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Home Who's who Bishops The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam. Sermons, articles, and speeches Presidential Address - February Synod 2016

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Presidential Address - February Synod 2016

by glynch — last modified 15 Feb, 2016 05:34 PM

The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, delivered the Presidential Address to Salisbury Diocesan Synod on 13 February 2016 at St Nicholas' Church, Corfe Mullen

Thank you
When we last met I asked for your support in my role as the C of E’s lead bishop for the environment. I was very grateful for your prayers and help in preparation for the UN climate change summit in Paris as the end of November.

CoP21 produced a remarkable agreement by 195 countries. The UN Secretary General said they were the largest and most complex talks in which he had ever been a part.

The agreement was in many ways more than most expected. 

It is also true that unless these ambitions become the basis for our actions what happened in Paris will achieve nothing.

If we want Government to act we have to put our own house in order. Two initiatives have been launched in recent weeks which will be of interest to churches.  

Eco-Church (more here) is a clever way of engaging church and community and creation care.  It has been developed by the Christian environmental charity A Rocha, founded by Peter Harris who lives in Market Lavington. There are details on the Diocesan web site.

The Big Switch (more here) was launched on Ash Wednesday by Christian Aid, Tear Fund and CAFOD is to get us to use our power as consumers to encourage the switch to renewable energy.

Lent is a great time to be thinking about environmental matters as we seek to turn our lives to God with reverence, joy, thanksgiving.

Welcome to Rosie Stiven, the new President of the Docesan Mothers Union, Rosie has succeeded Ann Howard and the MU is the largest organisation in the Diocese.

We have new Rural Deans appointed in Milton and Blandford where Jonathan Triffit will be taking over from John Simmons and Justin Pottinger will be Assistant Rural Dean. In Dorchester Jonathan Still will take over from Janet Smith who is retiring in April.

On Monday week we will be welcoming Sue Groom as the new Archdeacon of Wilts and on Wednesday week Karen Gorham will be consecrated Bishop of Sherborne. Bishop Karen will be installed as a Canon in the Cathedral on Thursday 25th February and welcomed by the Diocese at Sherborne Abbey on Sunday 6th March. We look forward to their ministry among us and pray for them in this period of preparation.

It will be a relief for the Bishop’s Staff to be back to full strength. I am very conscious of the heavy loads carried by colleagues. Both the Archdeacon of Sherborne and the Archdeacon of Wilts have had periods of being known as ‘Archdeacon of Everywhere’, Alan for the second time in 4 years. I want to thank both of them warmly at this Synod for what has been a period of really hard work.

Chancellor of the Diocese
For each diocese there is a court of the Bishop which is called the consistory court. The Chancellor of a Diocese is the Judge of that court  and is under a duty to hear and determine disputed cases impartially according to the rule of law. Appeal is not to the Bishop but to the Court of Arches, very occasionally to the Privy Council.

In addition to being the judge of the consistory court, the Chancellor holds the ancient office of vicar-general and it is in that capacity that the Chancellor grants marriage licences.

Much of the Chancellor’s work revolves around Faculty Jurisdiction, enabling often historic buildings to be transformed as suitable for Church of England worship in the 21st century.

The volume of work can be considerable. In 2014 the Chancellor dealt with

  • Over 200 faculty petitions.                 
  • 140 applications for extended minor works permission.
  • Almost 100 requests for out of court advice.

Since May 1997 His Honour Judge Sam Wiggs has been Chancellor of the Diocese of Salisbury. Sam has served the diocese with distinction. Last year Sam indicated he would like to retire in the near future. 

After a careful search process I am pleased to announce the appointment of Ruth Arlow as our new Chancellor. She lives in Somerset. Her legal practice has principally been in the area of family law but she has developed a considerable specialism in ecclesiastical law. Since 2012 she has been Chancellor in the Diocese of Norwich, a post in which she will continue whilst also being our Chancellor.

I shall be licensing Ruth Arlow as Chancellor on Monday 22 February. Sam Wiggs will cease to be our Chancellor with effect from Friday 19th February having served for nearly 19 years. I am sure that Synod will want to join me in thanking Sam warmly for his exceptional service and wish him well in his retirement, not least with the project to re-order Tisbury parish church.

