Obituary: The Right Rev Jim Bishop

Click to follow
Clifford Leofric Purdy Bishop, priest: born Cley next the Sea, Norfolk 11 June 1908; ordained deacon 1932, priest 1933; Vicar, St George's, Camberwell 1941-49; Curate-in-charge, All Saints', Newington 1944-47; Rector, Blakeney 1949-53; Rector, Bishop Wearmouth 1953-62; Hon Canon of Durham 1958-62; Bishop Suffragan of Malmesbury 1962-73; Canon of Bristol 1962-73; married 1949 Ivy Adams; died Blakeney, Norfolk 1 September 1994.

JIM BISHOP was an Anglican pastor and bishop whose integrity, conviction and personal friendliness were greatly valued by the communities he served, especially the diocese of Bristol, the parish of St George's, Camberwell, and the village of Cley next the Sea. Tall, white-haired, grave but friendly, he avoided all forms of publicity. In his 21 years of a very active retirement in Norfolk he quietly encouraged religious renewal - in particular the Focolare and Julian Movements, and the Movement for the Ordination of Women. To the end of a long life he was trusted, consulted and welcomed.

Clifford Leofric Purdy Bishop (to give his never-used Christian names) was born in 1908, the son and grandson of Rectors of Cley. His father died when he was very young, and he was too shy to enjoy his time at St John's, Leatherhead, and Christ's, Cambridge, but found himself when working in challenging inner-city parishes. He had trained at Lincoln Theological College where Michael Ramsey, later to be Archbishop, was Sub-Warden. Bishop shared Ramsey's non-authoritarian catholicism, liberal and scholarly, pastoral and compassionate, inspired especially by the Eucharist and the practice of meditation. Like Ramsey, he could be severe under his gentle manner; like Ramsey too, he was prepared to take risks in the hope of the reunion of Christians.

After curacies in Stoke Newington and Middlesbrough (with Fr Jonathan Graham, later Superior of Mirfield) Bishop spent creative war years at St George's, Camberwell, which was also the Trinity College Mission. He formed a team of men and women which included many outstanding pastors. Among the men were Howell Witt, later a bishop in Australia, Timothy Stanton, afterwards imprisoned in South Africa in the apartheid struggle and mentor of Desmond Tutu, and Jack Churchill, later Dean of Carlisle. With the sisters and women workers a life of discipline, humour and initiative bubbled at the clergy house.

Bishop encouraged schools, social workers and the Church to cooperate, especially in giving new opportunities to young people in Camberwell, whether through academic coaching or through group holidays. He liked his colleagues to remain unmarried for some years. This occasional source of difficulty was resolved in 1949 when his own marriage to Ivy Adams gave him a home and family which was to undergird his life.

After an interlude as Rector of Blakeney, where he shared the sufferings of north Norfolk during the great flood of 1953, he returned to the inner city - Bishop Wearmouth, the parish church of Sunderland. Here he was less happy and felt out of sympathy with the traditions of that church. His real stature was revealed in his new work as Suffragan Bishop of Malmesbury in the diocese of Bristol.

His years at Bristol (1962-73), where he reinforced Bishop Oliver Tomkins's different gifts, won him lifelong friends among both clergy and lay people, who found him wise, approachable, discreet and inspiring. With Ivy, he re-

created the laughter and homeliness of the life at Camberwell. On reaching the age of 65, Bishop said modestly 'I have run out of ideas' and resigned. His self-assessment was far from true and his departure was greatly regretted.

Returning to Cley, he was in a village where he and Ivy and their family were already at home. After all, some of the older residents had seen him as a small clild in his bath. His occasional sermons were models in their depth and simplicity, and the Communion services in his own home, attended by Free Church and Roman Catholic people as well as by those on the margins of the Church, struck a prophetic note. In his final illness, he confirmed a 12-year-old grandson and then insisted that the boy should bless him. It was characteristic of a distinguished and self-giving ministry which had spanned the generations.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments