Bishop James Presidential Address 18 June 2012

Chairing the Hillsborough and Forestry Panels says something about the role of the established church in this country - argues the Bishop of Liverpool

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones spoke about his role chairing the Hillsborough and Forestry Panels to the synod of Liverpool Diocese last night. Speaking as both Panels prepare to report later this year the Bishop said that being asked to chair both Panels shows the respect the Church still has in the life of the nation and “exemplify the role of the Church in society”. The Bishop stated that “a bishop is not just a religious dignitary he (or hopefully soon she) is also a civic leader” adding “the bishop is not just shepherd of the churches in his diocese but he is also a servant and pastor to the whole community”.

With regard to the Hillsborough Panel, Bishop James said “when I attended the 20th anniversary, when nearly 40,000 came to remember the 96, I became all the more aware of how deep and open the wound of Hillsborough still is”. The Bishop added that when asked to Chair the Panel “the words from the Gospel that reinforced the rightness of doing this were those that spoke of healing the broken hearted”.

Bishop James spoke of another theme that has come through with his chairing of the Panel – that of justice. He stated “a family has a right to know how and why their love one died. That’s surely a basic human right. It is a matter of justice.” The bishop also stated that “I would ask your prayers for the families of the 96 and the survivors and indeed for the whole community of grief and pain that is the legacy of the Hillsborough tragedy. Pray too for the secretariat, the Panel and myself that we might do justice to the task which we have been set which is to oversee the maximum possible disclosure of all the documents relating to the tragedy, to provide a report that adds to public understanding of the disaster and its aftermath and to recommend the creation of a national archive.”

Speaking about the Forestry Panel Bishop James said it enabled to put into practice his theological convictions that “there is an inextricable link between ecology and theology” adding “I can say unequivocally that what we need to do as a society is to review, re-evaluate and re-value our forests and woods and recognise how vital they are to our ecology and well-being. How we do this will be the subject of our report.”

The Bishop also reflected on the last three years of the diocesan synod ahead of elections for new membership. He stated “Clearly there are issues that we have to deal with that relate to our internal order and housekeeping. Over the last three years you have done this in a manner that is both realistic and faithful”. He recognised the tough decisions that synod has had to take and praise the way the Diocese of Liverpool conducted debates on the Anglican Communion and Women Bishops stating “the debates were all robust yet principled with the hallmarks of mutual respect and, above all, of the imperative to be in mission”.

The Bishop also spoke of the way 400 people came to the Bishop’s Growth Conference where he was able to announce we are a growing diocese. The Bishop said “few other organisations could muster 400 for a whole Saturday morning to think about how they can serve others more faithfully”.