I spent four days last week, as I do once or twice every year, attending a ‘Bishops’ Advisory Panel’, as they are called. They are pretty gruelling experiences, no doubt for the candidates, but certainly also for those of us who are there as Advisers. You are shut up at close quarters with eight Christian men and women, all of whom have offered themselves for ordination, and your task is to advise the Bishops from their home dioceses whether they should go on to be trained. The days of the Panel are emotionally charged, to say the least. It feels almost as if you were closeted with eight people who had all proposed marriage, and you had to advise the other party whether to accept them or turn them down. Because when you offer yourself for ordination, it is your whole self that you offer, much as you do in marriage.
Some of the candidates this month were among the strongest I have come across in the sixteen or seventeen years that I have been involved in the process, and I came away very much encouraged by them. As you would expect, conversations are entirely confidential, but I want to share with you one thing that was said to me in the course of the Panel. All of the candidates, of course, were as well aware as every English Christian is bound to be that these are not easy days in which to make the Christian Gospel known. Trying to work out a proper response to that fact is meat and drink, or should be, to the whole Church of God. And I was struck by this remark from one of the candidates:
I have come to understand that God as he has shown himself to us in Jesus is so beautiful that he takes your breath away, but somehow to talk about him has become about as un-cool a thing as it is possible to do.
To read the rest of the Rectors Letter, please visit the webpage here