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Obituary: Bishop Stephen Sykes

Posted on: October 10, 2014 4:27 PM
Bishop Stephen Sykes, had "a career of considerable academic distinction"
Related Categories: England

The Right Reverend Stephen Sykes, who has died aged 75, was Bishop of Ely from 1990 to 1999 and one of the most distinguished prelates of his time. His tenure was, however, a comparatively brief interlude in a career of considerable academic distinction: he moved to Ely from the Regius chair of Divinity at Cambridge, and before that held the Van Mildert chair of Divinity at Durham.

Sykes belonged firmly to the Church of England’s liberal wing before this had been overtaken by the rise of Evangelicalism and the often bitter divisions over the issue of women priests and bishops. He was a powerful defender of the historic Anglican tradition of equal regard for Scripture, Tradition and Reason in the defining of faith. A prolific writer, he published The Integrity of Anglicanism (1978), Unashamed Anglicanism (1985) and The Study of Anglicanism (1988), which remain standard texts.

Yet he recognised the importance of other traditions, and was an authority on the work of the notable Swiss theologian Karl Barth. He edited two valuable volumes of essays, Karl Barth: Studies in Theological Method (1980) and Karl Barth Centenary Essays (1989). Another collection of essays, England and Germany: Studies in Theological Diplomacy (1982), confirmed the breadth of his outlook.

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