The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, has spoken of the ‘huge national and local challenges’ facing the Church of England following his Enthronement at Chichester Cathedral yesterday (Sunday November 25).
In his Enthronement Sermon in Chichester Cathedral in front of a congregation gathered to welcome Dr Warner as the new diocesan bishop, he echoed the words of Jesus: “Do not be afraid.”
He said at times, these challenges seem formidable and insurmountable but that the message of the Christian Gospel was ultimately that Christians should not be afraid of facing such difficulties. He will be welcomed to Horsham at a service on Wednesday at St Mary’s Church at 7pm.
He added: “These are the words that Jesus speaks to us today, as still he beckons us to apprehend the reality of his presence and his power to heal, to transform, to redeem. “Do not be afraid” to continue with the task of learning the language of the new righteousness and truth, even though we shall falter and stumble in the articulation of it.
Dr Warner admitted that the “Church of England’s self-confidence and national reputation” had been badly affected as a result of the General Synod vote on women bishops last week.
“We now have to face some very uncomfortable facts that will implicate us all in a review of our decision-making processes as a Church,” he said.
“And although the temptation to apportion blame is a dangerous one, perhaps we can observe that the political processes of the General Synod have not delivered for us a reliable way of finding consensus on how to attain the goal of including women in the episcopate, which is undoubtedly the earnest desire of the majority of people in the CofE.”
He suggested: “As we reflect on our situation we might ask how we are now to set about our mission and rebuilding trust and understanding.”
And, more locally, the new Bishop did not ignore the critical issue of safeguarding in his new Diocese: “The diocese of Chichester has recently had the experience of facing a similar challenge, in the wake of reviews of our safeguarding record and the arrest, trial and conviction of some who have ministered here.
“I want to pay tribute to all who have worked so hard to ensure that the safeguarding policies of the diocese and their even and thorough implementation enable us to say with growing conviction and confidence that in our parishes and Church institutions children and vulnerable adults will be safe and feel safe.”
The Bishop thanked the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commissaries for what they “have done to support the task of transparent and unflinching investigation into the past and the shaming, criminal behaviour that continues to have destructive effects on those who suffer as a result of our collective failure, people to whom we have a continuing responsibility.”
The congregation heard Dr Warner urge them not to be “simply overwhelmed and paralysed by the enormity of this inheritance of institutional shame.”
He warned: “To allow that to happen would be a further dereliction of our vocation. I was enormously encouraged, at one of the low points of the past couple of months, to hear a representative of the local Social Services say that the reason for their concern about safeguarding in this diocese was fuelled by conviction that the people of Sussex, Brighton and Hove need the Church to be a reliable advocate and practitioner of best practice, because in the voluntary sector we are the largest provider of resources and facilities for young people.”