Bishop Philip was introduced to his new Diocese at an event in Sheffield this morning. His final service in the Diocese of Blackburn will take place in Blackburn Cathedral on May 14 at 4pm.
Just two years ago Bishop Philip was Team Rector of the Parish of Old St Pancras, a large inner city parish of four churches in the Camden area of north London.
Since his appointment in Blackburn Diocese (The Church of England in Lancashire) Bishop Philip has made his presence felt across the County.
He has also played a crucial part in the development of the Diocesan Vision 2026: Healthy Churches Transforming Communities.
His passion for the Gospel and heart for the poor and disadvantaged combined with quick wit and sharp sense of humour have helped to endear him to people of all ages and church traditions across the region.
Speaking today Bishop Philip said: “I have developed a very deep love for the Diocese of Blackburn, its clergy and the people of Lancashire and am truly sorry to be leaving so soon.
“In Sheffield I will be the Bishop that you have made.
“It has been a privilege to serve clergy who are so committed to their ministry, who work so hard and strive so faithfully to bear witness to Christ. It has been particularly good to be in the Diocese at a time when we have set such a clear agenda for growth through Vision 2026 and through initiatives like Crossroads Mission with Bishops from across northern England.
“The Diocese of Blackburn will always be close to my heart and we will of course continue to walk side by side in prayer, for in the Lord we are all one and are always close.
He continued: “I am so grateful to you for your love, your friendship and your inspiration which has taught me so much.
“I have also been privileged to have some really strong working relationships in the Bishop’s team and have especially appreciated the support and prayerful guidance that Bishop Julian has so unfailingly offered me.”
Bishop Julian commented today saying: “Bishop Philip being called by God to serve as the next Bishop of Sheffield is a great sadness for us here in Lancashire, not least that we have only benefited from his passion for the Gospel for just over a couple of years.
“But for Philip this is an exciting opportunity to take on a new leadership role in the Church of England, for which he is well suited. While we may be tempted to be jealous of Sheffield, we need to warn them of the speed at which things tend to happen when he is in charge!
“We assure him of our prayers, our love, our thanks and support, as he makes the transition and settles in to life on the other side of the Pennines.”
The Bishop of Lancaster Rt Rev. Geoff Pearson, who is retiring later this year, also paid warm tribute to Philip’s work in the Diocese of Blackburn saying: “Our loss is definitely Sheffield’s gain. During Bishop Philip’s time in the diocese his passion for Jesus and for mission has been infectious.
“Always ready to speak truth to power he has courage and grace in abundance. I will miss him greatly as a friend and colleague, not least for his sense of humour.”
Meanwhile Bishop Julian also took the opportunity to acknowledge challenging times ahead for the Diocese with the departure of Bishop Philip and the impending retirement of the Bishop Geoff.
He said: “While I appreciate that this announcement, coming so soon after the announcement of Bishop Geoff’s retirement, may be unsettling for some, one of the benefits of frequent change is that we are forced to place our trust, not in the circumstances or particular individuals around us, but in the God who never changes.
“With Philip leaving in May and Geoff leaving in July, we shall be reduced from three Bishops to one for a period of time. We will present an application to the Dioceses Commission for their June meeting, in which we shall ask for permission to appoint two suffragan Bishops. That is not a given, but I am hopeful that we shall be looked on favourably.”
Bishop Julian added he would be seeking applications for two Assistant Archdeacons to work with the current Archdeacons of Blackburn and Lancaster to support the ongoing work of the Diocese. Further assistance will also be given from retired Bishops living in the Diocese.