Comments: Jo Wells to be next Bishop of Dorking

How wonderful.

Posted by Julia Redfern at Thursday, 24 March 2016 at 9:58am GMT

Still no news as to who is to be the 44th Bishop of Oxford? Mind, in the 16th century they had successive episcopal vacancies in the Oxford diocese for 9, 21 and 11 years.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 24 March 2016 at 12:12pm GMT

Wonderful indeed, in that she is truly an estimable person. But it means that out of a senior staff of two bishops and two archdeacons, one of them - 25% - has had zero experience of parish ministry. If I understand her biography correctly (as above and in Crockford) I don't think she even served a curacy. In an age where ministry 'at the coal face' gets harder and harder, this would not aid me in relating to her and respecting her if she were my new bishop, wonderful person though she is.

Posted by Dominic Barrington at Thursday, 24 March 2016 at 1:13pm GMT

Nice. Mind you it will be a good while before we see any more bloke Bishops appointed ;-)

Posted by spin at Thursday, 24 March 2016 at 1:53pm GMT

Oxford ? All you can be sure of is that it won't be Dean John.... Canterbury wouldn't upset his Primatial mates

Posted by S Cooper at Thursday, 24 March 2016 at 4:11pm GMT

For corporate appointments this would be a decent press release but it is disappointing for a bishop. On paper it sounds good but, as I have said before, it is irrelevant whether she is married when what we - or at least I - want to know is where she stands on issues of sexuality, on poverty, on evangelism, on evolution vs creation.

So it sounds like a decent appointment but I wish we got the information of interest to Christians rather than a corporate-style press release. It is the sort of issue Prof Martyn Percy has recently written about.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 24 March 2016 at 4:30pm GMT

So will people on here now stop complaining that we have no bishops who are theologians (i.e. have held university posts in theology)...?

Posted by Charles Read at Thursday, 24 March 2016 at 4:52pm GMT

This is a fantastic appointment - lucky Dorking, lucky Surrey.

Posted by badman at Thursday, 24 March 2016 at 6:17pm GMT

Surely the reference to "election" in the No 10 press release is a mistake: this is a suffragan bishopric.
(hat tip Gavin Drake).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 24 March 2016 at 10:48pm GMT

I had not realised that the Chaplain to the Archbishop was married to the vicar of St Martin's - traditions that one wouldn't necessarily see as a neat match?

Posted by John Swanson at Thursday, 24 March 2016 at 11:00pm GMT

A refreshingly good appointment by +Watson. If every new bishop nominated had spent most of his or her ministerial career in parish ministry, it would make for a very dull College of Bishops. The diocesan bishop is the Chief Pastor and there is no need to replicate this in a suffragan, especially in a relatively small diocese. The clergy of Guildford will get that. And anyway who says that parish experience is the must have attribute? Clergy need to be challenged to think differently.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Thursday, 24 March 2016 at 11:27pm GMT

Indeed, Charles Read, as one who has raised that issue a couple of times in the past, I readily acknowledge that Dr Wells has impressive theological credentials.

On another matter raised here from time to time in relation to episcopal appointments, can anyone tell us what proportion of the serving bishops were trained at St John's Durham?

Posted by Edward Prebble at Friday, 25 March 2016 at 1:13am GMT

A number of the first cohort of women bishops have clergy husbands, but Jo's is, I think, the most high profile. I wonder how they will manage their life, other than commuting (in which direction?) on South-West trains? Is this something that should concern us?

Posted by peter kettle at Friday, 25 March 2016 at 8:50am GMT

The appointment (which is a Crown appointment) is governed by the Suffragan Bishops Act 1534 Simon! Think you will find that bishops 'name and elect' them, but I am no constitutional lawyer!

Posted by Anthony Archer at Friday, 25 March 2016 at 9:47am GMT

I can't easily answer your wider question, Edward Prebble, but I can observe that, of the ten women bishops now appointed, four of them were trained at St John's Durham. And still not a single one who was trained at Mirfield, St Stephen's House, Westcott or Cuddesdon.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Friday, 25 March 2016 at 10:34am GMT

You may be right, Anthony, but this wording has not been used in other recent announcements about suffragan bishops.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 25 March 2016 at 1:20pm GMT

Malcolm Dixon notes that 10 women bishops are now either appointed or in post.As yet though it seems to me that as a group they have ordained very few priests or deacons of either gender.This, I imagine,will change in 2016.Does anyone know how many ordinations they have collectively done?

