THE next Bishop of London will be the Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, Downing Street has announced.
Bishop Mullally, who only joined the episcopate in 2015 (News, 12 June 2015), will be installed as the diocese of London’s first woman bishop at St Paul’s Cathedral in the new year.
Speaking at a press conference at the Chapter House of St Paul’s immediately after the announcement, Bishop Mullally said that she was “delighted and slightly terrified” at her nomination, which was a tribute to the Church’s commitment to greater diversity.
“If our churches are to be more relevant to our community, this means that we need churches that are led by priests who are women, who come from black, Asian, and ethnic minority groups,” she said. “To have churches that are confident, we need local ministers and priests who are enabled to be the best that they are. London could be that gift to the rest of the Church of England to demonstrate how unity can work.”
She acknowledged that her nomination — as a women bishop — might be difficult for traditionalists to accept. “One of the wonderful things about London and its church is that it reflects the diversity of the Church, and I am very respectful of those who, for theological reasons, cannot accept my role as a priest or a bishop.
“My belief is that Church diversity throughout London should flourish and grow; everybody should be able to find a spiritual home; and that those who minister should be able to do so to the best of her ability.”
Before ordination, Bishop Mullally served as a cancer nurse in London, then as a senior civil servant in the Department for Health, and eventually became the youngest-ever Chief Nursing Officer in 1999. She was ordained in 2001 and served as a self-supporting minister until 2004 in south London (Back-page interview, 23 January 2009).
“I have lived and worked for more than 30 years in London, my children went to school in the diocese, and there is a sense that I am returning, which brings great joy,” Bishop Mullally said.
She was made Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2005 for services to nursing and midwifery, a year after she took up full-time parochial ministry. After working as Canon Treasurer at Salisbury Cathedral from 2012, she became Bishop of Crediton, in the diocese of Exeter, two years ago.
“People often ask me what it has been like to have two careers. . . I feel that I have had one vocation, and that has been to follow Christ and make him known,” she said. “There are many similarities about nursing and being a priest — not least the wearing of starched collars and hats — but it being about people, compassion, and service.
“It is with that sense of service that I come to serve London, those of faith and of no faith.”
Quoting the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s, equality campaign, she said: “London is multi-faith, multicultural, economically strong, confident, diverse and full of energy. London is open for all.”
Mr Khan posted an image of the front page of the Evening Standard, which carried the story, on Twitter: “Congratulations to @bishopSarahM Sarah Mullally, the new Bishop of London & the first woman to take on this role. #BehindEveryGreatCity”, he wrote.
Despite its diversity, however, the capital is also rife with inequality, she warned. “People feel marginalised, voiceless, and angry. Those were some of the emotions felt last week as people gathered for the Grenfell national memorial service. People of faith and no faith stood with the bereaved, and those who survived. That wonderful image of unity does not mean that some of those issues have been solved.”
Bishop Mullally indicated that she would strive to complete the work of her predecessor, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, in increasing the number of church-plants in the diocese of London, fulfilling the C of E target, under Renewal and Reform, to have 100 new worshipping communities in the city by 2020. “We are almost there,” she said, citing Holy Trinity, Brompton (HTB) and St Helen’s, Bishopsgate as advocates of church-planting and growth.
St Helen’s offered its congratulations to Bishop Mullally in a Twitter post: “The Church of England is committed to ‘mutual flourishing’. We look forward to Bishop Sarah working for this within the diocese of London.”
It came after the Rector, the Revd William Taylor, announced earlier this month that the church would not be taking part in certain deanery activities, because it had an “impaired relationship” with the deanery chapter over its own refusal to “agree to disagree” over same-sex marriage (News, 15 December).
When questioned about her views on human sexuality, Bishop Mullally said: “What we have to remember is that this is about people: all of us come under the love of God and we need to ensure we remember that. London is a very diverse city, and I hope everyone can find a spiritual home and encounter this love.
“The Church of England is clear in its teaching of marriage and I support that. It is a time for us to reflect on our tradition and scripture, and together say how we can offer a response that is about it being inclusive love.”
