Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Diocese of Southwark: Christopher Chessun nominated

From No 10:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Christopher Thomas James Chessun, MA, Area Bishop of Woolwich, for election as Bishop of Southwark, in succession to the Right Reverend Thomas Frederick Butler, BSc, MSc, PhD, on his retirement on the 5th March 2010.

Notes for Editors

The Right Reverend Christopher Chessun (aged 54) studied for the ordained ministry at Westcott House, Cambridge. His first curacy was at St Michael and All Angels, Sandhurst in Oxford Diocese between 1983 and 1987, and he become a Senior Curate at St Mary, Portsea in Portsmouth Diocese from 1987 to 1989. He then became Minor Canon and Chaplain of St Paul’s Cathedral from 1989 to 1993 and between 1991 and 1993 he was also a Vocations Adviser in the Diocese of London. From 1993 to 2001 he was Rector of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney and Area Dean of Tower Hamlets from 1997 to 2001. He became Archdeacon of Northolt in 2001. Since 2005 he has been Area Bishop of Woolwich. In May 2010 the Archbishops of Canterbury and York appointed him Bishop for Urban Life and Faith in addition to his other Episcopal responsibilities.

Christopher Chessun has an identical twin, and his interests include music, history, travel, deaf – hearing integration, reconstruction in Zimbabwe and links with Churches overseas.

From Southwark: Tenth Bishop of Southwark is announced includes more details

Bishop Nick Baines writes: Bishop of Southwark

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 7:26am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

So there's just one name on the list of nominees?

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 12:56pm BST

I see that Rev Kevin Pearson was today elected (by the SEC College of Bishops) as the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles in the Scottish Episcopal Church.


Posted by: Kennedy Fraser on Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 2:48pm BST

Thank goodness he's not a wound on the church, like that awful Jeffrey John!

Posted by: JPM on Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 3:17pm BST

Bill, he was on the short list and has been named from that. He is the new bishop.

Posted by: susan hedges on Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 3:41pm BST

That's the way the British system works, Bill. From the nominees (two, I believe, but others can correct me?) chosen by the Crown Appointments Commission, the government chooses a name, the Queen 'nominates' that person to the dean and chapter of the cathedral and commands them to elect him as bishop.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 4:01pm BST

The Bishop of Woolwich is an excellent man, and a good choice for unity - especially since he seems to have a good reputation with evangelicals and liberals, and comes from a liberal catholic stable. Great choice of a godly person.

Posted by: Neil on Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 4:10pm BST

Mr Dilworth:

The language of 'nomination' rather than 'appointment' is used because technically speaking The Queen is nominating a person for the formal approval of the College of Canons of the diocese and the College could refuse to approve the proposed candidate (it's unheard of for them to do so, though).

Before the nomination is announced, the Crown Nominations Commission (local and national church representatives) discusses a long list and then a short list of possible candidates before they vote to choose two - a preferred candidate (whose name goes forward) and a second (in case the first is unable to accept the appointment). The process is set out helpfully at

In other words, unless something unusual happens, a church commission chooses a candidate and the state and the College of Canons endorse their choice.

Posted by: Philip Hobday on Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 4:21pm BST

Yes Bill, the Queen sends a conge d'elire ( or leave to elect) to the Dean and Chapter with the ( sole) name of the person they are to elect.See Wikipedia on Appointment of Church of England Bishops. Your fellow countryman Ralph Waldo Emerson had some wry comments on the matter. I think it has been the case since 1559..perhaps someone could put me right if the date is wrong, it could be earlier.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 5:46pm BST

No, Tim Chesterton, that's not the way the British system works.

Its the way the English system works.

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 10:03pm BST

The commendation of his new Diocesan Bishop by Bishop Nick Baines gives us hope for the ministry of Christopher Chessun as his Diocesan. Bishop Chessun's term of office as Area Bishop of Woolwich will have given him valuable experience of how the diocese works as a whole - under Bp. Tom Butler, who, himself, was a formidable advocate of justice and human dignity. No doubt his successor will carry on with that tradition.
God grant him the grace he will need.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 10:42pm BST

Thank you everybody for the very interesting explanations.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 11:08pm BST

A good and interesting appointment. 'Inside appointments' are comparatively rare, but we have recently seen + James Newcome move from Penrith to be Diocese of Carlisle. I cannot recall another one in modern times, except + Richard Chartres from Stepney to London in 1995. His predecessor + Winnington-Ingram was translated from Stepney in 1901 and went on to serve until 1939!

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 11:27pm BST

My apologies, Kelvin Holdsworth!

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Thursday, 7 October 2010 at 5:33am BST

Last year I went to Southwark to be interviewed for a job in Camberwell and the day before the interview Bishop Christopher asked me to come in for a chat simply because we had met very briefly in Rome where I was curate. He wasn't on the selection board and I didn't get the job, which at the time was a very big disappointment, but the bishop's kindness, welcome, and encouragement have remained with me long after the disappointment disappeared.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Thursday, 7 October 2010 at 7:32am BST

How quickly we are appeased and forget the scandal of the CNC's rejection of the Dean of St Albans! If you were making a simple choice between the two men, who would you actually choose?

Posted by: Commentator on Thursday, 7 October 2010 at 6:33pm BST

The comment posted by JPM on Wednesday 6 October at 3.17pm is uncharitable and offensive.

Posted by: Michael Ardern Mason on Thursday, 7 October 2010 at 6:55pm BST

I think you missed the irony in JPM's comment!

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 8 October 2010 at 12:22am BST

Though we missed each other by a whisker in the Woolwich Area, as I moved to Spain, and the totally different but equally sincere and honest +Colin Buchanan exited stage-left, I have heard good things about +Christopher.

