Thinking Anglicans

Suffragan Bishop of Loughborough: Reverend Gulnar Francis-Dehqani

Press release form Number 10

Suffragan Bishop of Loughborough: Reverend Gulnar Francis-Dehqani

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published: 11 July 2017

The Queen has approved the appointment of the Reverend Canon Gulnar Eleanor Francis-Dehqani to the Suffragan See of Loughborough.

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Canon Gulnar Eleanor Francis-Dehqani, MA, PhD, Curate Training Officer and Advisor for Women’s Ministry in the Diocese of Peterborough and Canon at Peterborough Cathedral, to the newly created Suffragan See of Loughborough, in the Diocese of Leicester.

Background notes

Reverend Canon Dr Gulnar (Guli) Francis-Dehqani is aged 51. Originally from Iran, she has been in this country since the age of 14. She studied at Nottingham University for her BA in music, and then at Bristol University for her MA and PhD in theology. After working as a Studio Manager and Producer at BBC Radio, she trained for ordination at the South East Institute for Theological Education from 1995 to 1998.

Guli was Curate at Mortlake with East Sheen in Southwark Diocese from 1998 to 2002 before joining the University of London Chaplaincy team as Chaplain to the Royal Academy of Music and St Marylebone C of E Secondary School from 2002 to 2004. She resigned from stipendiary ministry in 2004 to raise her children, and held Permission to Officiate in the Diocese of Peterborough whilst also continuing to write, speak and lead retreats. After completing a one year project at the University of Northampton Interfaith Chaplaincy, in 2011 Guli took up her current role as Curate Training Officer for the Diocese of Peterborough and was additionally appointed Adviser for Women’s Ministry in 2012. She has been on General Synod since 2012 and an honorary Canon at Peterborough Cathedral since 2016.

Guli is married to Canon Lee Francis-Dehqani, currently Team Rector of Oakham and Rural Dean of Rutland. They have 3 children aged 17 and twins of 12.

Her interests include Persian culture and cooking, all kinds of music, reading, especially contemporary fiction, walking the dog, entertaining and spending time with family and friends.

From the Leicester diocesan website: Persian woman appointed as first Bishop of Loughborough

Dr Francis-Dehqani will be consecrated on Thursday 30 November.


  • Garry Lovatt says:

    Re: “Persian Woman… . ” Hello? The woman has lived in Britain since she was 14. By now she is British. What a wonderful example of The C of E’s insularity and narrow mindedness. Even Newfies would cringe to hear something like that from an official source. Little England is alive and well and the sun still never sets on the empire.

  • Father David says:

    Quite an episcopal clerical dynasty – Guli being the third generation in her family to become a bishop. Having recently been to Iran on Sabbatical leave I was quite interested in this particular appointment. My wife’s aunt Gwen Gaster knew Guli’s maternal grandfather – Bishop Thompson – quite well when she was a CMS missionary at the Christian Home for children who were blind, which was attached to the Christian Hospital in Isfahan. Of course, that was in the time of the last Shah of Persia, before the Iranian Revolution of 1979. While staying in Isfahan I payed half a million rial in order to go for a dip in the hotel’s swimming pool. Segregated bathing, naturally. Gentlemen could swim from 4 o’clock until 10.00 p.m. In the pool I was questioned by other Iranian gentlemen swimmers. First question – “How many wives do you have?” Answer One. Follow up question – “How many girlfriends?”
    Congratulations to the premier Bishop of Loughborough.

    • Francis Hallam says:

      A long shot but I am trying to get information about Gwen Gaster and her husband David, both of whom were commited Christians, who spent some years in Wales, working at Picton Castle, near Haverfordwest for the Phillips family and then for Lady Milford Haven. They were both extremely kind to me when I was a boy. Could this be the same Gwen Gaster?

  • Susan Cooper says:

    That is good news on a number of counts!

  • Lovely, warm, open interview. Completely unformulaic. May she and the people of the diocese enjoy each other.

  • SimonW says:

    The first bishop’s daughter to be appointed as a bishop in the C of E, so far?

  • Erika Baker says:

    Congratulations to Bishop Guli.

    Can I ask…. considering that Persia became Iran in 1935, what is the significance of calling her a Persian woman?

  • Peter S says:

    So with 11 female bishops out of a total 112 (?) that means that 10% of the bishops of the Church of England are women? Not too bad for 3 years’ work.

    Not only is she a bishop’s daughter but also married to a priest, which means, extraordinarily, 7 of England’s 11 female bishops are married to clergy.

  • Caelius Spinator says:

    Among my friends who were born or have ancestors from Iran, Persian is the preferred English term for their ethnicity.

  • Jo says:

    @Erika: my understanding is that Iranian refers to nationality while Persian refers to ethnicity. A little like the difference between being Afghan and being Pashtun.

  • David Lamming says:

    Erika – Guli herself referred to her Persian roots continuing to shape her in her speech at General Synod last Saturday morning, 8 July 2017. You can listen to the speech on this YouTube video:
    Guli’s speech starts at 1.39.40.
    I, too, warmly welcome this appointment. The only ‘downside’ is that, when consecrated as suffragan bishop in November, Guli will lose her seat in General Synod (where, currently, she is a member of the House of Clergy) and we shall be deprived of her valuable insights on the persecuted church, at least until there is a vacancy among the southern suffragans when she might elected to fill that vacancy.

  • Congratulations to Guli, who I don’t know, although I have got to know Lee a little on my visits to Oakham (where my mum lives).

  • Stats Matter says:

    Peter S says ‘So with 11 female bishops out of a total 112 (?) that means that 10% of the bishops of the Church of England are women? Not too bad for 3 years’ work.’
    If you think that sounds good you might like to consider that during those three years more men than women were appointed to the episcopate, even though it should have been a time when women were catching up. Why is this?

  • Malcolm Dixon says:

    And still only 2 female diocesans out of 42. It is beginning to look as if the poisonous notion which emerged during the debate after the Sheffield debacle, to the effect that there must be a balance between the number of female diocesans and the number of traditionalist diocesans, may actually be being applied. If so, it is shameful. The only balance that needs to be monitored is between male and female diocesans, with if anything a bias towards females (as in selection for the House of Lords) in order to achieve a more balanced HoB sooner.

    Nevertheless, this appointment is a good one, and wholly to be praised.

  • Anthony Archer says:

    The record of appointments of women to the episcopate since Libby Lane as Bishop of Stockport in December 2014 is better than Stats Matter suggests. The former Presiding Bishop of TEC, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is on record as lamenting the time it is taking for their episcopate to have gender balance, a consequence of the process and conservative electors. There have been 18 appointments of suffragan bishops in the Church of England since it was lawful to nominate a woman. Of these, nine are women, 50%. The appointment of the Bishop of Islington is included, but is hybrid. Of the remaining 17, two were in dioceses where there is a woman diocesan (Tewkesbury (Gloucester) and Berwick (Newcastle)) and it was therefore reasonable to expect a male appointment. Over the same period, there have been seven vacant diocesan sees, to which two (29%) women have been appointed. I would like to see more energy being devoted to that, but of the dioceses in question, Leicester now has a women suffragan, as this thread notes. An excellent and imaginative appointment. The issue is as much as anything else a question of gender balance in the senior team, regardless of whether a man or woman is the diocesan. There are currently three vacant or soon to be vacant diocesan sees, London, Truro and Bristol. It might be expected that one of these would be filled by a woman.

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