Bishop Mullally is a member of the “Bishops’ reflection group on sexuality”, which was formed last year to guide the next stage of the Church of England’s debate on same-sex relations (News, 23 September 2016).
Clergy well-being was also on her agenda, as was safeguarding. “In God, I have found a refuge, a safe place, a place of security, and I believe the Church should reflect the love of Christ, which is why, for me, safeguarding is at the heart of the Gospel. I will not only take my responsibility of safeguarding seriously, but I will continue to see that we have a culture which is safe, where there is no place for abuse.”
After the press conference, Bishop Mullally was to meet representatives from the diocese of London at St Paul’s, before visiting schools, parishes, a foodbank, and an interfaith forum in London.
The Acting Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, said that he welcomed Bishop Mullally’s nomination. “I look forward with excitement to working under her leadership as our diocesan bishop.
“She has proven qualities of leadership and commitment to collaborative working. Bishop Sarah’s work in the public square uniquely equips her for the important outward focus that is required in leading the Diocese in this great world-city.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury said in a statement: “Bishop Sarah brings to this remarkable ministry in this great city an extraordinary experience and profound gifts which are guided by her faith in Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of all that she is.
“In her calling as a Bishop she has demonstrated that she is a shepherd of God’s people, a guardian of the Christian faith and someone with a passion for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others through her teaching and her actions. . .
“As a Bishop in the wider Church of England, she has had a particular care for survivors of abuse. Under the overall leadership of the Bishop of Bath and Wells (the lead Bishop on Church of England safeguarding) she will continue to have an emphasis on this aspect of her ministry.
“As one of the first woman consecrated as a bishop in the Church of England, she has not only blazed a trail for others but lived out the principles of mutual flourishing and acceptance which I know will continue to bear fruit in London.”
In a blog post, the Archdeacon of London, the Ven. Luke Millar, a traditionalist, wrote: “The question is, can there be a place for traditionalists (and conservative evangelicals) in the mainstream life of the Church of England, or is it in fact the case that the structures set up and agreed by the church for us all to flourish are actually not workable?
“I think and believe the honoured place in the mainstream which has been our hope to establish is possible to maintain, and that the appointment of Bishop Sarah to London gives a further opportunity to show that it can be done. If it can, the way can be open to more appointments of people of all views and an effective challenge offered to those who would attempt to create ‘no go’ areas on either side of the debate.”
A statement from Forward in Faith said: “The Crown Nominations Commission will have been conscious that, in a diocese in which so many are unable, for theological reasons, to receive the sacramental ministry of women as bishops (including the ministry of ordination), this nomination will result in a deeper impairment of communion. Faithful to the Five Guiding Principles adopted by the Church of England in 2014, we remain committed to maintaining the highest degree of communion that is still possible in these changed circumstances, while being realistic about its limits. . .
“46 of the Diocese of London’s parishes (almost one in eight) are Anglo-Catholic parishes under the Bishop of Fulham’s oversight. The arrangements already in place for them — and for others that may join them in future — provide a secure basis for their flourishing and growth.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged the continuing importance of the commitment made by the House of Bishops in 2014 to senior roles within dioceses being filled both by women and by those who, on grounds of theological conviction, cannot receive their sacramental ministry. Since that commitment was made, there have been numerous appointments of women as bishops and archdeacons, but only one new appointment of a traditional catholic. If this commitment, and those who made it, are to have any credibility, action needs to be taken urgently.”
A survivor of clerical child-abuse, Gilo, said in a statement: “I think survivors will hope this represents a long overdue turning point. As third most senior bishop, Dame Sarah Mullally can now take a far more decisive role in championing a compassionate and just response with real structural reformation at last.
“She was tasked by Archbishop Welby two years ago to carry through the Elliott Review recommendations and bring in independent monitoring. Action is what is required. Survivors need to know that changes are being planned, when they will come in, and how the church can be held accountable to those changes.
“As Ian Elliott said in his powerful interview on Sunday Programme this weekend, survivors need to know this is keeping the hierarchy awake at nights. I hope she invites survivors, men and women, to her enthronement — not as protesters but as presences of the need for authentic justice and healing for all survivors.”
Listen to Bishop Mullally speak at the press conference at St Paul’s Cathedral