Mark D. Roberts

Part 10 of series: Sharing Laity Lodge
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In my last post in this series I reported on the recent visit of N.T. Wright to Laity Lodge and shared my introduction of him to the retreat there. In this post I want to share some of my responses to Bishop Tom, as he likes to be called.
A Sense of the Man
N.T. Wright at Laity LodgeUntil I met Bishop Tom a couple of weeks ago, I knew him almost completely through his writings. Over the years I’ve probably read well over 2,000 pages of his books, which I regard as among the finest works of biblical scholarship I’ve ever read. As I anticipated meeting him in person, I wondered what he’d be like. Over the years I’ve met dozens of prominent religious and academic leaders. Many come across as arrogant stuffed shirts, while others seem perfectly normal and rather unimpressed with themselves. (Photo: Bishop Tom at Laity Lodge)
I’m happy to report that Bishop Tom fits into the second category. He didn’t seem to be looking for homage or praise. In fact, he seemed embarrassed by my rather “over-the-top” introduction. Shortly after we met, I asked him what he preferred to be called. “‘Bishop Tom’ seems to be most common,” he said, “but I’m a fairly informal person, so I don’t mind if people forget the ‘Bishop’ just use ‘Tom.'”
Throughout his two days at Laity Lodge, Bishop Tom was at ease in conversations with a wide range of people. In fact, he seemed genuinely interested in the ideas and stories of the retreatants. In the rather long Q&A session during the retreat, he responded to all questions with respect and kindness.
Whatever else one might say about Bishop Tom and his ideas, he clearly seeks to live out his Christian faith in ordinary interactions with ordinary people.
Bishop Tom the Pastor
For the most part, Bishop Tom taught us during his time at Laity Lodge because this is what we asked him to do. He did so with great gusto. In fact, he often moved into a mode I would call preaching. It was clear that the ideas he shared were not just intellectual curiosities, but matters of passion and commitment. He really believes that all of this kingdom of God stuff can really change our lives, our churches, and, ultimately, the world.
Since I think of Bishop Tom mostly as a scholar and a writer, I was moved to hear of his pastoral concern for the people and churches within his diocese, the Diocese of Durham in England. He spoke of how much he desires to bring the hope of the gospel to the parishes over which he is bishop, many of which are struggling financially and spiritually. He also shared about praying for each his couple hundred parishes on a weekly basis. This wasn’t a matter of boasting, by the way, but rather an encouragement to us to pray faithfully.
On several occasions, both prior to and after his messages, Bishop Tom led us in prayer. I found his prayers strikingly simple. He didn’t even use some of the Anglicanisms that one might expect from a bishop. His language was more common than churchy. Usually he prayed to “Father,” much as Jesus taught us. It’s quite clear that Bishop Tom, though a high-ranking official in the Anglican Church, and though a top-notch scholar, is a man of genuine, humble faith in God through Jesus Christ. His pastoral care and, indeed, his scholarly writing, is an expression of this fundamental faith.
Of course you don’t get to know someone intimately in only two days. But I must say that my two days with Bishop Tom were impressive in ways I didn’t expect.
In tomorrow’s post I’ll explain yet another way Bishop Tom impressed me and, in fact, challenged me.

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