Obituary: The Right Rev Cyril Bowles

WHEN CYRIL Bowles, as Bishop of Derby, spoke in favour of the ordination of women at the 1978 Lambeth Conference, one member reported that "he wove a golden cord round the Anglican Communion, binding all the Bishops together". That was typical of the man whose gift it was to reconcile opposing views by his measured, temperate eloquence.

Bowles was well prepared for the episcopate which crowned his ministry. Born in Glasgow in 1916, and educated at Brentwood School and Cambridge University, where he obtained a First Class in the theological tripos, he trained for the ministry at Ridley Hall. After ordination, he served his title in the populous parish of Barking where Thomas Bloomer (later Bishop of Carlisle) was the incumbent.

From there, he returned to Cambridge in 1942 where he became successively the Chaplain, Vice- Principal and Principal of his former theological college. During his time there, Ridley Hall prospered under his ability to weld happily together students from a wide variety of backgrounds. After 21 years at Cambridge, he was made Archdeacon of Swindon in the diocese of Bristol. It was there that he met Joan Eastaugh, the Matron of Swindon Hospital. His marriage to her brought a sustained happiness into his life.

In 1969 he became the fourth Bishop of Derby. His 18 years as Bishop brought to fruition all his previous ministerial experience - pastoral in parish work, theological in the training of the clergy, administrative in the running of a diocese. As a bishop, the care and development of his clergy became a dominant concern. A system of training in human relationships through 10-day long encounter groups (from which many emerged liberated, but some a little bruised), and the annual well-attended Clergy School at Swanwick, ensured over the years a diocese whose clergy were well motivated in their work. He also set about raising the stipend level to an equality with that of more prosperous dioceses. His pastoral style was always firmly gentle. He had a listening ear. This could occasionally be rather alarming when a clergyman on the telephone would sometimes fill a silence and thus reveal rather more than he had intended.

Bowles believed in the clergy making their own decisions in any difficult situation; he helped them to clarify the issues involved so that they could decide wisely, and then he supported them. Derby soon became known as "a happy diocese". Towards the end of his episcopate, Bowles introduced a scheme for the regular review of each individual ministry. The aim of this was to uphold and encourage rather than to criticise or admonish.

When Cyril Bowles came to Derby, synodical government was in its infancy. He developed it throughout the diocese with a confident hand. He saw the Bishop's Council as an excellent forum for the open discussion of ideas and proposals. He brought from his previous diocese Bishop Oliver Tomkins's initiative in having the Council meet frequently, and residentially. Often, what had seemed a problem at 10pm on Friday night was resolved on Saturday morning after the Eucharist and breakfast together in Morley Retreat House. His sermons on these occasions, and at the meetings of rural deans and lay chairmen, were models of clarity and precision.

His theology was in the Anglican liberal evangelical tradition. He was happy to explore new ideas and to subject them to rigorous scrutiny. In debate, he was ever gracious. The Scriptures, especially the Epistles of St Paul, profoundly influenced his thinking. Many of his sermons at Institutions and Licensings began with a Pauline text. In planning the Christians Respond programme by which he and his senior staff, accompanied by specially trained laypeople, visited all the parishes in the diocese, some of which were experiencing great difficulty because of unemployment, he turned to Romans 4 v17. This expressed his expectant belief in God "who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist". As a result of these visits, many parishes were able to define their objectives with hopefulness, and move forward with renewed confidence.

His service in the General Synod was notable. His were reckoned to be a safe pair of hands when dealing with contentious or controversial issues. His skill in dealing with the numerous resolutions and amendments in the drafting of the Rite A Eucharist for the Alternative Service Book won the admiration of all the varied protagonists. He exercised this same eirenic skill in seeing through Synod the legislation for the establishment of local ecumenical projects. In his diocese, he was tireless in promoting ecumenism in the parishes, and also in forging a close link between Derby and the Church of North India.

Cyril Bowles will be remembered by those who knew him for his unfussy Christian faith, his clarity of mind, and his unfailing courtesy, patience and subtle sense of humour. There was frequently a smile on his lips and a twinkle behind his glasses. He and his wife (known affectionately in their diocese as "Derby and Joan") spent a happy retirement at Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire where he continued to exercise a welcome ministry as an Assistant Bishop.

Cyril William Johnston Bowles, priest: born Glasgow 9 May 1916; ordained deacon 1939, priest 1940; Curate, Barking Parish Church 1939-41; Chaplain, Ridley Hall, Cambridge 1942-44, Vice-Principal 1944-51, Principal 1951- 63; Honorary Canon of Ely Cathedral 1959-63; Archdeacon of Swindon 1963- 69; Bishop of Derby 1969-87; married 1965 Joan Eastaugh; died 14 September 1999.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before