Simon Barrow

Church of England makes play for sports ambassador

By Simon Barrow
January 20, 2007

Christians in Britain sometimes complain that the established Church of England can be frosty to those who never go to services unless attending baptisms, weddings and funerals. But one bishop aims to rectify that situation, when it comes to sporting activities - writes Trevor Grundy for Ecumenical News International.

"A church building for most people is like going to Mars," says the Rt Rev Tony Porter, the 54-year old bishop of Sherwood, a key mover behind the church's plan to appoint its first ever ambassador for sport in 2007. "We have to go where people are," he told ENI.

Before arriving in Nottingham - the city made famous by the novelist D.H. Lawrence and legendary outlaw Robin Hood - Bishop Porter worked in Manchester where he was chaplain to the Premier League soccer team, Manchester City.

Known also for his public broadcasting, Porter long played a leading role in an organisation called Christians in Sport. Among other things, he said, it helps players learn to be Christians on, as well as off, the field.

"I've met many of the leading lights in British football and so many of them want to learn more about God and Christ but don't know how to go about it," he said. "We Christians must be more welcoming, more active on the ground."

The successful candidate will report directly to the bishop and he or she will need a solid track record in Christian ministry and sport, and also show ability as a team leader and communicator.

Bishop Porter said: "The organization Christians in Sport has had massive appeal among young people and people in ethnic communities ... We want to be involved in sport and bring sports people the message of the Gospel in a way that's relevant to them. That's why we need an ambassador of sport."

The bishop is a former field hockey schoolboy international, and played for Oxford University, where he also studied English before becoming a theology student at Cambridge. An injury forced him to stop playing hockey.

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International ( is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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