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New Bishop sets out challenges

by Jonathan Ball last modified 23 Apr, 2012 09:56 AM

In his first address to the Salisbury Diocesan Synod meeting on Saturday 5 November, the new Bishop of Salisbury Nicholas Holtam laid out the challenges facing the diocese and the Church of England.

New Bishop sets out challenges

Bishop Nicholas Holtam

Speaking to the 120 delegates gathered at Market Lavington Community Hall, Bishop Holtam praised the diocese’s new Children and Young People strategy, which intentionally places them at the heart of the Church of England’s work in Dorset and Wiltshire. He hoped this would be the first of a series of strategies which would ‘give shared purpose and coherence…and help us to pull together in the same direction.’

He looked forward to the Olympics and Paralympics coming to the UK, and to Weymouth and Portland in particular next summer, urging use of the opportunities that the Games will bring ‘in a time of serious economic turmoil.’

Bishop Holtam pointed to the 17% fall in Average Sunday attendance in the diocese since 2000, arguing that ‘as a diocese and as the Church of England we have no option but to encourage growth in numbers and depth.’

The Bishop focused on the events outside St Paul’s Cathedral over the last fortnight as an example of how the Church is least attractive when talking about itself, and at its best ‘when attentive to God and one another in love and service rather than worrying about our own survival.’

He found agreement that the gap between richest and poorest has grown too large and is rapidly widening. However, he suggested that the Church’s ability to contribute to the debate about society’s values and the economic crisis had been damaged by St Paul’s Cathedral closing its doors. He argued: ‘Threatening to evict the protesters showed the cathedral as willing to use the power of the City of London to protect itself, which is the very thing that worries the rest of us.’

Bishop Holtam added: ‘Whilst it is not clear from the New Testament whether the Church is of, with, or for the poor, the Church isn't credible if we don't attempt something along one of those lines. St Paul’s seem not to have asked themselves that root question and they lacked the instinct to respond to the great opportunity of a crisis.’

The consequence had been resignations in circumstances damaging for the Church of England, and not just the St Paul’s clergy who had resigned.

The Bishop concluded by saying how delighted he was to have become Bishop of Salisbury, and he looked forward to a fruitful and happy partnership.

For the full text of the address, please click here.

Further information contact
The Bishop's Press Officer, Revd Jonathan Ball
01722 334031, 07500 872081,

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