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Bishop John Wraw consecrated

by Jonathan Ball last modified 26 Jan, 2012 05:21 PM

The former Archdeacon of Wilts John Wraw has been ordained Bishop of Bradwell in the Diocese of Chelmsford.

Bishop John Wraw consecrated

The Archbishop of Canterbury congratulates the new Bishop of Bradwell

The service of Consecration, in which Canon Tim Dakin was also consecrated as Bishop of Winchester, was led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Rowan Williams, at St Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday 25 January 2012. Archdeacon Wraw was presented to the Archbishop by the Bishop of Salisbury Nicholas Holtam.

Bishop John Wraw will be installed and welcomed as the fifth Bishop of Bradwell on Sunday, 29 January 2012 in Chelmsford Cathedral.

The Episcopal Area of Bradwell, within the Diocese of Chelmsford, covers the towns of Basildon, Tilbury Docks, Southend-on-Sea, Maldon, Brentwood and Chelmsford, as well as the rural areas of the Dengie peninsular where a stone chapel was built by St Cedd in 654 AD at Bradwell. It is served by the Archdeacon of Southend, nine rural or area deans, 170 clergy and 105 lay readers. Some 14,350 people are on church electoral rolls and there are 40 church schools. 

Bishop Wraw succeeds Right Reverend Dr Laurie Green who served as the fourth Bishop of Bradwell from February 1993 to February 2011. John is married to Gillian and they have four children. John was first ordained in 1985 and served as curate in Bromyard in Herefordshire, before moving on to Arbourthorne in Sheffield as team vicar in 1988, and Rotherham in 1992. In both posts he was involved in community development and social justice, further education and migrant communities.

He was appointed Area Dean of Rotherham in 1998 and made an Honorary Canon of Sheffield Cathedral in 2001. Alongside his parochial responsibilities Bishop Wraw chaired the Faith and Justice Committee in the Diocese of Sheffield, taking lead responsibility for engagement with public life, social concerns and wider community links.

In 2004 the Bishop was appointed Archdeacon of Wilts in the Diocese of Salisbury, where he led on health issues across the diocese and links with public life within Wiltshire.He was a board member of the County Local Strategic Partnership for four years and when it was re-launched as the Wiltshire Assembly in 2008 was invited to become the first chair.

The Bishop said: “Walking into St Paul’s Cathedral was an intensely humbling and awesome experience. I much valued the gentle support of the Archbishop of Canterbury and an inspiring sermon by the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell.“I look forward with much anticipation to beginning my ministry in the Bradwell Episcopal Area."

I have already met many committed and gifted lay people and clergy across the Area. “This is an exciting time to be coming to the Diocese of Chelmsford.”

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, said, "John Wraw’s appointment as Bishop of Bradwell is recognition that he has been an outstanding Archdeacon of Wilts. He is creative about ministry and mission and thinks and acts strategically. The Diocese of Salisbury is making a contribution to the wider Church of England. This is a very good appointment for John and for the Diocese of Chelmsford."


Sermon for the Consecration of John Wraw and Tim Dakin, St Paul’s Cathedral, 25 January 2012 - The Feast of the Conversion of St Paul The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell

The Lord said to Ananias as he set off on his unenviable task, “Go, for he, Paul, is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9. 15b & 16)

In Canto 18 of the second part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, by the time Virgil completes his discourse on love and freewill the moon is high in the sky. Dante is just dozing off when he is, and I quote, “roused by the noisy approach of the slothful!”i

This is how it works in Purgatory. It is “where human spirits purge themselves, and train to leap up into joy celestial”ii . There are seven terraces, each of which corresponds to one of the seven capital sins. And in purgatory the punishment – or should we say the means of purification – fits the crime. Thus it is that Dante is roused by the slothful. Clad in lycra, peppered with perspiration, and with an everlasting subscription to the gym, their penance is to jog. Likewise we may suppose that the lustful are locked in a room watching party political broadcasts from the 1970s and the test card on an endless loop; the wrathful spend their days being listened to; the envious look in a mirror; and the gluttonous are signed up to weightwatchers, nibbling an eternity’s supply of rice cakes and bran.

Well, I don’t know about purgatory, but there is some wisdom here. God gets us in the end. He works on our shadow. He is inside out. And you can tell the offence by observing the penalty. So why, on the road to Damascus, would God seize the vision of a man like Saul? Well. It is blindingly obvious. Saul saw things too clearly. Here was a man with a sure touch, a clear head, a strategic mind: episcopal material if ever I saw it. And yet it was not enough. Not only was it not enough, it had become the very enemy of all God’s purposes, bent on destroying the infant church with the awful, bloody clarity of the misdirected single mind. To bring this mind to a place of refining darkness an even greater light was required. One that reduces before it expands. One that darkens before it brings to light.

