The Bishop of Durham Reveals Loneliness at the Top

Posted by Kendall Harmon

By Michael Brown

The fourth most senior figure in the Anglican hierarchy says too many demands are these days being made of bishops.

The complaint is forthrightly made by the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Tom Wright, (pictured) in the September issue of Newslink, the newspaper of the Durham diocese.

And the 59-year-old church leader confesses that he has been finding it particularly hard to run his diocese in recent months since the departure for Oxford of his suffragan, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, Bishop of Jarrow, and before the arrival next month of the Ven Mark Bryant, at present Archdeacon of Coventry, as the new Bishop of Jarrow.

Bishop Wright says: “I have enjoyed this period of interregnum—in a funny sort of way. I’ve done more confirmations and licensings per week and month than ever before, and visited several churches for the first time.”

But the bishop goes on: “But I have discovered... that if there is only one of you, it’s not only a bit lonely but, frankly, more or less impossible. The demands on bishops these days are enormous.”

The 71st Bishop of Durham, in a reference to the 63rd bishop of the same see — the famous and controversial Hensley Henson who was at Durham from 1920 until 1939 — declares: “Gone are the days when Hensley Henson could spend all morning writing a letter to The Times, all afternoon walking round the park [of Auckland Castle] chatting with unemployed miners, and all evening at a great dinner party.”

And he bemoans: “Goodness, I’ve only played golf three times this year — and one of those was official diocesan business.”

With apparent relief, Bishop Wright declares: “I am enormously looking forward to sharing ministry with Mark,” and in a message to the flock of his diocese he adds: “I know you will welcome him with open arms and hearts.”

--This article appears in the Church of England Newspaper, August 31st, 2007, edition, on page 3

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops

10 Comments
Posted August 31, 2007 at 4:37 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Wilfred wrote:

Goodness, he’s only played golf three times this year!  Doubtless the Church will canonize him for this living martydom.

August 31, 8:48 pm | [comment link]
2. Wilfred wrote:

Make that martyrdom .  Martin Marty is the only one I know of, experiencing a living “martydom”.

August 31, 10:18 pm | [comment link]
3. Occasional Reader wrote:

Please, Wilfred, if there is a harder working scholar-bishop in the Anglican Communion, I don’t know who it could be.  Wright could have a cushy and prestigious research post (i.e., without lecturing responsibilities) at almost any academic institution of his choosing, but he has chosen to serve the church instead and deserves our utmost respect.

August 31, 10:54 pm | [comment link]
4. Branford wrote:

In a tangential way, this reminded me of Fr. Timothy Fountain’s posting at Northern Plains Anglicans, especially

A spiritual leader needs to have a trusting relationship with overseers, colleagues, mentors and other leaders. “Just me and my people” is inadequate, because I am inadequate. I need guidance, spiritual direction and pastoral care from Godly leaders. That is the Biblical design and Anglicans have written tons of stuff about “sacred orders of ministry.” But I need those over me to be under the headship of Christ, which is not assured with current TEC leaders.

Both of these pieces reinforce to me that as laity we are called to daily pray for our church leaders and clergy.

September 1, 12:00 am | [comment link]
5. Wilfred wrote:

#3 Occasional,  You are right.  I am sure the bishop has a harder job to fill, and certainly one more important, than do I.

And I myself complain about my job, mostly to Mrs Wilfred.  I seldom write the complaints down, however, because when I do & then read them, they sound ridiculous.

September 1, 10:33 am | [comment link]
6. RichardKew wrote:

I have never yet worked out how Tom Wright does everything that he already does. I sometimes wonder if he is one of those people for whom sleep is an optional extra, thus making him several more hours to write, etc., when the rest of us are off in dream land!

September 1, 5:28 pm | [comment link]
7. MJD_NV wrote:

#6 - rather like our esteemed blog host! grin

September 1, 6:10 pm | [comment link]
8. Bob from Boone wrote:

Fr. Kew, you took the words right out of my mouth.

BTW, I am reading Bp. Wright’s lectures published as _Paul: Fresh Perspectives_. Wright’s style is a bit more discursive than I like to read, but his thesis is most stimulating to my own thinking and will shape my class lecture on Paul this semester.

Though I don’t always agree with him, +Wright is my kind of evangelical Anglican.

September 2, 2:41 pm | [comment link]
9. sblackmun wrote:

“The fourth most senior figure in the Anglican hierarchy….” And what, pray tell, is the “Anglican hierarchy”? I suppose the Church of England has a hierarchy, but the Anglican Communion certainly does not. And it’s hard to understand how the TEC leadership could be adding to Bp Wright’s exhaustion….

September 3, 12:30 am | [comment link]
10. RichardKew wrote:

What is meant by fourth most senior is that there are several sees in the Church of England that historically have, as it were, priority. Canterbury is the mother see of the Church of England followed by York, London, Durham, and Winchester. “Hierarchy” is probably not quite the right word to use, but I suppose it sounds a little more formal than “pecking order!”

September 3, 9:18 am | [comment link]
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