Church of England

Richard Chartres, Bishop of London – thank you

He radiates everything that a prince of the Church ought. There’s a certain solemnity; a spiritual authenticity caped in holy gravitas. He exudes authority, grace and peace, like the Anglicanism in memory and hope. After two decades of humble service and godly flourishing, the Rt Rev’d and Rt Hon Richard Chartres has retired as Bishop of London. Like Hamlet’s father, there’s a feeling that we shall not look upon his like again. Perhaps Richard Hooker was wrong: loosely, through silence, we are permitting things to pass away, as in a dream.

“What the Church has to offer is not an ideology or a mere critique but a community in which the Spirit of Jesus Christ dwells,” he said in his final sermon in St Paul’s Cathedral. “In a market place of strident salesmen of warring ideologies we seek not to add to the din but to build relationships that endure and give meaning to life.” And he gave meaning to many thousands of lives, always respectful of our Anglican heritage, our traditions, our unique intuitions and divinations. He never idealised or romanticised the Church: Jesus isn’t remote, but with us. “The kingdom of God is the great existing reality to renew the earth,” he once told fledgling priests. “The church needs to recapture the kingdom not in metaphor or allegory but in real profound tangible reality. Dust, dirt, bricks and mortar, sweat and blood reality.”

Bishop Richard of London enriched human souls with treasures from the past: in his presence, you could believe that the Apostles had indeed laid their hands on his shoulders and set him apart. He was continuity, unity, reconciliation and mission. To listen to him was to rediscover the free, unmerited grace of God in Jesus Christ, again and again. While some priests dream and a few bishops sow tares, Richard Chartres saw what was to be seen, and patiently picked up the grains of wheat, lovingly, one by one.

Perhaps he was the Anglican luminary of his generation: he certainly echoed the forebodings of the most gifted and perceptive of Anglican divines. He seemed ripe for Canterbury, but the present age prefers a fictitious discernment. Others can write of all his good, though no doubt the chatter will be more about his evil. But in the principal accounts of the decay of religion in this nation, the name of Richard Chartres will be observed as one who stood, ordered, crafted and built. In despair and through darkness, he pastored and exhorted. In decline and through derision, he prayed and nourished. The hungers of pluralism, humanism and secularism were not enemies, but opportunities. And he fed the multitudes with the bread of life.

Thank you, Bishop Richard, for sustaining the national mission. Your vision, courage and energy have been a blessing to princes and prime ministers, but your heart was always with ordinary individuals, households and communities. You magnified London with your presence, and sanctified England with your office. May God richly bless you, and hasten to find you another platform by which you might continue to serve the Church, confront the culture, and enrich civil society.

  • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

    Hear hear, a splendid bishop and gracious man. Always my choice for Canterbury, but alas it was not to be.

    • Anton

      I often went to the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday and remember him leading the prayers with gravitas.

  • Jill

    A fitting tribute. Thank you.

  • Martin

    So why should a church have a prince? Frankly Richard Chartres hasn’t actually come on my radar, what has he done? Has he condemned gay marriage, abortion, the two faced nature of modern politics? Has he produced a commentary on a book of the Bible or enlightened our understanding of the Early Fathers?

    • Sarky

      Have you?

    • Inspector General

      Martin. You really should abandon this Bolshevik rot that has everybody equal to everybody else. You are no more the equal to tattooed riff raff that argue in the street than the Inspector is.

      If a man of Cranmer’s standing wishes to bestow the wonderful title of ‘A Prince of the Church’ on Chartres, then a Prince he shall be. And don’t think such a title comes without responsibility. The man will have to strive to uphold his standing to the end. A onerous task that precludes him from going on the slack for even a weekend.

      Not for the faint of heart, and especially not the faint of Christian spirit. And most especially, not for the usual Church of England bishop neither it seems, unfortunately!

      • Martin


        Nothing bolshie about it, just a reflection of:

        For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
        (I Corinthians 1:26-31 [ESV])

        • Inspector General

          Chartres isn’t boasting, Martin. We are holding him aloft as an example to all…

          • Martin


            I’d hope for a better example.

        • Mike Stallard

          I thought the Lord was meant to be King – nothing much democratic there!

          • Martin


            But no lords and ladies under Christ.

    • Royinsouthwest

      Most mullahs are against “gay marriage, abortion, the two faced nature of modern politics.” In fact, I imagine virtually all of them are. That wouldn’t make them good Christian bishops. You have stand for something, not simply oppose a few things.

      • Martin


        But that doesn’t mean a Christian should not oppose them.

  • David

    Thank you for a fitting acknowledgement of his undoubted episcopal qualities.
    In Richard, Bishop of London, I saw an undefinable wisdom and gravitas, yet always worn lightly and with humanity. He acted as a unifier and bridge, rare qualities possessed by few. The small minority of bishops like him remind me that, alongside the strife caused by those who purport to serve God, but in fact serve our culture, there are still those who demonstrate that there is truly a continuing purpose for the role of bishop.
    The C of E is reduced by his retirement. As the article says, I too hope that he finds soon a suitable place where he can serve Our Lord, whilst as ever, pointing us towards the unchanging, eternal truths.
    Thank you Bishop Richards Chartres.