Posted by michael at Friday, 25 March 2016 at 1:54pm GMT

Can't get the civil servants these days!

Posted by Anthony Archer at Friday, 25 March 2016 at 2:09pm GMT

As the appointment is based on an act from 1534, I would think they are using the word "elect" in its old sense ie. "Chosen" rather than elected by vote.

Posted by Toby Ramsden at Friday, 25 March 2016 at 5:00pm GMT

In answer to the question about proportions, here are the current stats on bishops' training institutions (diocesan bishops number first, then suffragan):
Wycliffe Hall, Oxford 8+11
Westcott House, Cambridge 6+6
Ridley Hall, Cambridge 5+9
Cranmer Hall, Durham 4+12
Ripon College Cuddesdon 4+4
St John's Nottingham 3+5
St Stephen's House Oxford 3+3
Trinity College, Bristol 2+8
Queens College Birmingham 2+1
Mirfield 1+2
Oak Hill College 1+1
Kings College London 1 diocesan
St Augustines College 1 diocesan
Sarum & Wells College 4 suffragans
Lincoln Theological College 3 suffragans
Regional and diocesan courses 1+3

For added interest, there are 10 diocesans and 16 suffragans with doctorates and 19 diocesans and 24 suffragans who were Oxbridge undergraduates.

Posted by NJ at Friday, 25 March 2016 at 8:12pm GMT

I note some complaining here that the new bishop hasn't extensive parish experience but is highly regarded as a theologian. Given what passes for theology in the two current archbishops, I'd say this will make for a refreshing change.

Posted by Daniel Berry at Friday, 25 March 2016 at 8:14pm GMT

That is a very interesting list, NJ, and I am impressed that you were able to produce it so quickly.
Do you think you could provide a similar, but shorter list, of those appointed say over the last five years, or perhaps since the appointment of the current Archbishop of Canterbury? I note the very high number of suffragans who hail from Cranmer Hall, Durham, and wonder how many of them are quite recent appointments.

Posted by Edward Prebble at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 1:46am BST

Interesting though the list of Bishops/ theological colleges is, it doesn't tell us where, ecclesiastically, they are now. One Wycliffe product is now a flying bishop and one Trinity man is the former Chair of Affirming Catholicism. Evangelicals seem to move up the candle....any evidence of moves the other way?

Posted by Perry Butler at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 10:01am BST

OK Edward Prebble, you did ask!
Since Justin's appointment, as far as I can work out the figures are as follows (diocesan then suffragan as before):

Wycliffe 4+8
Cranmer 2+5
Ridley 2+3
Cuddesdon 2+1
Queens Brum 2 diocesans
Trinity 1+3
Westcott 1+2
Oak Hill 1+1
St Albans MTS 1 diocesan
St Johns Nott, St Stephens, Edinburgh and SEITE 1 suffragan each
I would echo Perry Butler's comment that training institution does not necessarily reflect the individual's churchmanship, even when they were training, let alone 20 years on. It is also worth remembering that different colleges are very different sizes, certainly today, though I don't know what the numbers would have been when this generation of bishops were training. For example, compared to number of ordinands, Oak Hill is significantly under-represented, while St Stephens is possibly over-represented.

Posted by NJ at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 11:08am BST

A great appointment for Guildford, and interesting stats about colleges.

The late Michael Scott-Joynt I believe moved in a more conservative direction over his career. I was quite surprised recently to learn he'd been at Cuddesdon.

Richard Chartres is another Cuddesdon alumnus, but, although high church I don't believe he's ever been much of a liberal. When he was there, under Runcie, he was happily out of step with the prevailing ethos.

Posted by Peter K+ at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 6:19pm BST

Indeed, Richard Chartres was so "out of step with the prevailing ethos" at Cuddesdon that he left and eventually concluded his training for the ordained ministry at Lincoln Theological College, eventually becoming the greatest Archbishop of Canterbury we never had.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 7:01pm BST

Perry, and NJ, I certainly take your point about drawing inferences about a particular bishop's theological position based on the hue of the college where they did their training. My father attended Ripon Hall, Oxford at the height of its modernist/liberal fame, then developed into a staunch AngloCatholic and later into one of the leading lights of the Charismatic movement in New Zealand.
It is surely legitimate, however to draw some inferences from trends. It is clear (as Malcolm Dixon points out) that Cuddesdon and Westcott, formerly very strongly represented on the episcopal bench, are now relatively minor players, compared with Wycliffe, Ridley, Cranmer and Trinity, especially if you take those "evangelical" colleges together. But a cursory review of the two lists seems to show a pretty similar distribution, which suggests to me that it is unfair to blame (or credit, depending on your perspective) Archbishop Welby for the change.
It is much more likely that, already 30 years ago, the big evangelical parishes had the big youth groups, which led to a high number of vocations, which led to higher attendance at "evangelical" colleges, which has led to a higher number of senior clergy drawn from that stable.

