It is with the deepest sadness that the Society has learned of the passing of Bishop Geoffrey who was, only months ago, to have given a paper at the Society’s recent conference Anglicanism Catholic and Reformed. This would have been on the theme of the distinctive Anglican understandings of holiness and it was only with great reluctance that he withdraw, on account of the then early, but already acute, stages of the illness which has now claimed him.
I first knew him personally in Oxford, where he was then Chaplain at Keble College and I met him many times later, on matters ranging from the Middle East to the Prayer Book. He was also a frequent visitor to Cairo during my time there, visiting Bishop Mouneer Anis. He had long and extensive connections to the Oriental and Orthodox Churches and followed the events of the Arab Spring, and most recently and tragically in Syria, very closely. On a somewhat lighter note I last visited him in Horsham before his retirement regarding my stay in the Chaplaincy to the Cresta run in St Moritz.
Warmly regarded as he was across his diocese and Europe as a bishop and friend, it is nonetheless his extensive academic work that will be his most enduring legacy. This reflects his particular importance as an historian of the high church. He was a continuing voice for this vital thread in the Anglican story — a tradition that is now in some travail since the ordination of women clergy * and subsequent departure of so many of its leaders to other denominational shores. Indeed that context reminds of a story he was fond of telling , when one of his predecessors, as Anglican Bishop in Europe, was greeted by the Pope in Rome with the welcoming comment to the effect that “I am in your Diocese”.
Bishop Rowell was educated at Winchester College and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge where he undertook his Doctoral research. He was ordained priest in the Church of England, in 1969 and was appointed Chaplain and Fellow of Keble College, Oxford in 1971 and served until 1994. During this time he was also appointed, Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Leicester, 1979–1990, Canon of Chichester Cathedral in 1981 and Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Winchester, 1991–1993.
Dr. Rowell was consecrated a bishop by George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, on 2nd February 1994 at St Paul’s Cathedral, becoming Bishop suffragan of Basingstoke in the Diocese of Winchester. In October 2001 he was commissioned as Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe at St Margaret’s, Westminster, and enthroned in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Gibraltar, on 1 November 2001.
Bishop Rowell served for 10 years on the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission and subsequently on the Doctrine Commission.
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His many publications include
Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness. OUP Oxford. 2003. with Kenneth Stevenson and Rowan Williams
The Vision Glorious: Themes and Personalities of the Catholic Revival in Anglicanism. Clarendon Press. 1991.
Come, Lord Jesus!: Daily Readings for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Morehouse. 2003. with Julien Chilcott-Monk
The English religious tradition and the genius of Anglicanism. Ikon. 1992.
Hell and the Victorians, The Liturgy of Christian Burial (1973),
- Which he always opposed among other reasons, as a unilateral action taken without respect for the mind of the wider global Church including the Roman Catholic, Oriental and Orthodox and most Anglicans outside the United Kingdom.