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Bishop Jonathan Baker: an appreciation by Fr Barry Orford

Speech making is not really my thing, but clearly something has to be said on this occasion, and I suppose must be said by the person who is rapidly assuming the role of The Survivor.

Bishop Jonathan – ten years. Can they really have gone so quickly? That they have is testimony to what enjoyable years they’ve been, and most of them shared between the two us and Fr William.

I don’t want to go into a long review of your time here, but this much should be said. When you came to Pusey House we were not a despondent place – could Pusey House ever be that? – but there was a certain air of tiredness. Your predecessor, Fr Ursell, had had a difficult time in office, and he was clear that change was needed.

When Fr William and I were asked by the Governors what was needed in our new Principal, we replied, “Someone who will give the House a more public face.” Well, you’ve done that in full measure. Your membership of General Synod, your role in Forward in Faith, your readiness to go out to preach or lecture – all of these, and more, brought Pusey House to wider attention.

More recently, of course, you’ve had a place in the counsels of the Church of England’s bishops; and I’m not going to spare your blushes when I say that I know from the reports of my agents that yours is a voice listened to by your fellow bishops with increasing attention and respect, whatever their personal convictions on controversial issues. To the discussions of the House of Bishops you bring a capacity for real theological reflection, and that’s a quality not in plentiful supply.

I should say that I enjoy the memory of the day when you summoned Fr William and me to break the news to us that you were to be made Bishop of Ebbsfleet. I’m sure you must have been put out when the Davage-Orford Detective Agency told you that not only did we know already, but we could pinpoint the dates when you had gone to London for interviews. MI5 eat your heart out.

But to return to your time as Principal here: you came and brought renewed vigour to the House and new initiatives. The Friends of Pusey House became a body of real supporters who felt that we have a genuine appreciation of them. You led students on expeditions to the Abbey of Bec, which in characteristic Pusey House manner combined heartfelt devotion and worship with much conviviality. You made sure that we visited the Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham. You initiated the experiment of saying Compline on Wednesday evenings – after food and drink, naturally. You linked the Church’s Catholic societies with the work of the House. You encouraged conferences, either here or at Ascot Priory. You pushed forward the changes here which saw new rooms for residents and guests created on the top floor. I could go on with this list, but it would become wearisome.

However, should someone eventually write the history of Pusey House, there is one achievement of yours which will prove a permanent legacy to the House, and that is your seeing through the new agreement with the University about our links with St Cross College.

It’s no secret that when you became Principal relations between the House and St Cross were at an all-time low. Your predecessor had been forced to spend thirteen years in constant battle against some who wanted to put us out of business. The atmosphere this created was toxic.

Your arrival here was followed quickly by that of a new Master – Professor Andrew Goudie. Thanks be to God, you established quickly a mutual trust and a shared desire for better relations. As a result, after a great deal of discussing and bargaining, a new agreement was achieved. To say that since then life for us and for the College has been transformed puts it mildly. The fruits of this labour were seen last Thursday at your farewell dinner when the present Master of the College, plus Professor Goudie and the College Bursar, were among your guests.

It’s not been all sunshine, of course. You’ve had to struggle with the financial difficulties which Pusey House faces. You saw through the regrettable but essential sale of books from the Library to pay for electrical work which was needed if we were to remain open, and you earned yourself some unpleasant and ignorant criticism for doing so. And surrounding everything has been the difficulties in the Church of England. When you made it clear that you are remaining in this communion you again received decidedly un-Christian comments from some of those who were going away. I hope it was more than compensated for by the gratitude of those who have been steadied and inspired by your own steadiness. To these difficulties was added more recently the burden of personal trial and grief. Small wonder that you’ve sometimes said that those who see you floating on the water with swanlike grace have not always realised the frantic paddling beneath the surface.

But I mustn’t close on this note, because above all we’re here to thank you for what you have achieved, and for being who you are. If I may speak personally, it’s a gratifying thing when your colleagues become your friends, and that has been true for us and for Fr William too – even though after ten years we’ve still not trained you to put your cup and saucer into the dishwasher.

You once said to me how fascinating it was that three men of strong character and differing temperament should work together so well. (And I include Fr Philip in this picture.) The reason has been that despite personal views we have always been united on essentials, believing absolutely that this House is here to say the Daily Office, to celebrate the sacraments, to teach the Catholic faith, and to minister to all those who come to us. And I’m sure your successor would endorse that statement.

Last Thursday evening a former student said something to me which made me aware of just how much it matters to many of our former members to know that, whatever they do in life, Pusey House remains here, praying, worshipping, teaching and supporting, and that we are here for people as they are. Some would blink at the idea of Pusey House being a centre of genuine Liberality – but it’s the truth, and as Principal you have made sure that it remains the truth.

So, we must let you go, with our love and our thanks and our prayers. We will miss you – but it’s right that we let you take your place in the affairs of the wider Church. And the links between us cannot possibly be broken. How can they be for those united in Christ?

Father, go well – looking forward to the day when we all merrily meet in heaven, but more immediately, to the many days when we hope to meet merrily in London.

Fr Barry Orford
10 March 2013

11th March 2013

The Revd Dr George Westhaver to be new Principal

From the President of the Dr Pusey Memorial Fund

The governors of Pusey House are pleased to announce that the Revd Dr George Westhaver has been appointed Principal of Pusey House with effect from 1st August 2013. Dr Westhaver knows Pusey House well from his studies and his time as a chaplain in Oxford, and the governors are confident that he will bring the requisite pastoral and academic skills to develop the life and work of the House in the future. Please pray for him and for his family as they prepare to move from Nova Scotia to Oxford, for the community of Pusey House, and for the Bishop of Fulham as his ten distinguished years as Principal conclude.


George grew up in near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the East coast of Canada. He studied philosophy and anthropology at McGill University, Montreal, and International Development Studies at St Mary's University in Halifax. After discerning a call to ordained ministry he attended Wycliffe College, part of the University of Toronto School of Theology. At the conclusion of his studies for a Master of Divinity Degree George was ordained in the Diocese of Ely to serve in the parishes of Cherry Hinton and Teversham on the edge of Cambridge. He was later Team Vicar in the Ramseys and Upwood before moving to Oxford to be Chaplain at Lincoln College and Assistant Minister at St Michael at the North Gate. At the same time, he also began a part-time PhD program at the University of Durham under the supervision of Professor Andrew Louth. His thesis focussed on E. B. Pusey's 'Lectures on Types and Prophecies of the Old Testament' and the theological significance of the typological and allegorical interpretation of the Bible for Pusey and other members of the Oxford Movement. At the beginning of 2007, George became the Rector of St George's Round Church in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the parish where he and his wife Karen had previously met and married, and where he had served as lay-evangelist while he was a student. Karen and George have two daughters, Clara, age 13, and Charlotte, age 6. They are all very much looking forward to moving back to Oxford and to George undertaking the role of Principal at Pusey House.

The Revd Canon Dr Robin Ward,

15th August 2013