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New bishop looks to a bright future

13 February 2015

by Pat Ashworth


Fostering a new diocese: the new Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd Paul Williams, with his wife, Sarah

Fostering a new diocese: the new Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd Paul Williams, with his wife, Sarah

THE NEW Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham is to be the Rt Revd Paul Williams, at present Area Bishop of Kensington, Downing Street announced on Tuesday.

Bishop Williams, aged 47, grew up in Somerset, studied at Durham University and Wycliffe Hall, and served his first curacy at St James's, Muswell Hill, north London. He was Associate Vicar at Christ Church, Bristol, and from 1992 to 2009, Rector of St James's, Gerrards Cross.

His late mother, Heather Williams, was among the first women to be ordained in 1994, and would have rejoiced at a woman becoming bishop, he told a press conference at Nottingham Emmanuel School, a C of E Academy, saying that he had been "overjoyed" to have laid hands on Bishop Libby Lane at her consecration.

A bishop very much in the Justin Welby mould, he displayed Evangelical fervour wedded to a strong social conscience. He described Nottingham as a "cradle of innovation", and the city and county as having made a substantial contribution to the nation's heritage and economy.

"I know it's building a bright future with a new generation in its sights," he said. "It deserves a Church that is playing its full part in helping to shape that future, which includes addressing the real-life challenges that individuals and communities face across the region."

He alluded to some of these, not least in the former mining communities that are having to rethink "after the heart of their industry had been torn away".

He spoke, too, of church growth, and of his passion to raise the aspirations of all children and young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Bishop and his wife, Sarah, have been foster parents in the borough of Kensington for several years, and have three sons, aged 16, 14, and 12.

Asked from which wing of the Church he came, he said: "I've been six years in London, where we have every wing - even wings that the Church of England didn't know existed. . . My faith has been shaped by all the traditions, but, while I have been nourished by the Evangelical tradition, I wear no labels."

Questioned by students about the proliferation of foodbanks, he described food poverty as a significant issue and said: "I am hoping to hear politicians address the systemic causes of that. The Church needs to ask difficult questions of politicians. In the divide between rich and poor, let's speak up for justice."

Two of the school students came out and prayed unscripted for the new Bishop, and he was visibly moved. He and his family will arrive in the diocese in the summer.

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