How to become a Bishop
If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 1 Timothy 3.1
So how do you go about it?
First it helps if you have the right education.
There are 45 ex-officio members of the House of Bishops (44 Diocesans
and Dover). There is presently one vacancy. Over half the
Bishops are Oxbridge educated (23/44) and curiously four studied at
Then, of course, you must go to the right college.
It is common to identify clergy by which college they attended.
As it happens, more than a third (15/44) of the Bishops attended Ripon
College Cuddesdon (near Oxford). Which is pretty remarkable
when you think that Cuddesdon now only trains about one tenth of those
in residential training and less than one twentieth of all those in
training in any form.
By way of comparison the six evangelical colleges combined trained the
same number of Bishops (15/44). Yet these colleges now account
for two-thirds of all those in residential training.
Parochial experience does no
harm, although there are a few Bishops with none. The average
length of time in parochial ministry is eleven and a half years and
several have served for over 20 years in the parish before being
consecrated. What does seem important is that you do not confine
yourself to parish ministry. Only one Bishop has gone
straight from a parish to being a Diocesean, although a handful of
others went straight from the parish to being a suffragan or area
Bishop. (Interestingly, when an incumbent becomes a Diocesan the
Crown assumes patronage for the next appointment to the parish.)
I was surprised to see that only a quarter of the Bishops (11/44) had
been Archdeacons along the way, I thought many more had trodden that
Teaching at a theological college also helps, one fifth (9/44) have done this. But, best of all, get a job in a Cathedral which over one-third have done (15/44).
Firm theological convictions
are a definite no-no, unless you are a radical liberal /
revisionist. My, entirely prejudiced, subjective, and no
doubt down right unfair, assessment of the 44 Bishops mentioned is as
9% are traditional catholics (4).
27% are open or liberal evangelicals (a few are morally conservatives) (12).
39% are liberal catholic (a few morally conservative) (17).
14% are revisionists or radical liberals (6).
11% I donít know enough about to form a judgement (5).
Not surprisingly the Diocesan Bishops are all late 50s and 60s.
The youngest is 54, the oldest 69 and the average age 60. The
average at which they became a Bishop (Diocesan or Suffragan) was 49.
These figures are based solely on my own research (it's sad what some people spend their spare time doing)
and I cannot vouch for their absolute accuracy. If you want to
quote them as authoritative it might be better to check them yourself.
A list of Bishops can be found on the Church Society website.
P.S. Lest anyone think otherwise, I am not suggesting that
1 Timothy 3 is just about Bishops as we have them today. Bishop
and Presbyter are interchangeable terms in Scripture, which is why
reformed Anglicans prefer to speak of ordaining Priests but
P.P.S. This is an analysis of the 44 Bishops mentioned, not the other 60 odd Suffragan and Area Bishops.
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