary said: “Durham Diocese always produces the biggest number of voices at any of the public meeting Sir Paul and I go to, It’s very encouraging and helpful.” She went on to say: “The CNC will meet in May and again in June and we hope to be in a position to announce the next Bishop of Durham during the summer.”
The CNC is made up of; six members from the Diocesan ViS committee (which will be voted on and decided in March), the Archbishop of York and usually the Archbishop of Canterbury as well as six other members drawn from across the national church. The CNC meetings are also attended by the appointments secretaries. As the Archbishop of Canterbury is the retiring Bishop of Durham, that role will be taken by a nominated Bishop on this occasion.
The meeting lasted just over an hour and heard a range of comments from the floor highlighting areas of strategy, priority and desired person attributes. These comments were on top of a full day of one-to-one interviews the appointments secretaries held on Friday 15th and further supplemented by a volume of written comments received from across the region.
Dr Harrison asked Sir Paul Britton to summarise what had been heard by the secretaries during the two days of their visit:
“‘I think that what I have heard in the last 24 hours is not different from what others have been saying about this vacancy. It is that you recognise the picture of your diocese that has been painted, that Justin had begun to tackle some of the key issues that you feel strongly about, above all; mission, discipleship and growth. Growth in numerical terms - not just in depth but numbers – and, like other dioceses, see an urgency in mission growth, which Justin had brought here and you don’t want to move backwards on.
“That was one key theme, as is reaching out to young people through the schools. Academies - schools for the future - are a ‘bridge asset’ and schools like this were doing a magnificent job.
“These are big things that Justin had started to do here. Another – although people didn’t talk about it so much this morning - was the new approach to dealing with Parish Share, which you appreciated.
“That, whilst a clone of Justin wasn’t appropriate, the person would probably have some of the same characteristics. They would bring some new things as well. You said you don’t want to be comfortable, you want to be challenged and you’re up for change, and that is very refreshing.
“Some talked of things that Justin didn’t get round to tackling – such as the creative use of all resources.
“You also want a Bishop who will continue to ensure that the Church is absolutely at the leading edge in the Northeast, in building a more prosperous, and populous, community here, and who will also speak for the North East in London.”