We will be looking for an occasion to welcome Ruth to the Diocese.

Shared Conversations
In November a group of 17 people from this Diocese with others from of Winchester and Portsmouth took part in the facilitated conversations to help the Church of England talk about issues of sexuality, particularly the significance of same sex relationships. Those taking part have a mostly positive account of the process but said how much they valued the skilful facilitation and the amount of time given to it. They are sceptical we could do something similar as a diocese without a similar commitment of time and resource.

General Synod will be undertaking a similar process when it meets at York in July. From that we can expect something to be developed to come back to us a Diocese next year.

Primates Meeting
In January the Primates of the Anglican Communion met in Canterbury. The significance of same sex relationships and what we make of them as a worldwide Communion were on the agenda. Some were hurt and disappointed with the lack of progress. Others thought it a small miracle that most people stayed in the room for the week and they talked about more than sex. I think it will be some time before we know the outcomes of the meeting.

I was particularly pleased they also talked about Climate Justice not least because a contribution from the Orthodox Church to the discussion of the Papal encyclical Laudato Si’ observed that this is an issue of such existential importance that it relativises all our differences. Archbishop Justin thinks the same is true in relation to the persecution of Christians in parts of the world and of the more pressing need to evangelise the world.

If the Primates think same sex relationships are difficult to know what to do with as a worldwide Communion, just wait until they really start on the implications of fixing the date of Easter which seems to me a curiously unexamined piece of cultural accommodation that separates the timing of of Easter from Passover and detaches us from our Jewish roots.

One of the things that became clear through the Primates’ Meeting is that the Communion exists in our relationships. A number of people have raised concerns with me about strengthening relationships with The Episcopal Church in the United States. We will want to do all we can to strengthen the bonds of affection that are the basis of the Communion.

Visiting Bishops
In that spirit I am pleased we will be welcoming today 3 bishops from the Sudan and South Sudan.

Bishop Hassan Oman James, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Kadugli,(Nuba Mountains) in Sudan(with Christopher Fielden)
Bishop Abdu Elnur Kodi of the Diocese of Port Sudan, in Sudan 
Bishop Daniel Deng Abot of the Diocese of Duk in South Sudan.

They have been on the conference for new bishops held in Canterbury each January, which our Bishop Ed used to organise. There will be an opportunity to talk with them over lunch.  

The link with the Sudan and South Sudan continues in a variety of ways. The countries are very different but their needs of both are very pressing. Our giving goes through a variety of channels and is not just from the diocese. Quite a lot is now from deanery to diocese or from special fundraising for particular projects. What goes through the diocesan accounts is therefore only a part of our giving to the needs of the Sudan and South Sudan which I am confident overall remains significantly more than £250,000 a year.

The UN estimate there are 3.1 million refugees in Sudan, a country of about 38 million 9c.10%). In the South Sudan, a country of about 11 million people, 2.3 million have been displaced by the conflict(c. 20%) and 5.1 million (towards 50%) will depend on humanitarian aid this year. Bishop Daniel was telling me on Ash Wednesday that in his diocese of Duk, 90% of the population has left because of the conflict.

We have often said in this diocese that our links with the Sudan and South Sudan teach us about what it is to be neighbours to one another in a world of great variety and difference. It might be helpful to see the refugee crisis across Europe in a similar way. This is the largest movement of refugees in Europe since the Second World War. 

Our government have prioritised aid for the Middle East and have led in their contributions to the refugee camps in and around Syria. But we do not seem to have geared up to the needs of refugees who have already made or are making the journey. What does it mean to be neighbour to those in the ‘Jungle’ at Calais?

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan paid the costs of care to the inn keeper for the man who fell among thieves.  The Samaritan, an outsider, also taught the good religious insiders the true meaning of the Law by being merciful. There is no simple answer to the present refugee crisis but we might want to think, pray and act about refugees by asking ourselves what it means to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves and to be merciful.

A holy Lent
We meet near the start of Lent in the hope that these 40 days will renew us as the people God would have us be through a process of us turning again to Christ. May we have a holy Lent with the prospect of a joyful Easter.

+Nicholas Sarum
13th February 2016



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