THE next Bishop of Exeter will be the present Bishop of
Stockport, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, it was announced on Tuesday.
Bishop Atwell will be installed in July.
Being bishop to the more than 500 parishes in Devon was crucial,
Bishop Atwell said on Tuesday. "I'm very much looking forward to
when the first women will be made bishops," he said. "At the same
time, I'm concerned that those faithful Anglicans who are unable to
accept this development know that I am their bishop as well."
Despite considerable division over the question of women bishops
and same-sex relationships, Bishop Atwell said that he believed
that the Church was able to have these debates in a respectful way.
He said: "I'm encouraged by the quality of the conversations
nationally. There is a deep and profound respect for people and
that is really encouraging."
He said that he upheld the Church of England's teaching that
marriage was a union between one man and one woman, but also said
that he was looking forward to the discussion in the next College
of Bishops meeting about the Pilling Report (News, 29
November). "But I see no place for homophobia in the Church
whatsoever. I would hope, whatever someone's gender and sexuality,
they would find a warm welcome in the Church," he said.
Discovering that he had been chosen as the next Bishop of Exeter
had been both surprising and daunting, Bishop Atwell said. "It's a
huge privilege, and I'm really looking forward to moving to Devon,"
he said. "I bring my experience and passion for the gospel, and I
particularly want to help in the growing of spiritual confidence in
the diocese. I want to help people in their struggle for meaning,
purpose, and direction - their search for God."
Bishop Atwell was involved in writing the Church's new Pilgrim
course (Features, 11 October) and
said that he hoped it would play a big part in the life of his new
He said: "Many parishes across the spectrum of the Church are
gaining a good amount from it. It is a course for the whole journey
of life, and people are getting great encouragement from it."
Bishop Atwell, who is 59, was ordained in 1979, and after a
curacy in north London became chaplain of Trinity College,
Cambridge, in 1981. From 1987 he spent ten years as a Benedictine
monk in Burford Priory.
"My ten years as a Benedictine monk taught me that all growth is
rooted in prayer," he said. "[Prayer has] always been part of my
life, but those ten years did teach me that."
Another piece of the puzzle in keeping the Church growing was
social outreach, he said.
On the day he was named as the next Bishop of Exeter, Bishop
Atwell visited a foodbank and then a debt-counselling centre in his
new diocese. He said: "One of the things that concern me nationally
is that as we come out the recession the gap between poor and rich
is greater than it ever was.
"I'm particularly concerned about how we, as Christians, can
make a difference. As we serve the community, we can build joy.
Those are the hallmarks, and, when that happens, we see real
"I realise that the picture-postcard image many have of Devon
isn't the whole truth. There are communities facing great
hardships, through poverty and lack of employment, as well as the
recent flooding, which has affected many people and caused problems
forthe farming community. I've been moved by the stories I've heard
of churches and individuals across the county getting stuck in and
When not encouraging his diocese to serve their communities,
Bishop Atwell said that he enjoyed hill walking, gardening, and