The UK's first "bishop for church plants" is to be appointed in the latest indication that the Archbishop of Canterbury's new leadership strategy for revival and evangelism is taking root in the Church of England.
Rev Ric Thorpe, Rector of St Paul's, Shadwell, is to become bishop of the revived See of Islington in north London, with a special focus on planting and growing new churches and congregations.
There was only one previous Bishop of Islington. Charles Turner, who was at the same time Rector of St Andrew Undershaft, served in the post from 1898 to 1923.
Wycliffe-trained Thorpe will also contribute to the new School of Church Growth in Liverpool and work with the evangelical St Mellitus theological college in London.
He said: "The Church is growing in the London diocese, and church planting has played a significant part in our story. It is a huge privilege to be called to serve as a new bishop in the diocese with a special focus on planting and growing churches so that we can reach more of the people of this great world city with the good news of Jesus Christ.
"My prayer is that God will continue to guide us to new places, in new ways, and give us boldness to proclaim this good news in our generation."
Christian Today revealed in March this year that Thorpe, who served his title at Holy Trinity Brompton, the heart of church growth in the London diocese, was the favourite for the post.
Along with the appointment of Dr Graham Tomlin, Dean of St Mellitus theological college in London, to be Bishop of Kensington, the choice of Thorpe for Islington represents an overdue harvesting by Church of England leadership of the phenomenal talent emerging from HTB and its network of church plants.
Thorpe revitalised St Paul's when he took a team of 100 to the parish in 2005 and then went on to send planting teams to four other Anglican churches in Tower Hamlets. He has gone on to advise several other dioceses on their church planting strategy.
When Bishop of London Dr Richard Chartres first proposed the see be revived, he cited St Paul's, which before the arrival of Thorpe had a small congregation with low morale, as an example of a successful plant. He said: "It has not lost any of its existing supporters, but, of course, it has developed the kind of church life which people who went nowhere, or went out of the area, find very attractive."
Downing Street also announced today that Rev Rob Wickham, Area Dean of Hackney and Rector of St John at Hackney, is to be the new Bishop of Edmonton. Preb John Hawkins is to be new Archdeacon of Hampstead.
Dr Chartres said: "As Bishop of the revived See of Islington, Ric will expand on his important work to date, supporting those involved in new Christian ventures, as well as applying the lessons learned for pioneers in training. He will harvest and share experience of church growth strategies as well as supporting people beyond the Diocese who are interested in the London experience."
About the other two appointments, he said: "Rob brings to the London team an enormous amount of experience and, in his eight years in Hackney, he has helped to provide a distinctive Christian contribution to the regeneration of his community. He will be well supported by John as Archdeacon of Hampstead, who has already experienced serving in an archidiaconal role in the area. They will form a highly effective partnership when they take up their roles in the autumn."
The Diocese of London's strategy for growth and development, Capital Vision 2020, sets out a target of creating 100 new worshipping communities within the Diocese by 2020. The new bishop's job will mean putting into action this strategic priority as well as working on church growth through the entire church.