Mark Sowerby to become principal of the College of the Resurrection after 10 years as Bishop of Horsham

Bishop Mark Sowerby

The Bishop of Horsham, the Rt Rev Mark Sowerby, has been announced as the new principal of the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield. 

He succeeds Fr Peter Allan CR, who will retire at the end of the academic year at the college, one of 11 Anglican theological colleges in England that offers full-time ordination training to women and men of any tradition. 

Bishop Sowerby was formerly a leading traditionalist, having previously been a member of the Council of Bishops of The Society, a body promoting Catholic teaching within the Church of England and providing episcopal oversight for parishes that cannot accept the ministry of a female priest or bishop. 

In 2015, he took many in the Church by surprise when he announced that his theological convictions on the ordination of women had changed, prompting his resignation from the council. 

At the time, he said he had changed his mind only after "strenuous theological reflection".

He is leaving the Diocese of Chichester, where he has been a suffragan bishop since 2009, to take up the post in Mirfield, West Yorkshire.  

His new appointment takes him back to his roots as he was born in nearby Ripon and trained for ordination at the College of the Resurrection. 

He served his first curacy in Knaresborough and after several years in the Blackburn Diocese, spent eight years at St Wilfrid's, Harrogate.

From there, he served as the Church of England's Vocations Officer and as a Selection Secretary for the Ministry Division before more recently becoming chair of the national Safeguarding Training Working Group.

Bishop Sowerby said it would be "very hard" to leave Sussex after being made "warmly welcome".

"It has been a great privilege to be Bishop of Horsham and I have hugely enjoyed working in West Sussex over the past ten years," he said.

"There have been particular joys such as our links with the church in Africa and more recently working with the Diocesan Board of Education and our many schools.

"Throughout my ten years in Sussex, I have especially enjoyed time spent in parishes. It has been a huge privilege to confirm adults and young people and to encourage them to explore their individual vocations and I shall always be thankful to God for the faithful clergy and people of Sussex in whose mission, for a time, I have had a share."

A farewell service will be held for Bishop Sowerby and his family in the summer.

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, paid tribute to the bishop after a decade in the diocese.

"Bishop Mark's appointment as Principal of the College of the Resurrection at Mirfield will return him to the north, to a place that was formative in his own life," he said.

"From the moment of his arrival in the diocese of Chichester, Bishop Mark has been involved in challenging circumstances that have concerned safeguarding. His attention to detail and process has won widespread recognition and respect, locally and at national level.

"In this, as in the pastoral and teaching office of a bishop, he has been a consistently cheerful and encouraging presence and more recently adding to his commitments a lively interest in our Church schools.

"He and his wife, Ruth, will take with them the affection, prayers and gratitude of people across the diocese of Chichester where he has served as bishop of Horsham for the past 10 years."

Chairman of the College Council and Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, said he was "delighted" by Bishop Sowerby's appointment.

"He brings to us a depth of experience as a senior leader in the Church, a passion for the training and flourishing of our clergy, and the ability to respond to opportunities and challenges with both warmth and determination," he said. 

Fr Oswin Gartside CR, Superior of the Community of the Resurrection, said, "This is very good news indeed; we are very much looking forward to welcoming Bishop Mark and Ruth to the College. Bishop Mark knows what the contemporary church needs from its clergy.

"He also knows the Community at Mirfield and the College very well: he will be able to provide continuity in all the right places at a time of necessary change.

"The College is in good heart and now, building on the firm foundation laid by Fr Peter, we are looking forward to seeing it develop and thrive under Bishop Mark's leadership. The coming year will be a stimulating time to be an ordinand at Mirfield."