THE recently appointed Bishop of Tonbridge has sent out a message in support of young people in what he calls ‘this very difficult and complicated age’.
Rev Simon Burton-Jones, who is an avid fan of The Simpsons cartoon and their deliquent son Bart, admitted he was ‘really excited, and slightly unnerved’ about his new position.
He added: “I hope that in this role I can enable and inspire people to meet the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead of us.
‘I have a feeling there is lots more we can do in rediscovering and expressing our social conscience’
“We are going through a very extended era of austerity and the way many churches responded to this has been kindly and generous, from food banks to dementia cafes, night shelters to community cafes.
“There’s a lot we can learn from one another. I have a feeling there is lots more we can do in rediscovering and expressing our social conscience.
“And in doing all of this, we have to bear in mind the needs of children and young people growing up in this very difficult and complicated age, helping them to find their feet, to have the assurance that the wider church is supporting them as they seek to understand and express their faith in Jesus in the world that’s unfolding before them.”
Rev Burton-Jones, 55, was announced as the Suffragan Bishop of Tonbridge by No 10 Downing Street on March 27.
‘We have to bear in mind the needs of children and young people growing up in this very difficult and complicated age’
He said: “We are living in an era of extraordinary, almost unprecedented, change. What we need to develop as a church is this sense that God is before us, and we can have trust and confidence in Him to face these challenges together.
“Understanding how we do discipleship, following Jesus, I think is one of the most exciting challenges we face, that’s one I’m really looking forward to sharing with people.”
Rev Burton-Jones’ mission in the town will focus on evangelism and growth, an aspiration central to the Diocese of Rochester’s vision ‘Called Together’.
He will also have leadership of the church’s education of children and young people and will chair the Diocesan Board of Education, supporting the work of the 89 Church of England schools in the area.
Rev Burton-Jones will be officially consecrated in London on July 3 – 25 years to the day since he was ordained as a Deacon in the Church of England.
He will be the seventh Bishop of Tonbridge, and it took almost two and a half years to appoint a replacement for Rt Rev Brian Castle, who retired in November 2015.
He was born on December 23, 1962 in Fleetwood, Lancashire and studied Law at Cambridge before working as a researcher and political campaigner at the Jubilee Centre, a Christian think tank that is especially concerned with the relevance of the Bible’s social vision in modern society.
He was the Curate of St Mark, Biggin Hill for two years, then Vicar of St Mary, Bromley and Rector of St Nicholas, Chislehurst before being appointed Archdeacon of Rochester in 2010.
He is married to Julia, a specialist in dementia care, and they have two children, Tim and Helena.
On his website, www.simonburton-jones.com, he reveals: “I have spent far too much of my life watching The Simpsons. This has given me an inexhaustible repertoire of jokes. My only real achievement in life was to get a quote in an all-time book of cricket quotations.”
Tory revolt over Sunday shopping
The year before Simon Burton-Jones joined the Jubilee Centre, it had helped to inflict Margaret Thatcher’s only Commons defeat with the Shops Bill, which was designed to relax Sunday trading laws.
The Christian campaign group, based at Cambridge University, protested against the plans alongside trade unions under the banner Keep Sunday Special.
Although the Conservative government had a majority of 139, the bill was defeated by 14 votes at its second reading in April 1986 when 72 Tory MPs rebelled.