Posted by esbvm on 17th July 2011
A committed Ecumenist, Bishop Michael, was a member of the British Catholic/Methodist Committee from 1991, appointed as a member of the International Joint Commission for Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council in 1996 and following his ordination as Bishop was appointed Chairman of the Bishops’ Conference Committee for Dialogue and Christian Unity. His knowledge, commitment and contribution to dialogue with the Methodist communion was immense and made a special contribution to the area of ecumenism which has been the brief of the ESBVM since its inception 45 years ago next year. As Chairman of the Committee responsible for dialogue with other faiths, Bishop Michael found himself serving alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and other members of national Christian leadership by whom he was much respected. At a local level, his relationships with leaders of other Churches and faiths were always marked by warmth and genuine friendship which was reflected in beautiful tributes from The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Rev Graham James, The Bishop of Ely, Rt Rev Stephen Conway, Rt Rev Nigel Stock, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese joined others in expressing a view that all the Church of England Bishops in the eastern region valued hugely Bishop Michael’s companionship and willingness to walk with others in the Christian pilgrimage. Rev Simon Wilson, county ecumenical officer at Churches Together in Norfolk and Waveney, and Graham Thompson, chair of the East Anglia district of the Methodist Church, along with others of all Christian traditions and faith communities paid tribute to him.
The ESBVM Conference held at Aylesford Carmelite Priory in 2006 was the setting for an at-times heated discussion of the ARCIC Statement on Mary – Grace and Hope in Christ during which Bishop Michael Evans of East Anglia, who was generous with his time at ESBVM conference even though he had begun treatment for cancer, offered the first paper in which he admonished his fellows for seeing the document merely as a further indication that Anglicans were moving nearer to Rome; it was in fact he urged a call to Roman Catholics to review their own position in terms of mental and devotional attitudes, and to accept and seek insights from other Christians. He himself had taken part in discussions with Methodists on the same subject, producing a document which had been accepted as authoritative for all Methodists internationally, and he commended it as a valuable counterpart.
The focus of his last East Anglia Diocesan Pilgrimage in which he took part was the Solemnity of St. George, Patron Saint of England this year marked on 2nd May. In Bishop Michael Evans’ homily he suggested we all needed the gift of courage, in order to be faithful disciples and pilgrims of Jesus Christ. He said it did not require much courage to walk the ‘Holy Mile’ of Walsingham, which is the great national Marian shrine within the Diocese of East Anglia, unless, like him, you could not see where you were going! [Bishop Michael’s health had been in steady decline for some months]. Walsingham has a major significance for the ESBVM and perhaps for ecumenists and members of the ESBVM currently reflecting on the future of the society not seeing where we are going requiring courage could serve as a useful metaphor. Bishop Michael referred to the youthful Student Cross Holy Week Pilgrimage to the same shrine, but he said he remembered also, those who over 950 years had walked across England to get to the Holy Land of England’s Nazareth at Walsingham, sometimes attacked by bandits and others as they walked together. This often required real courage, as shown by St. George and martyrs across the ages. Bishop Michael showed an admirable courage to the end and we pray that he may come to that full share in the Resurrection in the hope of which we ourselves live. Our lady of Walsingham, pray for Bishop Michael and for us.
Father Bill, OSM Hon General Secretary