Auckland's 'agnostic' bishop to retire

By Simon Collins

The Anglican bishop who caused a furore by declaring himself an agnostic has announced he is to quit his job.

Richard Randerson, the Assistant Bishop of Auckland and dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral, said he had told Auckland's senior bishop, John Paterson, a year ago that he planned to retire in the middle of 2007.

"I will be 67 this year. Even that is a year or two beyond the normal sort of thing," he said. "I have some regrets at retiring at this stage because the response to the religious debate that we've had has been absolutely astonishing."

The bishop sparked the debate with an article in the Herald on January 8 welcoming a planned national statement on religious diversity and expressing discomfort at leading Christian prayers in public, "thus excluding people of other faiths".

He said "much of the language of the Bible is to be read in categories of poetry and image, not as a scientific textbook". "In terms of the existence of such a being, an atheist is construed as a non-believer, an agnostic as one who feels it cannot be proved one way or another. By that measure, I regard myself as an agnostic," he wrote.

The admission unleashed a flood of letters and public argument. A Hamilton Anglican vicar, Michael Hewat, wrote that "to reject the doctrine of God's personhood, or that he is a supreme being, is heretical."

Bishop Randerson acknowledged that Mr Hewat and others promoted "a traditional view" that saw faith differently, but he had written to Mr Hewat to explain his views.

Mr Hewat said last night that Bishop Randerson had written "a very gracious response" in a letter published in the Herald on January 23, where he reaffirmed his faith in "God who, although a mystery, is fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ".

"That means that we have come together on that one," Mr Hewat said.

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