What qualities do you look for in a Bishop?

For the first time I will shortly take part in the process of selecting a new bishop. Tonight at our Area Council we will start the discussion by looking at the qualities we’d look for in a bishop.

I have worked under 3 Bishops: +Richard Holloway; +Michael Henley; and +Brian Smith. I have also worked closely in parish work with a few retired bishops: +Michael Hare-Duke; +Douglas Cameron and +Alan Smithson. And really you couldn’t get more diverse people than those six. Each has particular gifts and strengths, some led from the front and others from the rear, and they were a good mix of introverts and extroverts.

So let’s start off this discussion with what qualities I’d like to see in my new Bishop:

  1. I think I need a Bishop who is approachable. Someone I wouldn’t be afraid to go to speak about problems or to explore new ideas.
  2. I’d like my Bishop to have plenty (diverse if possible) parish experience so they are aware of the problems we face in the front-line.
  3. And I think a Bishop shouldn’t be afraid to admit their weaknesses and delegate certain parts of the job if they are not up to it.
  4. In my dreams I would like my new Bishop to be a woman but gender (or sexuality) are as irrelevant as hair colour. However, I do need my Bishop to be affirming of gender and sexuality issues.
  5. When I met a Swedish Bishop recently I asked her if she missed parish work and having a little flock to tend. She said that all the diocesan clergy were now her little flock. So I would like a Bishop who is pastoral and really cares about her/his clergy.

Over to you now. What qualities do you look for in a Bishop?


14 thoughts on “What qualities do you look for in a Bishop?

  1. Ruth, we are in the search for a new bishop here as well. Your list pretty much matches ours. Pastoral, with parish experience, approachable, who supports clergy and has a staff prepared and eager to support parishes. I would add that clergy support would include not just encouragement but helping us find life-giving continuing education and retreat opportunities. Open minded, fair, and inspiring.

  2. Having some Edinburgh experience – the ability to say “no” when the media want a ‘Christian leader’ on just to be controversial.

    And a decent appreciation of Matthew 7:12.

    Otherwise, frankly, it doesn’t really matter down here in the stalls.

  3. Personally, I think number 5, a pastoral heart, is, by far, the most important requirement. Unfortunately, in England at the present, to become a candidate for the episcopacy usually entails having to be anything but pastoral. The business model is so dominant that selection is more like an episode of “The Apprentice” than anything resembling Christian discernment.

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