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"It's the toughest job since St Paul's" - incoming Bishop in Europe

Posted on: July 16, 2014 10:44 AM
The Diocese stretches many thousands of miles
Photo Credit: Google Maps
Related Categories: Europe

By ACNS staff

[The full interview with Canon Innes will be in the next edition of Anglican World magazine. Available from

The incoming Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe said he is looking forward to visiting his diocese which stretches many thousands of miles from Iceland to Mongolia.

Canon Dr Robert Innes, who is being consecrated on Sunday at Canterbury Cathedral, joked his new role was “the toughest job since St Paul's”.

Certainly in terms of travel, the new bishop is facing a diocese covering some one-sixth of the Earth's landmass, including Morocco, Europe (excluding the British Isles), Turkey and the territory of the former Soviet Union.

“It very much is a calling,” explained Canon Innes. “I do feel hugely honoured and humbled to be offered this. It's a post with huge opportunity. It’s a hugely exciting diocese and Europe is a mission field… it’s a secular continent these days in need of hearing the Gospel.”

Europe _Robert _Innes

Formerly Senior Chaplain and Chancellor of the Pro-Cathedral of Holy Trinity Brussels, Bishop-elect Innes said he wanted to help Anglican Churches in the wide variety of countries that make up the diocese to develop their own local expression and not be simply the Church of England abroad.

“I’m interested to see our diocese as more incarnational,” he said. “We [clergy] can have an image of ourselves as a people in exile—we’re in Babylon waiting to go home. I want us to see ourselves more as Jesus saw his ministry: tabernacling amongst people, being at home in a place that was not his home.

“It is our role to be incarnated in the place in which God has called us to be… It means getting more of a sense of permanence and recognising that our Churches in these places have been here a long time.”

Canon Innes said that the traditional language of chaplaincy associated with clergy in Churches across the dioceses was misleading, “because it suggests transience, impermanence, but in my own country [he lives in Belgium] William Tyndale who translated the Bible into English did that in Belgium.

“There’s been an Anglican community there since his time, since the Reformation. So we shouldn’t imagine ourselves as here today and gone tomorrow, we have role for the long term.”

Canon Innes has perhaps the most nationally diverse bishopric in the Anglican Communion and he says he relishes this challenge and considers it a privilege. The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and the Old Catholic Church (with which the Anglican Communion is in full communion) also have a presence in continental Europe.

“A feature of Europe compared to the UK is this overlapping jurisdictions; that is a reality and it’s up to Christian leaders to work with that and to use that constructively,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with them and building mutually respectful and constructive relationships across the communions.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will consecrate Canon Innes as bishop at a service at Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday afternoon. Although Canon Innes will legally become Bishop for Gibraltar in Europe at that time, he will be formally installed in his ‘cathedra’ or bishop’s chair at Holy Trinity Gibraltar on Thursday 4 September.

The Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe is unusual in that the role not appointed by the British monarch, rather a panel comprising the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London and a representative appointed by the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee*--in this case the Archbishop of Lokoja, Nigeria—appoint in consultation with representatives elected by the diocese and with the Central Members of the Crown Nominations Commission.


Editors note

*The Standing Committee comprises nominated members of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Standing Committee