The Right Rev Anthony Crockett: Forthright Bishop of Bangor

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The Independent Online

When Anthony Crockett was consecrated as Bishop of Bangor on 16 July 2004, his beaming smile radiated such a picture of good health that many of us commented upon it. Little did we know that less than four years later, he would die from the cancer diagnosed early in 2007. He fought his illness valiantly and carried out as many of his duties as he could with great courage and faith. At times unable to do very much, he would summon candidates to the hospital chapel for their confirmation and, touched by his faith and his ministry to them in his vulnerability, the candidates' faith was, in turn, strengthened immeasurably.

Tony Crockett was born in 1945 in Pontypridd in the South Wales valleys, and attended the local grammar school. He read Classics and Theology at King's College London and was trained for ordained ministry at St Michael's College, Llandaff. He served curacies at Aberdare and Whitchurch before becoming incumbent of a group of rural parishes near Aberystwyth, where he remained for eight years and learned to speak Welsh. His time in country parishes was invaluable to his understanding of the realities of rural ministry and stood him in good stead when he became bishop of the largely rural diocese of Bangor.

In 1986 he became Rector of Dowlais in the Merthyr Valley, an industrial parish, and also the Secretary of the Provincial Selection Panel, responsible for scrutinising candidates for ordained ministry. In 1991 he was appointed full-time Secretary of the Board of Ministry of the Church in Wales, overseeing the welfare of ordinands and continual ministerial education for clergy throughout the province. Based at the provincial office in Cardiff, he fulfilled these duties with thoroughness and professionalism and, although his task was largely administrative, he fulfilled a pastoral ministry in caring for ordinands and clergy and by devoting himself on Sundays to parishes without incumbents in the Llandaff diocese.

He would take on the pastoral responsibility in a particular place for months on end, thus giving those parishes a sense of continuity. It made his work at the Board of Ministry all the more credible. His time at the board also saw the publication of an important report entitled "The Cure of Souls" about the duties and responsibilities of clergy. It was also during this time that he was asked to be the Church in Wales representative to the Porvoo Churches – a link he valued greatly.

In 1999, he was appointed Archdeacon of Carmarthen and he relished the administrative and pastoral responsibilities this post entailed. He had the ability to foster good relationships with clergy of very different views from his own. This became all the more important when he was appointed Bishop of Bangor by the Bench, after the Electoral College had failed to elect. There were those in the diocese who were unhappy about having a Bishop who was divorced and remarried. However, through assiduous visiting of the parishes, his care for the welfare of his clergy and his willingness to confront head-on whatever was bothering them, soon won them over. Thus disarmed, they took him to their hearts.

As Bishop of Bangor he took on the responsibility for ecumenical affairs and his contribution to the ecumenical movement was greatly appreciated. He possessed a keen intellect; was not afraid to speak it forthrightly and trenchantly so that people were in no doubt on where he stood on a whole range of issues. He was greatly in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate and was the choice as Retreat Conductor of the women deacons in the diocese of Bangor about to be priested in 1996. He felt saddened by recent events in the Anglican Communion for he was in favour of an open church that did not exclude anyone on grounds of gender, race or sexuality. In many ways, he was an old-fashioned Anglican because he loved traditional liturgies and Anglican comprehensiveness with its balance of scripture, tradition and reason.

Tony Crockett's rapid physical demise was all the more poignant as he had been a great walker, a passion he expressed through pilgrimages. In 1995 he walked the 1,000-mile route from Le Puy in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. More recently, he walked from Bangor to St Davids, calling at ancient churches and meeting people to talk about their own faith journeys.

Barry Morgan

Phillip Anthony Crockett, priest: born Pontypridd, Glamorgan 23 August 1945; ordained deacon 1971, priest 1972; Archdeacon of Carmarthen 1999-2004; Bishop of Bangor 2004-08; twice married (one son, two daughters); died Bangor 30 June 2008.