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Dudley returns to his roots

07 June 2013

PA

"Humbled": the Rt Revd David Walker, at Manchester Cathedral, on Wednesday

"Humbled": the Rt Revd David Walker, at Manchester Cathedral, on Wednesday

THE next Bishop of Manchester is to be the Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd David Walker, it was announced on Wednesday. He will succeed the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, who retired earlier this year.

Bishop Walker, who is 56, was born and bred in Manchester. He has been Bishop of Dudley, in Worcester diocese, since 2000. The date of his enthronement has not yet been decided.

Bishop Walker has been a critic of the Government's welfare policies. Earlier this year he criticised politicians for "scapegoating" migrants ( News, 28 March), and has criticised the Government's benefits reforms ( News, 8 March). He has served on the board of the National Housing Federation, and is a former chairman of South Yorkshire Housing Association.

Speaking on Wednesday, Bishop Walker said that he knew from his own life story what it was like to struggle financially. He was raised in a home that was later demolished in a slum-clearance programme. His father died when he was 14, leaving his mother to raise him and his 11-year-old brother on her own.

"I remember as a 14-year-old sitting down with my mother, who was deeply bereaved, to work out whether we could afford for me to stay on at school for sixth form," Bishop Walker said. "She ran a shop that didn't turn over a lot of money. With what little that brought in, and what she could get in benefits, there was just enough to keep me in school for sixth form. I remember doing the calculations in pennies and pounds."

He continued: "At heart I'm a pastor, and I care about the things that make a difference in people's lives. When I speak to people and hear the same sort of pattern, I start to think, what's behind this? Can we, as well as alleviating immediate suffering, look at the causes?"

Bishop Walker said that he would "probably have abstained" on a wrecking amendment to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which was defeated in the House of Lords on Tuesday evening. "The legislation is flawed, but at the end of the day what's clearly been sent out is a signal that gay people have suffered so much abuse and vilification in society for so long that society feels that whatever it can do to help them in their lot needs to be done."

Bishop Walker was elected to the General Synod in 2005. He said that he was "hopeful" about the House of Bishops' legislative proposals on women bishops, which will be brought before the Synod next month ( News, 31 May).

"I don't start from a neutral position: I start from the position the House of Bishops has set out. Clearly 'option one' has the best chance of delivering for the Church of England; I think we can pastorally meet the needs of those who have theological objections."

Bishop Walker, speaking from outside the cathedral to which he had been brought as a schoolboy, said he was "humbled to be offered a chance to come back and serve the community that gave me my start in life."

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