He left Oxford in 1994 to become suffragan Bishop of Basingstoke, a warning ringing in his ears from the Bishop of Winchester who predicted that the appointment would expose Rowell “to the seedier side of the Church of England”. Although Rowell had never worked in a parish, he was a wise pastor. Listening to troubled souls — perhaps a student nervous of final exams, or a vicar feeling isolated — he would typically prop his head in his hand.
If Rowell’s style was redolent of Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire, suggestions that he could not work a mobile telephone proved unfounded. He wrote leader columns for The Times for Christmas Day and Easter until the early 2000s, and until 2014 contributed reflective columns to Saturday’s Credo section. His many books include Hell and the Victorians (1974) and The Vision Glorious (1983), a vivid summary of the 19th-century Oxford Movement. With gentleness — he found arguments difficult because his parents had never quarrelled — Rowell strived to convey the riches of the Anglo-Catholic tradition to a Church that he found frustratingly focused on management.
He renamed his house, located next to a wood, Bishopswood End, because the next line in the address was Kingswood Rise. He was famously hospitable: his guests included diplomats, clergy, psychiatrists and composers. From 2001 they would stay at the cosy cottage adjoining his rectory at St Nicholas’ Church, Worth, West Sussex, where he lived while Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe. Gentleman’s Relish was served at his breakfast table and for old friends he would produce “KGB Sherry” later in the day. Every Friday he braved Easyjet or Ryanair to fly to one of the 270 Anglican chaplaincies in the 44 countries of mainland Europe.
A keen ecumenist, he was careful to meet local church leaders….
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