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Archbishop's farewells from the February 2009 Synod

Friday 13th February 2009

The Archbishop of Canterbury gave a farewell speech at the General Synod to mark the retirement of the Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Rev Ian Cundy and the Bishop of Carlisle, Rt Rev Graham Dow.

Read a transcript of the farewells below, or click download on the right to listen [15Mb]

As I think members of synod will know we had hoped to have Sheila Cameron with us in order to say goodbye to her as Dean of the Arches, and unfortunately her accident has prevented this. She's broken her leg, her doctor's orders are very clear that she needs to rest it. I hope that it may be possible to persuade Sheila to come to York in July, because it does seem to me rather sad that we haven't got an opportunity of saying a public farewell to one of the Church of England's very greatest servants.

She has written a letter which I hope you won't mind my sharing with you. She sends her apologies for her absence, explains that she's broken her right leg below the knee in a fall on a damp-tiled terrace.

I do not know whether you'll continue with the plan to say farewell to me, for the record, she says, but if you do, and you think it's appropriate to pass on a message from me to the synod, please will you say that I shall retain happy memories of the synod in all its moods, and for some reason she's underlined those words! And I've particularly valued the friendship and companionship of members of all three houses over all the years, I have been an ex-officio member.

So, I hope, as I say, we'll have a chance to say a bit more about Sheila in due course, but I know you'll be keeping and her and Gerry in your prayers in the coming weeks.

We have to say farewell also to two members of the House of Bishops. Every year, when A-level results are announced, there are complaints about falling standards. Everybody always gets three As these days, and nobody ever gets three Ds or three Es. Well, I'm glad to say that I think the Bishop of Peterborough can be said to have achieved three Es with great distinction in a variety of roles. I want to talk briefly about the three Es of Ian Cundy's career.

The first is education: education in general, and education in particular of the church's ministry. Ian's been governor of many schools, Monkton Coombe, Eastbourne College, Lancing, Oakham, Uppingham, but also of course warden of Cranmer Hall for nine years, playing, I think, a crucial role in establishing that institution in its present place as in the forefront of our training institutions. And it's not only in an institutional sense that Ian has made education a priority. In his work as a bishop, both in Lewes and in Peterborough, he's remembered as a teacher, someone who is superb with groups of clergy, interpreting theological issues to them out of a very wide and very deep reading, and many people have commented on the depth and the clarity and cohesiveness of his addresses at Diocesan synod.

Education and, of course, ecumenism, because since 1998 Ian has been chair of CCU and has devoted himself to that work with tremendous stamina and enthusiasm. He's carried the ecumenical banner in synod and elsewhere, he's given huge amounts of time and energy to all the networking and the representational work that's involved in that. He has of course, very importantly, been looking at the implementation of the Methodist/Anglican covenant in recent years, and playing a driving role in that. He was a member of FOAG for 14 years, took part in the Anglican Old Catholic dialogues, and all in all, has a claim to be a very credible and a much loved representative of the Church of England in all its ecumenical work.

I'm tempted to put in a sort of fourth or three-and-a-half E at this point, and mention also the E that stands for 'Excruciatingly difficult jobs', because Ian was also a member of the small group that drafted the House of Bishops statement on civil partnerships, a notable act of service and self-sacrifice on one of the most difficult issues we've had to deal with in recent years.

And while I'm still in brackets, so to speak, I could mention all the other things that Ian's done, his work as a church commissioner in recent years, and his great witness and example as a team player in diocese and House of Bishops and generally in the church.

But my third major is E is engineer. Education and ecumenism and engineering. Ian was a qualified pilot, and I forebear to make any jokes at all about flying bishops at this point. He enjoys rebuilding classic cars, antique clocks - one of our colleagues recalls that a grandfather clock inherited by him was spotted by Ian and mended within two days, rather impressively. He's rewired his own house and it hasn't burnt down yet. He's installed two kitchens and it tells me here he has a great collection of corkscrews. And I think I just have to leave that for your contemplation, members of synod!

Ian has addressed everything he's done with great energy, not least his favoured hobby of walking, and that's one of the things that's been sadly sacrificed in the months of illness that he's endured recently. Ian, I think you know that we've all had you very much in our prayers in the last year or so when you've been working through the consequences of this illness. All the prayer that's gone in your direction, and Jo's also, has been an index of the very great affection, appreciation, and I think I'd say, unqualified trust, which has been felt for you in the synod and among your colleagues. And it's a privilege to be able to put that on record today as we pray for you in what lies ahead. We know that your ministry has been remarkable since the illness was diagnosed, and we know that you and Jo have shared your experiences very bravely and very frankly with many of us. And that has been in itself a ministry and a gift, not the least of the gifts you've given to the church over these many years of service. And so, we wish you, and Jo, all good things as you move to Weardale, we shall no doubt hear a bit about new kitchens and rewiring there as well, and who knows what use the corkscrews will be put to in greater leisure! But I know that synod will want to join me in saying thank you for everything, to Jo and to Ian, and applaud them please.