    Not a JC Ryle but a great man – by Gods grace.
    Hopefully he will feel unshackled to speak more freely about true holiness.

  • Don Benson

    Richard Chartres has always been a stalwart defender of the Book of Common Prayer. I have no doubt that many of his great qualities have been nourished by a lifelong attachment to that book which stands second only to the Bible in the benefit it offers to worshippers of all sorts in our parishes. When we say things about great people such as ‘they don’t make them like that any more’ we partly accuse ourselves in lightly discarding the very things that did help to make them like that.

    • Anton

      I’m sorry but I don’t see his greatness. He has simply done OK in an era when many bishops are apostates. This is *not* personal criticism of him – I’ve said he’s done OK – but it is certainly criticism of those liberal apostates, who are a brood of vipers.

      • MDCILIIiterum

        One tends towards your view, but not knowing the man himself I cannot conclude either way. He may well have prevented more insanities behind the scenes, so let us be generous and be grateful for his service. That said, he is perhaps an establishment conformist at heart, if a godly and honest one.

        • bluedog

          To repeat a comment made in another context, it’s the politicians who get the top job. Nobody illustrates that truth more clearly than Richard Chartres.

  • Martin

    Seems there is a lot of agreement that he had gravitas. I don’t recall that being mentioned as a requirement for an elder/overseer. And why should a bishop not feel able to speak freely on spiritual matters, it’s his job.

  • Dominic Stockford

    I must say on his behalf, despite not sharing my theological position with him, that when I made a complaint about a local vicar holding public meetings trying to whip up support for same-sex marriages in CofE churches, his response was helpful. He hinted between the lines (though he may well deny it) that things would be dealt with more effectively if he were to take the matter on, rather than the suffragan who would normally do so. I believe he gave the man concerned a right ‘going over’ about the matter – and no more has been heard about raising the issue locally.

    That much said, yes, Martin, as an episcopos he is supposed to speak out for the truth, and against error, in public. As the BCP (of which is apparently such a supporter) says in the ‘ordination of a bishop’ service:

    “ARE you persuaded that the holy Scriptures contain sufficiently all doctrine required of necessity for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined out of the same holy Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge, and to teach or maintain nothing as required of necessity to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the same? Answer.I am so persuaded and determined, by God’s grace.

    “BE you ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same? Answer.I am ready, the Lord being my helper.

    • Martin


      That is a good thing to hear.

  • Inspector General

    ♪ “For he’s a jolly good fellow, for he’s a jolly good fellow
    For he’s a jolly good fellow, and so say all of us!
    And so say all of us, and so say all of us!
    For he’s a jolly good fellow, for he’s a jolly good fellow
    For he’s a jolly good fellow, and so say all of us!”

  • chefofsinners

    Google ‘Elmo from Sesame Street’, compare to the photo above and then tell me that Richard Chartres has the gravitas of a prince of the church.

  • Andy

    He would have made a fine Archbishop.

  • not a machine

    I have heard one his sermons and very thoughtful stuff it was too ,speaking from theology and divinity and not to it , however your grace also mentions “The kingdom of God is the great existing reality to renew the earth”, which is sufficient for me to dine upon for a lifetime .
    It was also mentioned that during his time his recorded flock grew , as well as being the longest serving bishop of this time.
    May God keep his presence with Bishop Chartres in his retirement and my thanks for his keeping of the value of the faith and his work.

  • chefofsinners

    Hmm. I see that BBC news prefers to report the final concert of Black Sabbath.
    But Richard Chartres’ commendation shall endure for eternity: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

    • Sarky

      I think that over 50yrs they have probably had more of an impact and are probably of more interest.

      • Mike Stallard

        Indeed yes – I don’t know how to spell it but Ozzie Ozbourne has certainly had a lot more influence in the BBC than the entire CoE!

      • chefofsinners

        It depends what you value.

  • wisestreligion

    Bishop Richard has been an important facilitator of evangelical church planting. Though unashamedly High church, on his annual appearances at Holy Trinity Brompton’s summer retreat / holiday he was always as popular as he was encouraging.

    He has delivered two of the most widely-broadcast sermons ever given, each time rising to the occasion to employ the wonderful rich theatrical voice that God has given him to pronounce deep Christian wisdom.

    The first was the Royal Wedding in 2011, a sermon heard by maybe 2 billion people:

    “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.”

    “As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete, we all need the love that is secure rather than oppressive.”

    The second sermon was at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2013:

    “In her words, “the basic ties of the family are at the heart of our society and are the very nursery of civic virtue”. Such moral and spiritual capital is accumulated over generations but can be easily eroded.”

    And indeed eroding this capital seems to be the mission of the current spiritually illiterate generation of politicians. Bishop Richard is one of the few bishops that our politicians would have done well to heed.

    • He would have made a wonderful Archbishop of Canterbury.

  • Mike Stallard

    I knew him as Chaplain to the Bishop of St Albans – Robert Runcie!

    • Anton

      Difficult job.

  • John

    Is that Iain Duncan-Smith sporting a new beard?