I have no idea whether Dr Jo Wells fits well into this generalisation, but I think the generalisation is valid.

Posted by Edward Prebble at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 8:48pm BST

The preponderance of women bishops with clergy spouses is no reflection on any of them individually but is a somewhat disconcerting pattern.

Posted by Turbulent Priest at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 9:41pm BST

Turbulent Priest, I wonder whether some of that clergy husband trend comes down to the 'boring practicality' of child care and raising a family.

Most clergy roles allow some flexibility with managing their diaries, but the flip side is that one often has to work unsociable hours. To manage the child care it's very helpful if one's other half has some flexibility in their role as well - which makes another priest ideal in that respect.

Posted by Peter K+ at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 8:51am BST

I think that the last bishop to have trained at Ripon Hall before its amalgamation with Cuddesdon was the retired Bishop of Edmonton, Peter Wheatley.

Posted by Robin Ward at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 8:53am BST

There are lots of men bishops married to female clergy and this phenomenon is common in most other occupations. It's not disconcerting, it's life in a world where marriages are not based on wives obeying their husbands but are genuine partnerships. We should instead be giving thanks to God that we live in a society and church where couples can live in fruitful partnerships that foster mutually beneficial vocations.

Posted by Peter S at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 9:36am BST

I don't disagree Edward, but I think " movement" after Ordination is interesting and I wonder if it is much studied by Min Div Our residential colleges are " party" colleges and I am sad ( not least as a Lincoln man) that Lincoln, Salisbury and Chichester went in the cull.I do wonder if the right colleges were closed.As a former DDO for 12 years I follow the progress of those who went through the system under me...over 120...with considerable interest, and not a few surprises.

Posted by Perry Butler at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 6:53pm BST

The two Peters...of course many priests are married to other priests. But not that many! Current figures suggest that if your husband is a priest you are more likely to become a bishop.

Having a spouse in a different job gives a different perspective.

As I've already said, this is no criticism of any current bishop or priest. But it does suggest something odd about the selection process.

Posted by Turbulent Priest at Wednesday, 30 March 2016 at 8:09pm BST

Edward Prebble "it is unfair to blame (or credit, depending on your perspective) Archbishop Welby for the change."
Indeed the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, seems to have gone to great lengths to ensure that the House of Bishops was not filled with his own "yes men" (They were all men then) but with a broader cross section representing the breadth of tradition within the Church - much to his credit, but also to his cost. One might hope that similar generosity of spirit may be seen again soon.

Posted by Paul Richardson at Thursday, 31 March 2016 at 11:17am BST

Paul, Archbishop Ramsey always ensured a fair and just balance between Catholic and Evangelical bishops, With the possible exception of William Temple (whose reign at Canterbury was cut prematurely short) Ramsey was undoubtedly the greatest ABC of the 20th century. Robert Runcie worked hard to ensure an episcopate in his own Liberal-Catholic image and likeness and now Justin Welby, similarly, seems to be filling English cathedras with like minded Evangelicals with managerial skills. I cannot remember a time past when 80% of the top five Sees were filled by Evangelical Clerics, London being the 20% exception. Who is there left to follow in Richard Chartres footsteps? I have heard the Bishop of Chichester's name being mention as a possible successor but his handling of the allegations concerning his predecessor George Bell may well prevent that happening. Will London also fall to the Evangelicals thus making it an100%?

Posted by Father David at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 5:17am BST

I think ++Justin is being suspected unfairly of bias.. NJ, how do Justin, Rowan, George and Robert compare (wrt any propensity to prefer as Bishops people from their own Theological College)?

Posted by RevDave at Friday, 8 April 2016 at 10:37pm BST

I could've sworn I'd seen Jo generally called Bailey-Wells, but in this matter she seems to be consistently Wells. If true, this is a little disappointing.

Posted by DBD at Tuesday, 12 April 2016 at 10:28am BST
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