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'Feeding my sheep', saving the lost, key to a bishop's vocation

Dr Bradly Billings was consecrated as an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Melbourne on 30 April.

Dr Bradly Billings, who has responsibility for Theological Education and Clergy Wellbeing, has been consecrated as an assistant bishop.

PHOTO: Janine Eastgate

By Roland Ashby

May 2 2016Three words — “Feed my sheep” — were the final words of Jesus to Peter in the Gospel reading (John 21:15-17) at the consecration on 30 April of Dr Bradly Billings as an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Melbourne. They perhaps best summarised the theme of the service which was held in St Paul’s Cathedral.

In his sermon, Archbishop Freier said that for Jesus the Good Shepherd, “who [risked] his life to save the lost sheep”, the saving of the lost is “so close to [his heart]” and is also “close to the heart of the vocation of all who are called to be bishops in the Church of God”.

He said faithful proclamation of the Word of God was at the heart of the ministry of a bishop, something which was echoed in Colossians 1.25, and which gives Melbourne its diocesan vision. “Paul says, ‘I became a servant of the Lord… to make the Word of God fully known.’”

Addressing Dr Billings, who has responsibility for Theological Education and Clergy Wellbeing, he said: “It is essential to remember that Jesus the Good Shepherd is the nurturer of your soul and your discipleship, as much as he is the one who calls you through his words to Peter to … ‘feed my sheep’. The love of God in Christ is at the centre of your calling to be a bishop.”

The ministry of the bishop was further expounded in a part of the formal liturgy of ordination, “The exhortation and examination”, which began:  “A bishop is called to maintain the Church’s witness to the resurrection from the dead, to protect the purity of the Gospel, and to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. As a chief minister and pastor in Christ’s Church, you are to guard its faith, unity and discipline, and promote its mission in the world.”

Mrs Jill Wilson, the widow of Bishop John Wilson, vested Dr Billings in convocation robes that had been worn by the former Melbourne assistant bishop. He was also due to be presented with Bishop Wilson’s pastoral staff, but this required repair and was not ready for the service.

Dr Billings told TMA: “These gifts are especially meaningful, as Bishop Wilson had been a mentor to me and strong supporter of me, my wife Karen and our family, in the early years of my ministry, and had confirmed both me and Karen at our home parish of St Luke’s Carrum Downs.”

He also received a Bible, a pectoral cross and an Episcopal ring.

“The Episcopal ring was presented by The Revd Sharon Footit, who with husband Greg, were the vicars of St Luke’s Carrum Downs at the time of our Confirmation. The ring was the gift of some colleagues with whom I was ordained priest in 2001,” he said.

Rebekah Billings, one of the Billings’ five children, read the first reading (Isaiah 61.1-3a) and Dr Billings’ sister-in-law, Mrs Miriam McLean, read the second reading (2 Corinthians 4:1-7).

Music throughout the service was fitting to the occasion, concluding with the stirring hymn “Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer” and William Walton’s organ voluntary Crown Imperial.