Jill Duff, evangelical with oil industry background, appointed bishop of Lancaster

The Rev Dr Jillian (Jill) Duff, the director of the theological Mellitus College, North West, reached out to conservatives who oppose women clergy as she was announced as the new bishop of Lancaster today.

Jill Duff, the new bishop of LancasterTwitter

Like Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, Duff, 45, worked in the oil industry before training for the ministry, at Wycliffe Hall Oxford. 

She was born and brought up in Bolton, Lancashire, and educated at Christ College, Cambridge and Worcester College, Oxford.

From 2005, Duff took up the role of pioneer minister, church planting in Liverpool City Centre until 2011. In 2009 she was appointed chaplain to Liverpool College, going on, in 2011, to work as vocations development advisor in the diocese of Liverpool.

From 2012, she worked to build a partnership between the North West Bishops and St Mellitus College, London, and in 2013 became the founding director of St Mellitus College, North West, based at Liverpool Cathedral, while serving at St Paul's Widnes.

Duff succeeds the Rt Rev Geoffrey Seagrove Pearson, after his resignation of 31 July 2017.

On her Twitter profile, Duff describes herself as a 'Lancashire lass' and 'holiday lover' and says she is 'passionate' about Scripture, mission and prayer'.

Duff reportedly enjoys spending time at her caravan in North Wales and Widnes where her husband, Jeremy, is a vicar.  

The bishop of Lancaster-designate was introduced by bishop Julian Henderson, the bishop of Blackburn, at Marsh Community Centre, Lancaster, this morning, alongside the Anglo-Catholic suffragan bishop of Burnley, the Rt Rev Philip North. 

Introducing herself, Duff said: 'I am thrilled and humbled to be appointed the eighth Bishop of Lancaster. This is a vibrant and exciting part of the Church of England with its Vision 2026: Healthy Churches Transforming Communities. Being born and brought up in Lancashire, the region has been on my heart in prayer for many years.

'Time and again I have seen how, with prayer and perseverance, churches can grow and it will be good to be part of a courageous diocese that is looking to the future with real hope.

She continued: 'I've been attracted by the sheer variety of Blackburn diocese – in the range of its parishes, settings, and church traditions.'

Echoing comments in December by the new Bishop of London Sarah Mullally, Duff acknowledged that some conservatives would oppose her appointment as a woman, and sought to reach out to them.

'At the same time I realise there are certain aspects of my episcopal ministry that some won't feel able in all good conscience to recognise,' she said.

'I understand and respect the position of my brothers and sisters in Christ who do not accept the ministry of ordained women in leadership, whether sacramental or teaching.

'There is so much more that unites than divides us, and I am committed to working together for mutual flourishing. May this bring hope to our church at this time.'

Duff, a mother of two sons, went on: 'As a mother, one of my other great passions is work with young people, and there is so much to build on in this diocese, not least with the diocese's fantastic network of church schools and the fact that young people are the heart of the work for Vision 2026.

'Throughout my ministry I've found working with children and teenagers immensely energising; their responsiveness feeds the ways that the CofE is called to "proclaim the Gospel afresh in each generation" and I look forward to seeing how that Gospel calling will play out in the coming years in this diocese.'

Bishop Henderson said: 'I want to make it clear that I see Jill's appointment as another sign that the Anglican Church in Lancashire is modelling the principles of "mutual flourishing" in the Church of England.

'I will soon have a female episcopal colleague alongside another from the traditionalist catholic constituency who will both serve the whole diocese and will have my wholehearted support in carrying out their important work.'

Echoing that, North added: 'The commitment to mutual flourishing enshrined in the five guiding principles makes possible the kind of fruitful working relationship that I am looking forward to having with Jill in her new role. I am convinced that she will support and encourage Anglicans in Lancashire of all traditions.'

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has added his voice to those welcoming the new Bishop-designate of Lancaster saying: 'I am delighted that Jill will be joining the episcopal team in the diocese of Blackburn. As Bishop of Lancaster she will bring her gifts as a theological educator to refresh theological wisdom in the diocese.

'We are all rejoicing at her nomination and praying for her to flourish in her calling as bishop in the Church of God.

'Our prayers too are with the family as they adjust to her new role as bishop. Her ordination as Bishop in the Church of God, in York Minster in June, will be a celebration for us all. Praise the Lord!'