Tuesday, 13 March 2012


Today, whilst I was waiting for Father Martin to pick me up to take me to the meeting of the SSC, there was a knock on the front. door. I opened it to two very presentable men who when they saw my dog collar looked a bit thwarted. I was being visited by the local Jehovah’s Witnesses. I always dread these encounters and hope to avoid them but, in fact, these were two very interesting people. One of their concerns is the present moral state, or the lack of it, amongst many of our young people And the fact that many people no longer have any thought about society, just living their lives in a cocoon from the needs and concerns of their neighbours. They were also concerned about the Governments plans for Gay Marriages. It was an interesting chat and not like the many I’ve had in the past.

We drove to Colchester, (stopping at Sainsbury’s for coffee and a doughnut) for the meeting at St. Barnabas which started with Mass followed by lunch and then the opportunity to meet Norman, the new Bishop of Richborough who gave an interesting talk and then answered our questions. Bishop Norman will be made an Assistant Bishop of Chelmsford Diocese on the 27th March at 5.15 p.m. to which all are welcome

This years Chrism Mass celebrated by The Bishop of Richborough will be on Monday 2nd April at 12 noon.


  1. That's been a standard "opener" for every JW conversation I've had in the last 20 years, Father. (And I've had a lot - I wonder if I'm seen as a potential convert because I am always polite and never give them an immediate brush-off.) I'm surprised that it was a new one on you.

    Am mightily curious about the bishop of one see becoming an assistant bishop of another see. Is this even canonical? I don't see (ahem) how it will work in practice, either.

    If Resolution 'C' parish in the diocese of Chelmsford invites him to pontificate, does he do so as Bishop of Richborough, or as an assistant bishop to the Bishop of Chelmsford? If - for whatever reason - the Bishop of Chelmsford forbids him to do something, is he still permitted to do it as the Bishop of Richborough? What about if he is operating in the Diocese of Chelmsford? If he acts as Bishop of Richborough in a way that his superior (the Bishop of Chelmsford) forbids, has he committed an act of canonical disobedience? Can he, in fact, be +Richborough within the diocese of +Chelmsford?

    I'm sure that there are ancient canons which forbid this, for precisely this reason...

    1. The Bishop of Richborough is a suffragen of Canterbury. When he officiates in a 'c' parish he does so as a right but those who haven't passed 'c' can use him as an Assistant of Chelmsford. Of course, the title "Richborough" does not designate a see; it is a courtesy title and represents an old title which has fa;llen into disuse until revived for PEV's when they were first appointed.

      With regard to the JW's I have heard concerns about "moral welfare" before, However this seemed different to the usual chat. One thing - they didn't attempt to convert me. In the past I havr been accosted just as I'm about to go into church to celebrate Mass.

    2. Thanks for that Father, I understand a little better now. I am still having difficulty in understanding the reasoning,even though you have made it much clearer than it was when I first heard the news.

      Whether or not +Richborough designates a "real" see (and I'm always uncomfortable with "titular" sees, regardless of where they pop up), he is still a suffragan of ++Canterbury. +Chelmsford is also a suffragan of ++Canterbury, albeit in a different way. Thus we have the same problem: under whose authority will +Norman be acting? His superior, or his other superior (who is also his superior's superior)? He cannot stop being +Richborough just in order to become +RandomChelmsfordAssistant.

      It would make slightly more sense if he had been appointed as an assistant in a province outwith that of ++Canterbury, but even then there are canonical problems: he would be the deputy of a Metropolitan, interfering in the good order of another Metropolitan's province.

      It's all very messy. It seems to me that this is the beginning of the end of the Flying Bishops. +Norman is being given a new job in preparation for his redundancy.

      Full disclosure: I was CofE in my youth, but have spent most of my life as a RC until last year. I'm now nothing (for reasons I will not rehearse here), but very likely to start the process of becoming Orthodox some time this year. I have no dog in the Ordinariate race, but I retain a keen interest in - and concern for - both the Ordinariate and the church of my youth.

    3. The Bishop of Richborough (as with is predecessors)is licensed as an Honorary Assistant Bishop to the Bishop of Chelmsford and acts as such under the authority of the Diocesan Bishop whenever he is in the Diocese of Chelmsford (regardless of whether or not it is an option C parish) - otherwise his actions would have no legality. When a new Bishop of Richborough or a new Diocesan is appointed the Bishop of Richborough swears canonical obedience to the Bishop of Chelmsford for his actions in the Diocese of Chelmsford (as with all clergy licensed to act in the Diocese of Chelmsford). There has never been any special canonical provision for the PEVs they have always acted as licensed honorary asst. bishops in the dioceses.

    4. Thanks Brian, you're filling in the gaps in my understanding.

      My misunderstanding was that I assumed that +Richborough, as a suffragan of ++Canterbury, would have all the rights within the Province of ++Canterbury that the Metropolitan was pleased to bestow, and didn't need the express agreement of the diocesan bishop on account of said bishop also being a suffragan under the authority of ++Canterbury.

      What you seem to be saying is that this is not the case, and +Richborough must take an oath of canonical obedience to the diocesan before he is allowed to exercise episcopal authority within that diocese. Is that correct?

    5. Indeed that is right +Richborough like any Honorary Asst Bishop must take an oath of Canonical Obedience to the Diocesan but that only applys to his actions within this diocese. Part of your misunderstanding comes from the (widespread) misunderstanding in relation to the Archbishop of Canterbury - he is not Archbishop of England he is Metropolitan and has very little authority outside his diocese, (principally the right of visitation) The PEV for Southwark and Rochester was previously a Suffragen of London not Canterbury. The authority to act (induct a priest to a parish etc) has to come from the Diocesan to make the act within the current legal set up of the Church of England.

    6. Thanks again Brian,

      I now understand the CofE position. I had assumed it was the same as the Orthodox arrangement, where the diocesan bishops of a Metropolitan are indeed his suffragans, and do as they are told from an administrative perspective. That said, although a Metropolitan *can* meddle in the affairs of one of his diocesans, tradition stipulates that short of heresy, his rights to do so are severely curtailed.

  2. Thanks for posting this experience.

    I left the Jehovah's Witnesses when I determined that they are 'not the truth'.
    Jesus did not return for his *invisible* second coming October 1914 and subsequently anoint the Watchtower a special commission.
    My own family is now required to shun me for exercising my freedom of beliefs to leave the JW.-Danny Haszard