He is perhaps less well known States-side than the other Church of England bishops who have announced their resignation before joining the Ordinariate, but David Silk deserves to be well-known, as a hero of the faith. During the debate in the 1990s on Women's Ordination, no bishop would speak in General Synod for those opposed to the novelty. Indeed only Bishop Noel Jones of Sodor and Man declared that he was with us. It was therefore left to David Silk, at that time Archdeacon of Leicester, to head us up in the debate. He was well respected across the board in Synod, having been elected by the Clergy as their Proctor. For many years he had been a doughty fighter in Synod, and he was a great choice to lead us into battle. He did so brilliantly and bravely; but, as has been so often the case in Synod debates, traditionalists won the argument but lost the vote. In this rather unflattering photograph he is at the National Pilgrimage to Walsingham earlier this year.
In 1994, the year that the Church of England began to ordain women, David set out at the age of 58 for an entirely new ministry — Bishop of Ballarat, in Australia. Ballarat is a former mining town, in the centre of a large but sparsely populated diocese, where the sheep outnumber the people. Mind you, most of those sheep are Anglicans. He was there for nine years, and in 2003 returned to England where for a year he settled back into parish ministry as Priest-in-Charge of a little group of parishes in Chichester Diocese. Now his son Richard is ministering as a Parish Priest in Oz.
Eventually David and his lovely wife Joyce retired to the outskirts of Torquay, on the South Coast. He was commissioned as an honorary Assistant Bishop in Exeter Diocese, where for the past six years he has been a tower of strength to many beleaguered traditionalists. During his time in the West Country, he has been chairman of the Glastonbury Pilgrimage, a role he only handed over earlier this year. On David's resigning, the Bishop of Exeter, Michael Langrish, said, "All Christians are on a journey of faith which can take each one of us in a variety of different, and sometimes surprising, directions." We pray that before long Bishop Michael might also find his way in that same surprising direction.
It was a great delight to me and my wife, and to many others, when David and Joyce decided that there was no future for them in the Church of England and that they would make common cause with the Southern PEVs and seek to join the Ordinariate. As they say, there is life in the old dog yet. With his abiding love for the Church of England, Bishop David is a living piece of Patrimony to be shared with the wider Church. What is more, he gives the lie to those who insist that all those joining the Ordinariate are dyed-in-the wool Papalists, for David is very much in the Tractarian mould. Indeed, many of us (including, I would guess, Bishop John of Fulham and I) are steeped in the Prayer Book and used it or its variants consistently until relatively recently. As a Bishop, you simply use the rite of the parish you are visiting. When eventually (some time in the New Year) the priests and parishes joining the Ordinariate are free to declare themselves, those who are so certain they they will all be Roman Missal enthusiasts might be in for a surprise. In the last year I have celebrated BCP eucharists more often than those taken from the Roman Missal; so the Book of Divine Worship (or our version of it) will be no great hardship. May it be soon!
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