Sporting bishop will help get C of E churches match fit for evangelism

The Bishop of Sherwood has been appointed as the Archbishops' sporting ambassador.

We must run with perseverance the race marked out for us, the Bible tells us in Hebrews 12. St Paul picks up the baton again in 1 Corinthians 9 to remind us that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize. "Run in such a way as to get the prize."

This is not just the Bible being politically incorrect yet again, in a world that preaches that all are winners.

These were the verses cited by the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu to justify the appointment of a bishop as his and the Archbishop of Canterbury's sporting ambassador.

The Bishop of Sherwood, Rt Rev Tony Porter, who once played hockey for England Schoolboys and went on to win an Oxford blue, will work to strengthen links between the Church of England and sport at all levels. Many football and other sports clubs already have Anglican chaplains and there is also a chaplain to the racing industry.

Bishop Tony will be coming at it from the other end of the pitch.

"My main work will be to encourage parish churches to be involved in the world of sport and for the world of sport to receive Christian ministry in a culture and language they understand," he said.

"I want the Church to be available pastorally and to take appropriate opportunities to share the good news of Jesus."

He continued: "It is a great honour to be entrusted with this work, which will cover all levels of sport, from the grassroots to elite level. There are great opportunities for the Church in that world, it is an excellent way to bring people together, to build relationships and, ultimately, to talk to people about faith."

Dr Sentamu, who commissioned Bishop Tony in the role in the chapel at his palace in Bishopthorpe yesterday, said: "We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. Through hard work, practice and the support of teammates we also discover that we are capable of more than we ever thought possible. It is no accident that St Paul uses the metaphor of running a race to describe the Christian life, where discipline and the support of others help us to see God doing more than we ever thought possible. I am delighted that Bishop Tony will be working to highlight that link between faith and sport some 2,000 years after St Paul."

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: "I have known Tony for some years and his links to sport make him the ideal person for this post. I pray for his success in communicating the message of the good news of Jesus in the world of sport."

Bishop Tony was himself club chaplain at Manchester City in the late 1990s and into the next decade while based at a church in Moss Side, working with managers Joe Royle, Kevin Keegan and Stuart Pearce.

As such, he is perfectly placed to understand the further words of St Paul: "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."