Canon Martin Seeley named as next Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich

28 November 2014

diocese of St edmundsbury & ipswich

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

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

The diocese is currently without a 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 sees. 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. . . 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 held his present appointment since 2006. The formation and learning of all Christians had not received adequate attention from 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."

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Like the majority of dioceses, St Edmundsbury & Ipswich has seen a fall in attendance figures: average weekly attendance has fallen by ten per cent since 2009, and current Sunday attendance accounts for 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 congregation members.

Canon Seeley said on Thursday that young people and education must be a priority: "I am the son of a schoolteacher, and education has been in my blood from a very early age. . . Developing and strengthening church schools is a priority for me."

On Friday, he said: "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. Canon Seeley said: "We need to be careful that people see the conversation process as a positive and constructive approach to reconciling differences."

Canon Seeley was Vicar of the Isle of Dogs for ten years before 2006. He served from 1980 to 1990 in the United States, as an assistant curate in New York, 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's, Wulfstan Way, Cambridge. They have two children.

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