In July the Diocese had the opportunity to say farewell to Bishop Steven and Ann, to pray for them and ask God’s blessing on their ministry in the Diocese of Oxford. There’s much to give thanks for. We give thanks for the warmth of their hospitality and friendship, the strategic leadership given by Steven with support from others, for the health and wellbeing of the Diocese that looks to the future with sadness without them but in positive hope and expectation of what lies ahead. Steven leaves the Diocese in a good and healthy state with a team of people centrally and throughout the parishes and deaneries with a clear focus on God’s mission and growing the church. In that we are well blessed.
As we prepare for the next stage in the life of the Diocese of Sheffield our attention is inevitably turned towards what we’re looking for in Steven’s successor. One of the things that I’m sure will appear at the top of the list is someone who can offer leadership. However, when we talk about leadership many of us have our own view of what it means. I’d like to suggest that one important quality is that of humility, a quality that Steven shared with us in abundance.
The trouble is many in the world of leadership see humility as a weakness. We see this trait in politicians and world leaders; we see it in business; we see it in the world of entertainment and sport and sadly sometimes in the church. I wonder what’s happened in society or business where genuine and gracious humility is seen as a fault not a virtue. Our leadership is to be the image of Christ’s leadership which puts us out of sync with the way much of the world thinks. Jesus equates greatness with servanthood. He says that greatness comes along the lowly road of being last, being the servant of all. Jesus is making it clear that in his own life greatness comes from serving others.
The greatness of the apostles would come through the fact that they were serving Jesus by proclaiming the very words of God, the good news throughout the earth. And that’s our calling – Jesus doesn’t offer titles, he hands out towels to serve. It’s important that all those called to serve as Bishops in the church of God remember the words of their ordination service. “Bishops are called to serve and care for the flock of Christ. Mindful of the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep…”
These must surely be the signs of a genuinely humble person and rank amongst some of the top priorities we discern in the appointment of the next Bishop of Sheffield.