The Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, Bishop of Virginia 1985 to 2009, writes for The Living Church on the importance of the Rt. Rev. Stephen Sykes in the life of Bishop Lee and Virginia:
The Rt. Rev. Stephen Sykes, who died on September 24, 2014, was perhaps the most influential theologian of Anglican history and polity in the late 20th century.
He was canon to Durham Cathedral and Van Mildert Professor of Divinity from 1974 to 1985, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University from 1985 to 1990, Bishop of Ely from 1998 to 1999, and principal of St. John’s College, Durham, from 1999 to 2006. He was an influential member of the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission that prepared the 1997 Virginia Report in preparation for the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Among his books are The Integrity of Anglicanism and Unashamed Anglicanism.
He was among the most articulate voices in understanding what he called the “dispersed authority” of Anglicanism, combining episcopal, synodical, and congregational authority.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he was a frequent visitor to the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandra, where the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission often met. He preached at my consecration as bishop in the Washington Cathedral in 1984 and a cherished friendship developed among my wife and I and Stephen and Joy Sykes. We enjoyed their gracious hospitality in Ely.
The church has benefitted from a gracious, warm pastor and scholar.
An obituary in The Telegraph focuses on other moments in the bishop’s vocation:
When the Regius Professorship of Divinity at Cambridge fell vacant in 1985 Sykes was the obvious choice. The life of the university was now changing fast, financial pressures were more constraining and a different breed of undergraduates and postgraduates was electing to study Theology. Many fewer were committed to service of the Church, and more women were attending lectures and tutorials. Sykes took all this in his stride, presiding with skill, flexibility and good humour, and enjoying continued association with a cathedral as an honorary canon of Ely.
After five years the retirement of the much admired Peter Walker from Ely’s bishopric exposed Sykes to a pressing request for his services. Acceptance could only be sacrificial. By 1990 the days were long past when a scholar-bishop could reasonably expect to have some leisure for study and writing.
Ely, with its preponderance of rural parishes, most of them grouped in multiple benefices, made often impossible demands on its clergy and finances, and required a pastoral manager with administrative skill, energy and the wisdom to initiate unwelcome changes without undermining clerical or lay morale. Most academic priests would, with good reason, have declined the request.