Sometimes it feels to me that ministry –all ministry, but maybe especially episcopal ministry – is like running up the down escalator. It can be done. And if, like me, you remember doing it as a boy, you will know that it carries with it a certain triumphant exhilaration. It certainly requires a singleness of mind and a very determined best foot forward. But what you mustn’t do is stop. The trouble is as life goes on, and the escalators seem longer and faster, the only option is to run faster and longer yourself.

Brothers and sisters I have a dream. I have a dream of a different way of doing ministry. I have a dream of an up escalator. I believe there is a way of doing what we must do, and achieving what we must achieve, but in a way that is less dependent on us and on our hard work. And I believe that in order to find it we may have to stop running. We may have to let God lead us to a place of darkness, blindness, unknowing. And there, in the utter lostness of that place, he will turn us around, and show us his way. That’s what is happening on those seven terraces that Dante spoke about. It is what God is doing to Saul on the road to Damascus: giving him a new name and a new identity, making him Paul.

John. Tim. It is what God wants to do in you. He wants to bring you again to a place of refining, where you will learn to trust him. And we bishops need this more than most, because, as you will quickly discover, it is a beguiling and seductive role. People treat us - and they mean it well – as if we are something special. When you arrive at a church a parking space will be ready for you. Someone will be waiting to greet you and to carry your bag. Someone will be on hand should you need to pass them your staff or take off your mitre. You will have PAs, secretaries, chaplains, drivers, advisers, gardeners, caterers. You will not have to make phone calls. Someone will put you through. You will not open your own post. You will not fill in your own diary. You will learn not to think out loud. That would be policy. You will talk a lot. And I mean an awful lot. Talk after talk after sermon after sermon. You will be an important person. People will say all sorts of things about you – usually behind your back. But in public and for most of the time, they will believe your publicity, and you will doubtless come to do the same. And then one day, when someone forgets to put the cones out for your car, and no one is there to carry your bag, or you are not asked to say a few words, you will fume with simmering resentment.

John. Tim. We need to be a different sort of bishop. Missionary and pilgrim rather than Master or Lord. Why? Because there is only one Master and Lord and we serve him. Oh God, give the church leaders who know how to be led, and then following in his footsteps, we will find our way to joy: ‘Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me.’ This is what God said to Paul on the Damascus Road. And, finally, isn’t this what Paul had to learn more than anything else in the darkness of his refining visionless vision. And isn’t this what we bishops need to learn too. The Church belongs to God. It is his, not ours. No, more than this, it is not God’s possession, it is the body on earth of his beloved son Jesus Christ into which we are incorporated. We bishops are not local branch managers of Church of England plc, we are those limbs and organs of Christ’s body who are charged with specific responsibility to pastor and evangelise. It is our role to encourage and equip the church for ministry, ‘fostering the gifts of the Spirit in all who follow Christ ‘iii and then telling – above all, telling - the story of God’s love in Christ, witnessing to all that he has done in our own lives, ‘proclaiming the gospel boldly, confronting injustice and working for righteousness and peace in the world’iv

I remember recently doing that thing I’m sure we all do in schools where children grill the bishop in the classroom for a few minutes. The questions are quite predictable: Bishop, how much do you earn? More than a paper boy and less than the Prime Minister. Which football team do you support? The mighty Spurs. And then coming in under the radar, rocking me for a moment: Bishop what do you actually do? And I replied: I am a voice. I am a pair of hands. And now I want to add, that, yes, there have been, and will be, moments of wretchedness and darkness, when I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know what to say, and in these moments, like in the gospel itself, where the sky blackens as Jesus hangs upon the cross, and where God raises him in the darkness before the dawn, it is in the refining emptiness of these moments that I learn to trust God and become again his voice and his hands to do his will and purpose for the world. John. Tim, this is what God asks of you. For his people in Essex and East London, in Hampshire, East Dorset, the Channel Islands - those places that he loves. Be his hands and voice. Let him take all the rich experiences of your lives and ministry; all the things that have led you to be called and chosen for this high office, and let him cleanse and refine you. Be ‘an instrument in God’s hands’ so that Christ may be known. Let him lead you into the darkness as well as into light.

i Dante, The Divine Comedy 2: Purgatory, tr Dorothy L Sayers, Penguin Classics, 1955, p 205

ii Dante, The Divine Comedy 2: Purgatory, tr Dorothy L Sayers, Penguin Classics, 1955, p 73

iii Common Worship, Ordination Services, Ordination of a Bishop, Church House Publishing, 2007, p61

iv Common Worship, Ordination Services, Ordination of a Bishop, Church House Publishing, 2007, p61  


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