Former Bishop of Portsmouth dies

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THE former Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Dr Kenneth Stevenson, has died, it has been announced.

Bishop Kenneth died in hospital last night after a short illness, said a spokesman for the Diocese of Portsmouth.

His successful earlier treatment for leukaemia had led to a deterioration in his overall health and physical resilience to infection.

He leaves his wife, Sarah, and four children. Details of the funeral arrangements will be announced in due course.

The current Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Christopher Foster, told clergy, ministers, PCC officials and diocesan staff the news this morning.

He said: 'I am very sorry to have to write and tell you that Bishop Kenneth died last night.

'His condition deteriorated recently and he decided to receive palliative care only.

'Over the last few days he was able to spend time with all his family and was cared for both medically and spiritually with devotion.

'Sarah and the family know that they are in our prayers and that the diocese gives thanks for Kenneth's ministry, service and friendship.'

Friends and colleagues paid tribute to his life and work for the Church of England today.

The Rt Rev John Gladwin, who was Bishop of Guildford from 1994-2003 and Bishop of Chelmsford from 2003-2009, said: 'I saw him in hospital before he died and he was very much at peace. I'd known him since he was a curate in Lincolnshire in the 1970s.

'In many ways he was a big person. The Christian experience and the love of God ran through his veins. He offered a huge amount of affection to people in his family and with whom he worked, and he loved people to respond in love and friendship.

'He was a very great bishop for the Church of England. Intellectually and spiritually, he understood the Church and the culture of Anglicanism. He understood the balance of the Church in that it is both Catholic and Reformed, and held onto that tension. He enabled the Church of England the the Church of Denmark to be in full communion – that was his achievement.

'I shall miss him deeply. He was a close personal friend and we had spoken two or three times a week since he was first diagnosed with leukaemia.'

And the Rt Rev David Stancliffe, who was Provost of Portsmouth Cathedral from 1982-1993 and Bishop of Salisbury from 1993-2010, said: 'I first met him in 1978 and we were on the Liturgical Commission together in the 1980s.

'I always saw Kenneth as being like a Nordic or Baltic chieftain – I imagined him wearing a Viking helmet with horns rather than a mitre. He was great fun and the kind of person who would ask awkward questions or make irreverent remarks – and it's important that the Church of England has those kinds of people.

'He understood that the Church of England is a variety of textures and cultures, and he made important contributions liturgically, Biblically and spiritually. Some of his best writing actually came after he became ill.

'Once he was diagnosed with leukaemia, he made himself more vulnerable and let people in to how he was feeling. People saw what he was really like and their affection for him increased enormously.'

The Rt Rev Dr Kenneth Stevenson was the eighth Bishop of Portsmouth from 1995 to 2009.

Born near Edinburgh, he was part-Scottish and part-Danish, and was involved in strengthening the relations between the Anglican Churches of the British Isles and the Lutheran Churches of the Nordic and Baltic countries. He was a Knight Commander of the Kingdom of Denmark's Order of the Dannebrog.

He became bishop after spells as a parish priest in Lincolnshire and Guildford and as a university chaplain in Manchester. He was an author and a scholar, with a particular specialism in history and liturgy, and was a visiting Professor at Notre Dame University, Indiana, USA in 1983. He collaborated with the Bishop in Europe, Geoffrey Rowell, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in editing Love's Redeeming Work, an anthology of Anglican spirituality and theology which has become a best-seller.

As one of the 26 most senior bishops in the Church of England, he sat in the House of Lords. He spent much of his time visiting parishes within the diocese, encouraging them to engage with and challenge the communities in which they live.

His experience of being diagnosed with leukaemia in 2006 and his subsequent treatment – including two bone marrow transplants - had a profound effect on his faith and work.

Dr Stevenson's website www.kennethstevenson.org.uk contains some of his speeches, sermons and writing.