Jonathan Clark is to be consecrated as the Church of England’s new Bishop of Croydon in a ceremony at Southwark Cathedral on Wednesday, taking over from Nick Baines, who last year was appointed Bishop of Bradford.
Brought up in Bromley, for the past 15 years Clark has been the vicar of parishes in north London. He is 50 years old, is married to Alison, a university lecturer, and they have two grown up children.
Ahead of the ceremonials, he took time out to answer these questions
Are you pleased to be back in south London?
I had to declare Stoke Newington a “river-prejudice free zone” after my appointment was announced, or the whole six weeks would have been taken up with people offering me commiserations about having to move south.
In fact, as we all know, London is London, north or south. I really enjoyed my 15 years north of the river, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy Croydon just as much. It’ll be interesting to discover if there’s anything still as I remember it – quite a lot has changed since 1980.
You are an occasional blogger. Will you be matching Bishop Nick’s output?
In quantity or quality? Probably neither, but I am intending to keep on with the blog. I’ll be reflecting on what it’s like for me as I begin my ministry as a bishop, and on the issues that confront us all in difficult times.
You have written of your “great sense of joy and anticipation” at the prospect of becoming bishop. What would you like to achieve in Croydon?
It might feel like this is ducking the question, but I don’t think it is. Being a bishop isn’t really about personal goals, it’s about enabling the whole church to do its job. So the thing I most want to achieve is to support the churches in their job of living out the good news of Jesus Christ to the communities of the Croydon Area.
As one of the leading proponents of Evangelical Catholicism what do you feel are the most effective ways of reaching out from the church?
St Mary Stoke Newington has a mission statement: “We are called to share the loving hospitality of God, serving Christ in both friend and stranger”. I think the church reaches out best when it just wants to share what it has received from God.
That can happening lots of different ways – helping people who are sick, visiting the lonely, supporting asylum seekers and refugees, and sharing with others the sense of purpose that our faith gives us. The key thing is that it’s done with love.
At a time of some distress for Croydon after the 8/8 riots and the current austerity what can the Church of England do to meet the spiritual and physical needs of the people of Croydon?
It’s not just the Church of England, of course – all those who are concerned for the needs of others can work together on lots of things – Christians of all sorts, people of other faiths, people of no faith. The most important thing in difficult times is for individuals and communities to keep open, and keep hopeful. When people retreat from each other, they’re beginning to close down the possibilities for themselves and their communities.
The Church should do everything it can to build communities of hope, to work actively for justice – it can’t replace all the services which are being cut, but it can help people to help one another.
As the chair of Affirming Catholicism could you explain in layman’s terms what the catholic element within Anglicanism is?
Ah, the difficult question – certainly pretty tricky to answer in a few sentences. Two things I would say the Catholic tradition in the Church of England emphasises: firstly, that we are community before we are individuals.
The Church is the body of Christ, worldwide and throughout time and eternity, and each individual believer is included into that body. The second thing is that Catholic Anglicans are serious about God being involved in our lives – we meet God in the church’s sacraments – baptism and communion are the most important. We believe that because Jesus became incarnate as a human being, God is involved in every detail of our lives, not just the religious.
How will the Church of England benefit from the admittance of women bishops?
There are so many brilliant women priests – the Church will benefit hugely from their ministry when they can become bishops. And on another level, we’ll be saying something important about the fact that men and women are equally made in the image of God, and equally able to embody God’s love for the world.
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