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Blackburn’s new Bishop will ordain women

08 March 2013


Northbound: the Ven. Julian Hen­der­son, speaking in the General Synod in York in 2011

Northbound: the Ven. Julian Hen­der­son, speaking in the General Synod in York in 2011

THE next Bishop of Blackburn is to be the Ven. Julian Henderson, at present the Archdeacon of Dorking and chairman of the Business Committee of the General Synod, it was announced last Friday.

His appointment was announced at the Blackburn Foodbank, which, Archdeacon Henderson said, was no coincidence. "I am very aware of the very significant challenges facing many in Lancashire at a time of austerity and cutbacks, and a shortage of jobs," he said. "I would hope to be a champion and spokesman for those whose voice is often not heard."

Unlike his two predecessors - the Rt Revd Nicholas Reade, who retired on 31 October, and the Rt Revd Alan Chesters - Archdeacon Henderson is willing to ordain women as priests. He is in favour of women's admission to the episcopate, but voted against the draft women-bishops Measure in November ( News, 23 November).

A statement from Archdeacon Henderson said: "Let me be clear. I am in favour of women serving as bishops, and will want to introduce a change in the current diocesan pattern by ordaining women as deacons and priests.

"But I hope my vote at General Synod last November will be a reassurance to those opposed to this development, that I want to be a figure of unity on this matter, and will ensure there is an honoured place for both positions within the mainstream of the Church of England. Might Blackburn be a model for the rest of the Church of England!"

Speaking on Wednesday, Archdeacon Henderson said that the legislation that came before the Synod in November did not contain sufficiently "strong legal language to enable those who are opposed [to women bishops] to find a safe place in the Church of England". He did not want Anglo-Catholics and conservative Evangelicals to be "marginalised".

"We can and should find a better way than what was on the table last November. I'm really keen, as chair of the Business Committee, to find a way that we put something on the table in July which, from the start, will command significant support . . . We can't afford a second defeat."

Archdeacon Henderson said that there were "issues to be decided" about his position as chairman of the Business Committee of the Synod. "I've always argued that the chair of the Business Committee should not be a bishop. There needs to be some level of independence from the House of Bishops in that role."

In 2011, the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, withdrew from his nomination for the position of chairman of the Business Committee after rum- blings among some members about its being chaired by a bishop ( Synod, 15 July 2011). Archdeacon Henderson said that he did not want such objections to be "dragged up again".

Archdeacon Henderson's appointment has been welcomed by the Vicar of St Mary's, Lancaster, the Revd Chris Newlands, who co-ordinated a letter from Blackburn clergy urging the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, to ensure that the next diocesan bishop would ordain women as priests ( News, 25 January). Mr Newlands said that the appointment would be welcomed, "especially by the women priests of the diocese, who will have, for the first time since women were ordained in the Church of England, a diocesan bishop who fully affirms their ministry".

A statement from Forward in Faith also welcomed the appointment: "Catholic Anglicans have reason to be grateful to Archdeacon Henderson, as one of those members of the Synod who voted against the women-bishops Measure, despite their own support for the prin- ciple.

"We welcome his commitment to ensuring that there is an honoured place for both positions on the ordination of women within the mainstream of the Church of England. Like him, we hope that Blackburn might continue to be a model for the rest of the Church of England in this regard, as it has been under his predecessor. Whether that can be so will depend to a significant extent on whether both views continue to be represented among the diocese's bishops."

Archdeacon Henderson, who is 58, has been Archdeacon of Dorking since 2005. From 1992 to 2005, he was Vicar of Claygate, in Guildford diocese. He is married to Heather, and has two grown-up children.

The date of his consecration has not yet been confirmed.

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