Christian woman raised in Iran is to become a Bishop in the Church of England

Canon Guli Francis-Dehqani is to be the first Bishop of Loughborough

The Church of England has appointed its first Persian woman bishop.

Canon Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani is to become Bishop of Loughborough, a suffragan in the Leicester diocese, Downing Street announced today.

Born in Isfahan, Iran, Guli's family was among those forced to leave the country in the wake of the Iranian Revolution in 1980, when she was just 14. She attended Nottingham and Bristol Universities and was ordained in 1998, serving in Southwark diocese. Among other positions, Guli was Chaplain to the Royal Academy of Music in London for 2 years.

'I had quite an unusual upbringing, I think it's fair to say,' she says in a video recorded by the church. 'I grew up very much between and betwixt a number of different worlds I think. Obviously Iran is primarily a Muslim country and that was our wider context.' At school she was the only Christian in an entirely Muslim environment, but at home she was immersed in the church.

She spoke Persian at school and English at home.

Canon Guli currently leads curate training in the Diocese of Peterborough. She is also adviser for Women's Ministry for the diocese, a Canon at Peterborough Cathedral, and sits on the Church of England's governing body, the General Synod. 

Her new post will also have a focus on supporting black, Asian and minority ethnic clergy, lay workers and congregations in the county. She says in the video that diversity comes in all shapes and sizes, but recognises there might be disappointment that she does not 'look' more black or ethnic. 

'I'm very excited about the potential for this role which draws together several important themes in the current life of the Church,' she said. 'While being a bishop for the whole diocese, it will be a particular joy and a privilege to learn from and draw out the rich resources of Christians from minority ethnic communities.'

Bishop of Leicester Martyn Snow said: 'Guli's rich understanding of the world Church, together with her experience of training and pastoral work in the UK, will be a huge asset to our diocese. I am looking forward to working with her as a close colleague and I know from my own experience that she and her family will receive a very warm welcome from the diverse communities of the city and county.'

A mother of three school aged children, Guli is married to Canon Lee Francis-Dehqani, Team Rector of Oakham in Rutland. Before becoming a priest Guli worked as a religious programmes producer for the BBC.

Guli will be consecrated  by the Archbishop of Canterbury,Justin Welby, in Canterbury Cathedral on Thursday 30 November and welcomed to Leicester Diocese at a service in Leicester Cathedral at a later date.