THE Bishop-designate of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson,
has echoed the Archbishop of Canterbury's call for the Church to
work with Muslims to counter radicalisation and the appeal of
Bishop Watson, who is currently the Suffragan Bishop of Aston in
the diocese of Birmingham, said on Friday, the day his nomination
was announced, that Christians should engage with the issue of
radicalisation of Muslims, and that in the West Midlands many
"I was with some of our inner-city clergy yesterday and they
were saying when you speak to the imams it is very sensible stuff,"
he said. "On the ground, one of the questions is whether people are
listening to their imams or to messages from out of the internet. I
think a fair amount of the latter is going on."
Archbishop Welby said earlier in the day, during a House of
Lords debate on airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) terrorists in
Iraq, that there needed to be an "ideological and a religious
response" to the "dreadful barbarity" of IS (News,
This response, he said, should set out "a more compelling
vision, a greater challenge, and a more remarkable hope" than that
offered by the terrorists.
Bishop Watson said that both he and the Bishop of Birmingham,
the Rt Revd David Urquhart, had been invited to speak to large
gatherings of Muslims during Ramadan this year. "That was coming
out of a sense in the Muslim community that we do need to work
closer together in that way to discourage radicalisation."
It was important that the Church also stood up for moderate
Muslims who abhorred Islamist extremism as much as Christians did.
For instance, the diocese of Birmingham had been approaching the
Trojan-horse scandal at Muslim-majority schools (News,
25 July) as an issue of "community cohesion" rather than an
issue of extremism.
"[This] seems much more productive," he said. "Otherwise, the
demonisation can continue, and make people feel misunderstood and
Bishop Watson said that moving to the diocese of Guildford from
the West Midlands would be a culture shock in many ways, as it was
a wealthier part of the country. "Guildford is obviously a diocese
which has fantastic resources in all kinds of ways. My vision is
releasing the tremendous potential here to be a blessing locally
and across the country."
There were also issues such as alcoholism and domestic abuse,
with which the Church could engage, and these were no respecters of
wealth, he suggested.
Nevertheless, with just 28,000 regular worshippers out of a
population of more than one million, the diocese needed more strong
and growing churches, he said. One of his proudest achievements in
Birmingham was an initiative, Transforming Church, which had led to
some church growth.
"I think it's a mixture of being good news in the parishes that
they serve, and not just settling for 'Church-ianity' - being
confident about proclaiming good news," Bishop Watson said.
"Churches can either be salt and light, but lacking evangelism, or
the other way round. Across the board of churchmanship, where
churches are seeking to be both, they are growing."
Bishop Watson took part in the piloting of the shared
conversations on sexuality as part of the College of Bishops last
News, 19 September). He said that he had mixed feelings going
into the process, but was convinced that it was the only way
forward for the Church of England.
"From my perspective, it is going to be important to keep the
sense that we are having this discussions within the family context
rather than manning the barricades," he said.
He was also looking forward to the entry of women into the
College of Bishops in the near future. "[They] will have a positive
and encouraging effect on the workings of the College, as well as
being excellent on the ground."
Before moving to Birmingham in 2008, Bishop Watson, who is 53,
studied at Corpus Christi College and Ridley Hall, in Cambridge,
was an assistant curate in Worcester and London dioceses, and then
Vicar of St Stephen's, East Twickenham, in London diocese. He will
be enthroned in Guildford Cathedral in February next year.
He is married to Beverly, who is also ordained, and they have
four children, aged 15 to 24. Besides being a keen amateur
musician, Bishop Watson enjoys walking and is the author of three