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Next Bishop of Durham announced

12 September 2013

Keith Blundy / Aegies Associates

Bishop Butler with his wife, Rosemary

Bishop Butler with his wife, Rosemary

THE next Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, currently Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, said today that he hoped other clergy would be inspired to come to the north-east, and other places - such are rural areas, hard estates, and the inner cities - that have struggled to recruit priests.

"One of the things that has mystified me for years is that those of us who sign up to be followers of Jesus Christ and ministers of the gospel, if we say we will go anywhere and do anything for Jesus, why it is that not so many people seem willing to go to different places?" he said.

A former inner-London evangelist for Scripture Union, Bishop Butler said that his response to his nomination to the diocese had been: "Yes, God is calling me up here; so I am going."

Last month, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a former Bishop of Durham, defended the north-east after a Conservative peer described it as "desolate" (News, 2 August).

The last financial report for the diocese showed that it had 162 clergy posts, below the 173 budgeted for. The diocese has the least financial resources of any diocese in the Church of England.

Bishop Butler said today that he was "delighted" to be coming to Durham, a "beautiful area of the country", with an "extraordinary heritage; each new Bishop of Durham stands on the shoulders of some of the greatest Christians in this country's long and proud history."

Poverty was a priority, he said: "a scourge that we can only tackle together. . . In my role in the House of Lords, I will want to speak up strongly for this region, advocating for its specific needs."

He said today that he had already begun preparing to enter the House of Lords as Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham. "Bishops are there not to represent the Church of England but the communities and regions in which they are set."

It was reported today that the unemployment rate in the north-east is the highest in the country at 10.4 per-cent, compared with 5.8 per-cent in the south-east. The region has the highest percentages of adults with disabilities that limit their daily activites or work (15 per cent), and children living in workless households (22.4 per cent), and the lowest levels of income (£13,560 per head in 2011).

"Obviously, the fact that unemployment is so high in the region is a very deep cause for concern; and one of the questions that has to be asked at a local and national level is what can be done to seek to turn around the employment situation in the north-east," Bishop Butler said. "There are signs that in some parts of the country it has begun to turn around, and we must make sure that the north-east does not get left behind in economic renewal."

He expressed a desire to support the Darlington Foundation for Jobs, of which Archbishop Welby is the patron.

On same-sex marriage, the Bishop said that his position would be viewed as "traditional, orthodox, in terms of my view of marriage between a man and a woman, but I also believe that we need to look at that, and think through how we respond best to those committing themselves to life-long same-sex relationships. I have a deep concern about sexual licence and freedom in all its forms -  stability has to be something we look for and encourage. At present, I would not be in a position to feel we could offer blessings of same-sex unions, but I recognise that it is an ongoing discussion. We have to keep working at that."

With regard to women bishops, he said that he had emerged from the July meeting of the Synod "quite hopeful that this latest process may produce something that a majority of us can coalesce with".  

Bishop Butler will continue to chair the Churches National Safeguarding Committee. At the Synod in July, he apologised to victims of safeguarding failures. The Church of England had "failed, big time" (News, 5 July).

His books include Reaching Children and Reaching Families (Scripture Union). He spoke on Thursday of a "strong commitment" to engaging with children and young people, and a "particular concern around child poverty, social, economic, and spiritual".

Bishop Butler, who is 57, has been Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham since February 2010. He was previously Bishop of Southampton in the diocese of Winchester. He trained for the ministry at Wycliffe College, Oxford, and served a curacy between 1983 and 1987 at All Saints with Holy Trinity, Wandsworth, in Southwark diocese. He was deputy head of mission at Scripture Union before becoming priest-in-charge of St Mary with St Stephen and St Luke, Walthamstow. He was Team Rector there until 2004.

An honorary canon of Byumba in Rwanda, he is a regular visitor to Africa. Last month, he warned that Burundi was getting a "raw deal" from the world (News, 23 August).

He is married to Rosemary. They have four grown-up children, two of whom took to Twitter today to describe how hard it had been to keep the nomination a secret. The Bishop's Twitter account reveals a taste for Strictly Come Dancing.

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

27-28 September 2022
humbler church Bigger God conference
The HeartEdge Conference in Manchester includes the Theology Slam Live Final.

More events

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