Style and Substance

I saw this poster on the other side of the world and just knew it might come in handy somewhere.  I’ve been watching Cardinal O’Brien gaining huge media attention before and over the weekend on the subject of embryo research.  Anglican and SEC bishops – do we need to take our Holloways?

Maybe – this is a very important issue and it is clear that many MP’s – not just Catholics- are troubled by it.

I’ll offer three reflections ..

One is that many of us – myself certainly – fall into the ‘pastor -manager’ style of bishoping.  The gain is that we pay attention to the life of the church and act as leaders of mission.  The loss is that we tend not to engage prophetically with the world beyond the church as we should.

Two is that, in terms of authority, Anglican bishops are very much more collegial animals than their Catholic counterparts.  That is both strength and inhibition.

Three is that I can’t imagine myself attempting so directly to affect the actions of legislators.  Prophetic challenge to society – yes.  Direct appeal to MP’s – no and not in some of the language which has been used this weekend.

A quick trawl through the comments about the Cardinal on the BBC website reveals, as one would expect, many people who think he should stick to church-stuff and not get involved in politics.  But thinking people expect and welcome a well-argued, balanced, passionate and compassionate contribution from the churches.  We need to work harder at this.


  1. Thanks, most interesting. There is a slight resonance in that Thomas ‘Pills’ Holloway, besides building the college, also locally built the Virginia Water (Surrey) sanitorium (basically for middle class folk recovering from nervous breakdowns). [Much later Bill Bryson met his wife while working there.] Rather ahead of his time, perhaps, Holloway insisted all the patients had separate rooms, so they could practise their own beliefs — whatever they were — in private. One suspects a certain later Holloway would approve of that…..

  2. How interesting. It was at Sovereign Hill Gold Rush Village at Ballarat near Melbourne. The allusion for us was that Bishop Richard Holloway had a very forthright and prophetic ministry in this church and we have been trying to find an authentic voice ever since – hence the suggestion that our other bishops and I might usefully take our Holloway Pills

    Disagree? Yes of course. But that’s because prophets get things ‘on the agenda’ which would otherwise be left alone. It’s not primarily about agreement – more about passion for justice and truth and compassion for people.

  3. I have just retired from Royal Holloway, whose founder, Thomas H., is of course the originator of Holloway’s Pills. The college likes to say it is built on the product of placebo medecines. Might you remember where you saw this notice? The college likes to hear about these things ( because of our quaintly colourful past, as well as of course because of global perspectives today. (There are no copyright or patent implications — the interest is of course purely cultural: the marketing of its profile etc.) I myself still live in Egham next to the college and also Perth to which I shall be returning this weekend. I occasionally pop into the cathedral as part of my theolinguistic research (see eg last September’s number of SPCK’s Theology).

  4. I was about to write that I was all for prophetic bishops – and then I reflected that there’s a strong chance I might disagree with them. It’s a toughie, isn’t it?

Comments are closed.