THE Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales has chosen the Dean of Salisbury, the Very Revd June Osborne, to be the next Bishop of Llandaff.
Dean Osborne’s appointment was announced on Thursday, two months after the decision fell to the Bench because no candidate had secured a two-thirds majority in the Electoral College for see, and after protests that the Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, who had had the unanimous support of the diocesan representatives, had not been appointed. The Bench stated that it would not consider any of the names that had been on the college’s slate.
Dean Osborne, who is 63 and has been in her current post for 13 years, was one of the first women to be ordained in the Church of England. She said that her task in the diocese of Llandaff, which covers Cardiff and the South Wales valleys, would be “challenging” but also a “great privilege”. The diocese includes a concentration of the Church in Wales’s traditionalist Anglo-Catholic parishes.
Shortly after the Electoral College failed to agree on a candidate, Dr John complained that he had been blocked from being chosen as the Bishop-Elect because he was in a civil partnership. In a reply to a letter from the Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd John Davies, who had privately assured him that his sexuality was no bar to being appointed, Dr John accused the Bishops of “anti-gay discrimination” (News, 24 March).
“I’m very aware there is hurt and disappointment for some that the electoral college did not produce the result, but for me the outcome of this discernment has been thrilling,” Dean Osborne said.
There was work to do in healing division within the Llandaff diocese, she acknowledged. “I do want to be a bishop for absolutely everybody, [including] those who might have wished for another candidate,” she said.
Dean Osborne declined to comment on the specifics of the row over the alleged homophobia, saying that she had no idea what had really happened behind the locked doors of the Electoral College, and neither had anyone else. But she was not concerned that she would be seen as an outsider imposed on the diocese.
“What I’m confident of is that people in the Llandaff diocese will be enormously generous to my ministry. Processes sometimes don’t produce the result we hope for, and it takes time to acclimatise to that fact. I have absolute confidence that I am going to get a really warm welcome.”
Dean Osborne said that she counted Dr John as a friend, as well as a fellow dean, and that she had seen him as recently as Monday at a meeting. “I think what exchanges there are between Jeffrey and I will stay private,” she said. “I have huge respect for Jeffrey: he is an extraordinary priest and a much-loved dean.”
Bishop Davies, the most senior bishop in the Church in Wales, said that Dean Osborne would “richly bless” both the diocese of Llandaff and the wider Church.
“She is known as a leader with clear vision, a pastoral heart, and a strategic mind, all of which commend the Church to the wider community,” he said. “In this way, and through her teaching, her preaching, and her leadership, she reveals herself to be someone who I am confident will provide for the diocese of Llandaff excellence in leadership and oversight.”
It was very good news for the Church in Wales that one third of its six bishops would soon be women, Dean Osborne said. It had been “exhilarating” for her generation to see sweeping social change, which had been so long desired, take place in the Church over a relatively short space of time. She insisted, however, that she had not been appointed because she was a woman; nor would she describe herself as a “woman bishop”.
The province’s first woman bishop, the Bishop of St Davids, the Rt Revd Joanna Penberthy, was consecrated in January (News, 23 January).
The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, said that Dean Osborne was one of the Church of England’s “leading clerics” and an “outstanding dean”.
“She has made significant contributions to the wider Church of England, including helping to organise the Leading Women group, which has been massively influential in growing women into positions of leadership in the Church,” he said.
“I am delighted she has been appointed Bishop of Llandaff. The whole of the diocese of Salisbury will join me in giving thanks for the enormous contribution she has made.”
Dean Osborne is no stranger to rows about bishops and homosexuality. A report by a working group that she chaired in the 1980s, to advise the Church of England’s Bishops on the subject, and which recommended “a tone of welcome and acceptance”, was unpublished, but leaked to the press in 1990.