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New Bishop for St Edmundsbury & Ipswich announced

21 November 2014

Chosen: Canon Seeley at Trinity CEVAP School, Stowmarket on Thursday, where his appointment was announced

Chosen: Canon Seeley at Trinity CEVAP School, Stowmarket on Thursday, where his appointment was announced

HAVING been nominated as a Bishop, one of Canon Martin Seeley's first considerations is whom to nominate as an episcopal colleague.

On Thursday, Downing Street announced that Canon Seeley, at present Principal of Westcott House, Cambridge, is to be the next Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

The diocese is currently short of one Suffragan: the Bishop of Dunwich. On Friday, Canon Seeley said: "I would join with those who lament the length of time it has taken [to enable women to be bishops]. . . We will obviously want to find the person that God is calling to this post, whether they be male or female. I am delighted that we will be able to include women candidates."

Dunwich is one of several vacant episcopal posts. On Friday, Canon Seeley suggested that the first women bishops would face "a huge burden of expectation and scrutiny. What I have consistently said is none of us know how we are going to respond to the reality. . . I think that we don't quite know what the unconscious dynamics are going to be. That could make it even more difficult, which means that we all need to be supportive. I rather hope that I am consecrated with a woman."

Canon Seeley, whose appointment was announced on Thursday, has been Principal at Westcott since 2006. The formation and learning of all Christians had not received adequate attention by the Church, he said: "It's an area where we need to refocus our energies, because it's the nurture and growth of all Christians that is the foundation of the faithfulness of the Church.  

"Without that we won't have flourishing churches and lay ministers and ordinands being called forth.

"For me, that starts with worship. We can put on as many courses as we like, but everybody who is engaged with the life of the church participates in worship, so let's look at how that is the locus not just of praise but how we are changed and grow in faith."

Like the majority of dioceses, St Edmundsbury & Ipswich has seen a fall in numerical growth: average weekly attendance has fallen by ten per cent since 2009, and current Sunday attendance accounts for just three per cent of the population. While 20 per cent of the population is aged 65 or above, this age-group accounts for 56 per cent of congregants.

On Thursday, Canon Seeley said that young people and education must be a priority: "I am the son of a school teacher, and education has been in my blood from a very early age. I am passionate about it, both in working hard for the best possible education for our children and in that developing and strengthening Church schools is a priority for me."

On Friday, he added: "We need to recognise that the challenges of communicating the gospel in the context of a town may not be the same as the challenges in the very rural communities of Suffolk . So we need to do some thoughtful and attentive analysis before trying to present approaches that may work in one context but not another."

Next year, the diocese will partake in the shared conversations on sexuality taking place across the Church. While cautioning that "we must not get overwhelmed" by the issue, Canon Seeley said: "There are plenty of people outside and within the church who are baffled why this is an issue and we need to be careful that people see the conversation process as a positive and constructive approach to reconciling differences among people who are bound as one in our proclamation of Christ."

Before taking over at Westcott, Canon Seeley was Vicar of the Isle of Dogs for ten years. He served from 1980 to 1990 in the US, as Curate at the Church of the Epiphany in New York City and as assistant director of Trinity Institute at Trinity Wall Street, before becoming Director of the Thompson Centre, an ecumenical continuing education centre, in St Louis. 

Canon Seeley is married to the Revd Jutta Brueck, Priest-in-Charge of St James, Wulfstan Way, Cambridge, and they have two children, Anna, 14, and Luke, 11. He will take up the post after Easter. 

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