One of the things that the media seems to know about the Bishop of Carlisle is that he was chaplain of St John's in the time when a young man by the name of Antony Blair was an undergraduate there. I don't think we'll hold you wholly responsible Graham, for what happened afterwards, I like to think of that wonderful dictum which was so dear to the hearts of all Welsh people: the Englishman is a self-made man, therefore relieving God of a terrible responsibility.

But in all seriousness, I know because we shared some years together at Oxford, I know how important your pastoral care and your theological stimulus was to a whole generation of students and ordinands some of whom I count among my friends today. Education has been a mark of Graham's life as much as Ian's, he taught Christian doctrine at St John's in Nottingham for many years, as well as his work in Oxford and ever since then has continued to see his work very much as that of a teacher and above all a proclaimer of the gospel.

Graham has also given great energy and imagination to deepening and strengthening the ministry of lay-people in our church, and I suppose that is particularly been evident in his work as chair of the Central Readers' Council, and that's a cause that has needed championing in our church and Graham, you've championed it very, very effectively, very powerfully. You've constantly emphasised the need to seek out the gifts of lay-people and let them loose in the church in the best way possible. Lay ministers and readers, evangelists, pastoral assistants, lay chaplains and hospitals, all of these people have much cause to be thankful to you.

And in putting the ministry of the whole people of God at the heart of your sense of the church, you've also insisted that that ministry be seen in as fully biblical a way as possible, so that the ministry of healing has had a very particular focus and significance for you and for Molly in your years in the ordained ministry of the Church of England. That particular emphasis on healing and the teaching weekends that you and Molly have shared on that subject and on others, that's been of the first importance in all that you've done.

And that's been combined in the last decade with a real rootedness in the life of Cumbria. Folklore has it – and even the Crown nominations commission has its folklore – that the diocese of Carlisle at the time asked for a liberal Catholic with rural experience, so naturally they had an evangelical bishop from North London.

But I think the way in which you have made Cumbria your own, have spoken from Cumbria and for Cumbria in all kinds of ways, that's something which many, many people will remember with enormous thanksgiving. You've spoken for Cumbria, and indeed for rural concerns in the House of Lords with great clarity and courage, and one thing that you and I share is having pastured a diocese through the horrors of the foot and mouth epidemic, and what I heard consistently at that time when I was bishop of Monmouth was that if you wanted to see how the Church should respond to such a crisis, you should look to the diocese of Carlisle. So that's a real tribute, I think, to the way in which you made those concerns central to your witness as bishop in Carlisle.

Carlisle is sometimes thought of as being a long way away, i.e. from London. But Graham has consistently kept an eye on what might seem to be marginal parts of the Church and the communion, and he's taken Carlisle's diocesan links with great seriousness – in southern Africa, in northern Argentina, in Madras, Stavanger - all of these I know have been very close to Graham and Molly's hearts as they've travelled in witness and ministry, not just as tourists, not even as church tourists, which is a great temptation for bishops from time to time, but ministering across the communion with great effect and great passion.

So as Graham and Molly move towards retirement in Romiley near Stockport, there will, I gather, be some opportunity to indulge one of Graham's passions, because the East Lancashire railway, the Moseley Railway Trust and the Heaton Park tramway will all be within relatively easy access, and I would imagine that one of the reasons he agreed to go to Carlisle in the first place was, of course, that if you happen to be a railway enthusiast, then the northwest of England is a fairly paradisal place to be.

We hope that there'll be still more books to come from Graham's pen. There have been valuable works published about work, about prayer, about the ministry of deliverance, about Christians in public life, about renewal and the Holy Spirit. And I hope that Graham's new leisure will give him opportunity to share still more of the depth of wisdom and spiritual insight that he's always shown.

Graham is a person of immense warmth, as his colleagues know – warmth, loyalty, friendship. A warmth that commends the Lord Jesus Christ unequivocally to all those with whom he finds himself, and we know that his new neighbours will be as much the beneficiaries of that as we, his former neighbours in this synod. Graham and Molly, we wish you every blessing. With much love.

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