Church of England appoints first female diocesan bishop

Rachel Treweek will be the first woman bishop to sit in the House of Lords.

Rachel Treweek, the Archdeacon of Hackney, was today announced as the first diocesan woman bishop in the Church of England. She will be the first woman to sit in the House of Bishops with voting rights and under new fast-track legislation recently passed in Parliament, will also be the first woman to sit on the Bench of Bishops in the House of Lords.

Archdeacon Treweek, one of the favourites to become the first senior woman bishop, is the third woman bishop to be appointed. Two suffragans, in Stockport and Hull, have already been appointed. As a diocesan, this is the first of the three to be a Crown appointment and the announcement was made by the Prime Minister's office this morning.

Archdeacon Treweek, 52, who is a trained as a speech and language therapist specialising in helping children, is like the other two women bishops, Bishop Libby Lane and Canon Alison White, married to another priest. The new Bishop of Hull's priest husband is a bishop as well.

The announcement came as in Leicester, the former Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III, believed by many scholars to be guilty of the murder of two boy princes, was being reinterred in Leicester in a ceremony lead by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

Archdeacon Treweek, speaking at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester following the announcement, said: "I'm aware that the media focus today is on a previous person with a Gloucester title - finally being laid to rest many miles from here in Leicester. But it is my immense joy to be standing before you, very much alive, as the person called to be the next Bishop of Gloucester.

"I feel deeply privileged to find myself here – it is exciting, humbling, and somewhat overwhelming. My journey to this day has been one of human encounter and relationship, shaped first and foremost by a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. If my story so far has anything to commend it, it would simply be this: there is nothing better anyone can do with their lives than become a follower of Jesus Christ.

"Over a number of years in my work as a speech and language therapist and then in my ordained ministry, it has been a privilege to connect with the lives of adults and children from diverse backgrounds and experiences, in places of both deprivation and affluence, and amidst life's pain and celebration. Living these relationships and experiences has taught me and formed me."

She added: "As a speech and language therapist I worked primarily with children, helping them to communicate with the world around them. The challenge as bishop will hold many similarities as I work alongside the people of this diocese as we continue to discover our voice: A confident voice that proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ; a prophetic voice that speaks up for those who are marginalised; and a compassionate voice that speaks into lives and places which are hurting."

She said it felt particularly significant that the announcement was being made during Lent, which she said was, for followers of Jesus, a time of preparation and discovery on the journey towards the pain of Jesus' death and beyond to the light of Easter day with the "hope and new life offered to all".

Archdeacon Treweek said: "In many ways those words preparation and discovery describe where I stand in the present looking to the future. I am greatly looking forward to discovering more about the people and places of Gloucestershire and the surrounding areas, and preparing to work alongside others in connecting ever more strongly with the hopes and needs of people in rural and urban contexts, as we seek to serve the common good and share Jesus' love and life with many."

She also said, regarding today's date: "Not only is it the day when Richard III of Gloucester is being laid to rest, but it is also the date in the Church of England's calendar when we remember Harriet Monsell, a 19th century Anglican nun and the first Superior of the Community of St John the Baptist."

Under her care the community grew and undertook a range of social work and included foundations in India and America. The sisters were inspired by the love, compassion and redeeming work of Jesus Christ, and expressed that love as they cared for orphans, ran schools and hospitals, and opened mission houses in parishes, said Archdeacon Treweek.

"Later today I will be visiting some of the places in this diocese which reflect the same commitment of Harriet Monsell and her sisters. And it is my profound hope that the love of God expressed by Harriet Monsell and others will continue to be found in this diocese, in its people and its work in the months and years to come."

Archdeacon Treweek trained at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford and served her title at St George and All Saints, Tufnell Park before becoming Vicar of St James the Less, Bethnal Green in 1999. She was appointed as Archdeacon of Northolt in 2006, serving in that role for five years, before becoming Archdeacon of Hackney in July 2011.

Brought up in Hertfordshire and educated at Broxbourne School, she trained as a speech and language therapist at Reading University. She worked as a pediatric speech therapist in the NHS and served on the child development team at the Royal Free Hospital before becoming clinical manager for paediatric speech and language therapists in health centres across three north London health authorities. She also trained in couples and family therapy which has led her to a growing interest in conflict transformation. She loves walking and chocolate.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said: "The nomination... fills me with joy and thanksgiving to God for her partnership in the Gospel."

Having worked with her in the past, Sentamu said: "Rachel is a priest who cares deeply about the good news of God in Jesus Christ and has a deep love for people and, in the words of St Paul, she is always, 'outdoing others in showing honour'. She builds strong relationships with people and is an experienced reconciler.

"My prayer for her is that God will keep her in the joy, simplicity, and compassion of Christ's Holy Gospel."

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, said: "As Richard of Gloucester is reinterred, Rachel of Gloucester is revealed. Rachel has served her entire ministry in the Diocese of London, excelling wherever she has been. She has twice acted as Archdeacon, in Northolt and then Hackney – two highly demanding and contrasting areas where she has shone in equal measure.

"As well as operating with great effectiveness from North West to East London, Rachel has been central to the story of growth in this Diocese. Prominent in the launch of our blueprint for the future, Capital Vision 2020, she has played a pivotal role in our strategic plans, particularly in driving towards our target of commissioning 100,000 young ambassadors to Jesus Christ by 2020.

"While we are very sorry to see her go, Gloucester has appointed someone with real quality and distinction. We look forward to continuing to support her in the years to come."

The Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, the Most Rev Desmond Tutu, said: "What fantastic news. Wow, how wonderful so soon after Bishop Libby. I'm thrilled for you dear Rachel and I'm thrilled for the Diocese of Gloucester, for the Church of England, for the Church of God and for all of us. Yippee."

Bishop Libby Lane of Stockport said: "I congratulate Rachel on her nomination as Bishop of Gloucester. She is an exceptional priest whose leadership is well proven. She is both genuinely caring and deeply insightful. Her experience as an Archdeacon, in General Synod, and the national church will equip her well for her future ministry. It has been an honour to serve alongside Rachel as regional representatives in the House of Bishops, and I rejoice that she takes her place there as of right. Rachel and Guy are in my prayers as they prepare for this exciting change in their lives."

The Right Rev Martyn Snow, Bishop of Tewkesbury, also welcomed the announcement: "I am looking forward to working alongside Rachel as she takes up her ministry here in the Diocese of Gloucester. We have a strong family of churches, all wanting to support one another as we journey together in faith. I am sure Rachel and her husband Guy will receive a very warm welcome as they settle into the diocese."

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