Commentator should, I think, read +Nick Baines's own comments on his article supportive of +CC before commentating thus on 'the scandal of the CNC's rejection of (Jeffrey John.)' (Not to mention all the others on both the long and short lists.)

Jeffrey would doubtless be as good a bishop as many, and a lot better than some. There are many in Southwark who would have have rejoiced for him, just as there are many who rejoice that Southwark has got an internal appointment of someone whose CV makes me feel exhausted just reading its relevance to that diocese, let alone his tried and tested ministry there. But there are lots of people in Southwark who would have held up their hands in horror at JJ being appointed, even if he really had what the Job Description, carefully crafted, required.

I totally agree with expressed dissent from JPM's description of JJ as 'ghastly' not least as I don't think he is in any way ghastly; and we really shouldn't be using such personally judgemental epithets about our brothers and sisters - at least in public.

But being gay, partnered, celibately inactive, intelligent and delightful aren't high among the qualifications for being a diocesan bishop where ?% of the folks who knew him loved him; and where others had a different perception - albeit based on not knowing what a decent person and Christian he is.

Intellectually, JJ is in the traditional Durham Bishop-Theologian league. Brains AND charm! And no quasi-theological, benevolent homophobia dressed up as Bible-believing 'truth.' Now, that really would be a steal. Of course, the punters of Durham may not agree; and JJ may just be perfectly happy getting on with tomorrow's commitments in St Alban's.

Posted by: Peter Edwards on Friday, 8 October 2010 at 1:28am BST

"How quickly we are appeased and forget the scandal of the CNC's rejection of the Dean of St Albans!"

Absolutely. And the scandal of none of the other 6 or so on the shortlist being chosen either.
Rejected for political reason, every single one of them.

The only scandal in that case was that Dr John's inclusion on the shortlist was leaked precisely because everyone would turn it into a gay issue again.
It may have been, it may not have been.
We have absolutely no way of knowing.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 8 October 2010 at 7:38am BST

Did the leak specifically say JJ was on the SHORT list? He may have been on A list. I imagine they start with 20+ names and the short list is 6 or less. Since it is all shrouded in secrecy we will never know. Lets at least rejoice that Southwark has a thoughtful liberal catholic bishop with a good pastoral/parochial track record and is a man behind whom, it would seem, most shades of opinion in the diocese can unite.Woolwich and Stepney are now both vacant....both are relatively high profile suffragan sees and we have Bradford,Durham and Lincoln to come.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Friday, 8 October 2010 at 12:49pm BST

And after Bradford, but before the other diocesan sees, we have Salisbury.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 8 October 2010 at 2:23pm BST

Brilliant suggestion - Peter Edwards - I'd never thought of that one - Jeffrey John for Durham. They seemed to weather David Jenkins O.K. and take it all in their stride - indeed my home diocese was rather pleased to have such a controversial "celebrity" bishop as their Father in God. So, let's hear it for + Jeffrey Dunelm.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 8 October 2010 at 5:24pm BST

"Wound on the church" is not my phrasing, but Rowan Williams's.

He really does have a talent for always and everywhere saying the worst possible thing, doesn't he?

Posted by: JPM on Friday, 8 October 2010 at 11:24pm BST

Interesting co-incidence that +Tom Butler was a former Archdeacon of Northolt and so is +Christopher - and much loved and appreciated for his thoughtful, compassionate but firm ministry in his short time in the Willesden Episcopal Area.

Posted by: Simon on Saturday, 9 October 2010 at 12:49am BST

I'm rather hopeful that the current Archdeacon of Northolt will keep that trend of moving into episcopal ministry...

Posted by: Pete Broadbent on Saturday, 9 October 2010 at 9:41am BST

If not Durham, then perhaps Winchester?

Posted by: Charlotte on Sunday, 10 October 2010 at 9:22pm BST

I think Durham for JJ rather than Winchester - for a start Durham is in the Northern rather than the Southern Province and Archbishop Sentamu rather than Archbishop Williams will be chairing that particular vacancy in see committee meeting. Twice JJ has been vetoed for a teacosy in the Province of Canterbury - hopefully he'll stand a better chance in the north where the folk are more friendly and accepting. Durham needs a scholar of JJ's standing.

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 10 October 2010 at 9:48pm BST

As I understand it Durham needs a bishop that will grapple with the desperate financial situation in the diocese, one of the most problematic in the C of E I believe.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Monday, 11 October 2010 at 12:25pm BST

In response to Fr Peter's comments:
I have taken the time to read and re-read the comments of the Bishop of Croydon. I have also bothered to read the Diocesan Profile - it was available on the Diocesan website. As neither the Bishop of Croydon nor I have had access to the papers submitted to the CNC, we cannot say whether the Dean of St Albans 'fitted' the profile other that on the basis of our shared ignorance.
And should we support the choice of a candidate simply on the grounds that they would cause less dissention in the ranks? Such an arguement could not be used of a candidate who was black or coloured. Why should it be an acceptable arguement for one who is homosexual?
But once again this is water under the bridge and we are simply left to speculate as to whether or not discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation has been practiced by the CNC. If that discrimination was based on the grounds of 'damage limitation' and not on sincerely held 'theological principles' then I would venture to say that it was also illegal.

Posted by: Commentator on Monday, 11 October 2010 at 6:04pm BST

Commentator - I think only thee & me are still reading this thread; but we both still are!

Those of us who know JJ know that his gifts, talents, expertise and interests are not the same as those of +Christopher whose CV bears witness to what he has got stuck into, even before he was a bishop. These bits of known-knowns can be measured against the Diocesan Profile.

As for the rest of your observations, I am in total agreement. But we remain - largely - in ignorance of what went on behind closed doors.

Posted by: Peter Edwards on Wednesday, 13 October 2010 at 2:02am BST
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