New bishops of Edmonton, Islington and new Archdeacon of Hampstead
Downing Street announced this morning that the Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Rob Wickham to serve as Area Bishop of Edmonton and the Reverend Ric Thorpe to serve as the Bishop of the revived See of Islington. I am also delighted to announce that Prebendary John Hawkins has accepted my invitation to succeed Luke Miller as Archdeacon of Hampstead.
I was grateful for the help of the Edmonton Advisory Group and more than a hundred correspondents in establishing that the most important challenge facing the next Bishop of Edmonton was making an energetic Christian response to rapid social and demographic change within the four boroughs and in particular in the areas identified for development.
The consultations revealed a unanimous appreciation for Bishop Peter’s “gracious leadership and consistent pastoral care”. It is a tribute to Bishop Peter, assisted by Archdeacon Luke Miller, that unity has been on the whole preserved and the Area transformed during their partnership.
In his eight years at St John’s, Rob Wickham has been in the forefront of re-energising the church and engaging with the local community to bring a distinctive Christian contribution to regeneration in Hackney.
He is a missional Catholic with a record of fruitful cooperation with other strands of church life in the Diocese. As a former member of the Camden Town team he is sympathetic with those who maintain traditional catholic teaching and will work within the London Plan while rejoicing in the new opportunities which the ordination of women to priesthood and episcopate has opened up.
He will be moving during the summer with Helen, Tom, Susannah and Harry. The Archbishop of Canterbury has confirmed that he will consecrate the new Bishop on September 23rd in Canterbury, alongside the Bishops of Kensington and Maidstone.
Prebendary John Hawkins has already had experience of serving in an Archidiaconal role in the Area together with many years of parish work at St John’s, West Hendon and St Matthias, Colindale. He has a special concern for the church’s contribution to education. The new team will be operating from the autumn when the Bishop of Willesden, after holding the fort over the past months, will be able to return to his many other responsibilities with huge gratitude for what he has done in a time of transition and understandable anxiety.
The new diocesan team is finally completed with the appointment of Ric Thorpe as the second Bishop of Islington.
In Capital Vision 2020, we committed ourselves to promote the creation of a hundred new worshipping communities within the Diocese by 2020. In the past twenty years over sixty have been established and in direct response to Capital Vision we are already in double figures. It is clear that those ministering in such pioneering posts together with the existing cohort of church planters need knowledgeable support and mentoring in the early years. At the same time if the Diocese is to develop as a learning community then there must be ways of harvesting the experience, both positive and negative of those who have been called to re-imagine the church for the 21st century. The need has been made all the more urgent because of the recent grant by the Church Commissioners of a substantial sum of development funding to assist our 2020 strategy.
The Reverend Ric Thorpe, as the Diocesan Adviser on Church Planting, has already done a great deal of work in this field both supporting those involved in new ventures and applying the lessons learnt for pioneers in training as well for the many people beyond the Diocese who are interested in the London experience.
The population of London is increasing once again although not so explosively as it did in the 19th century. The population of Victorian London increased from just over a million in 1800 to seven million by 1900. The old structures of church life were not adequate to the missionary challenge of such rapid and explosive growth. At the same time there was a recovery of a more energetic style of episcopal leadership and a new vision of the diocese as an instrument of mission and this argued the case for an increase in the number of bishops.
At first there was a revival of some of the Sees left vacant since the end of the Elizabethan experiment with suffragan bishops. Bedford was created under the Suffragan Bishops’ Act of 1534 but fell into abeyance between 1560 and 1879 when Walsham How was appointed to minister in East London. West London was the responsibility of the Bishop of Marlborough from 1888 – 1918. During this period some of the surviving Area Bishoprics with more appropriate titles were established, beginning with Stepney in 1895.
From 1898 – 1923, a former Rector of St George in the East, Charles Henry Turner occupied the See of Islington. When he died however the See went into abeyance. Now in the vastly different circumstances of the 21st century the decision has been taken to revive Islington as a response to contemporary missionary challenges.
A number of deanery pilots are planned as a response to the General Synod’s work on “Intentional Evangelism” and we shall be experimenting with “porous” boundaries within the selected deaneries. At the same time the further use of school buildings to house new congregations will be explored.
It is abundantly clear that crucial to the success of these initiatives is a supply of highly motivated, specially equipped and properly supported pioneer ministers. The entrepreneurial talent necessary and the ability to work without the support of long established structures require more and not less encouragement and oversight. Mentoring and building up a cadre of “alongside coaches” who will work with Area Bishops and the Diocesan Bishop to support pioneers has become an urgent necessity. The Bishop of Willesden has had a special responsibility for the oversight of pioneer ministries of various kinds and with the growth of his national and pan-Diocesan work new arrangements are urgently needed. The revived Bishopric of Islington will be free from the increasing administrative demands on Area Bishops in London but working collaboratively with episcopal colleagues to address the agendas opened up by the developments described above.
The Bishop of Islington will be available to harvest and share experience of church growth strategies. He will be available to the whole Church of England as a resource as the Church pursues its intentional evangelism programme but at the same time the new Bishop will have the credibility of being a practitioner actively involved in church planting and supervising the new School of Church Growth in association with the staff of St Mellitus both in London, Chelmsford and at its Merseyside campus.
The role is inherently episcopal but like bishops in early Anglo-Saxon England it has an emphasis on the responsibility which all bishops share on missionary work and church extension. The work already being done in London and other dioceses has always issued from invitations and there is no intention to intrude uninvited into anyone else’s jurisdiction.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has warmly welcomed the appointment and has confirmed that he will consecrate the new Bishop of Islington in St Paul’s Cathedral on September 29th.
I hope that you will hold all the new members of the London team in your prayers over the summer.