Search on for new Bishop of Blackburn

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"People tend to expect too much of their local bishop," the man who has begun the search for a new Bishop of Blackburn has said.

Paul Britton also said: "You will never get one person who has all the qualities that are ideal."

Mr Britton also advises the Prime Minister on senior church appointments.

He was speaking at a two-day meeting to assess the kind of bishop needed to replace the Right Reverend Nicholas Reade who retires on 31 October.

Church people, local organisations and interested parties from across Lancashire travelled to Cabus to have their say about the qualities they feel are needed for the post.

Bishop Reade, who is also a member of the House of Lords, is retiring after eight years in which he has been increasingly outspoken.

'Necessary qualities'

He supported BAE workers in Warton and Samlesbury who were in danger of losing their jobs.

He has also criticised government budgetary restraints he felt penalised the socially challenged, defended his stance against the introduction of women bishops and called for restraint in the criticism of the unpopular Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean, reminding people there is "a human being in the middle of all this".

In November, the General Synod of the Church of England is due to finally decide on whether women bishops can be introduced into the church.

However, the appointment of the new Bishop of Blackburn will come too soon to be influenced by that ruling.

As the search for Bishop Reade's successor began, Mr Britton said: "The aim is to work out what the most important challenges are and find someone who has the necessary qualities to deal with those."

Mr Britton said the needs of any diocese change over time: "They may need someone of one kind and then, in ten years time, they will need someone with different qualities.

"We are here to find out what the Diocese of Blackburn, what the county of Lancashire, needs now."

'Difficult job'

The consultation will take several months and be largely dictated by public guidance.

"Part of our task is to allow everyone we meet the opportunity to give their views on who the next Bishop of Blackburn should be," said Mr Britton.

"We ask people if there are any names they want to suggest. We get together a list of names and very often the same names begin to be repeated."

Mr Britton said these names could come from any area of the church: "They may be people who some have seen on television, or they may have read their books or may be someone they have seen in the diocese."

"The church also has list of people they believe to be ready to become a Bishop and these names will also be fed into the commission."

The Crown Nominations Commission, made up of people from the Church hierarchy and people from the Diocese of Blackburn, will ultimately send forward a name to be ratified by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Britton said people should be realistic about the appointment: "Clearly it isn't impossible to find a Bishop of Blackburn and we shall find one who will do well here and become loved by the people of the area. But it is true that the job is a difficult one."

It is thought the name of the new Bishop of Blackburn will be known by the spring.

Joe Wilson presents the faith programme on BBC Radio Lancashire from 06:00 each Sunday.

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