THE next Bishop of Bristol is to be the Very Revd Vivienne Faull, currently the Dean of York. Her nomination was announced from Downing Street on Tuesday.
She is to become the 15th female bishop — and the fourth female diocesan — and succeeds the Rt Revd Mike Hill, who retired in September.
Dean Faull, who is 62, and whose mother was brought up in Bristol, said on Tuesday that the move would be “like returning home”. It was also fitting for her to become part of a diocese that had pioneered women’s ordination, she said.
“It was 24 years ago that Bristol was the first diocese to ordain women as priests, and I want the diocese to continue to show that pioneering courage.”
Dean Faull was the first woman to train for ordination at St John’s College, Nottingham. The theological college had 12 women training for lay ministry on the Certificate of Theology course.
Speaking in 2012, she said: “They didn’t know where to put me. Colin Buchanan [the Principal] wanted to put me in a guest room between the boys’ and the girls’ corridors, but I said: ‘I think I’ll go on the boys’.’”
When asked by the Church Times during her first tour of the diocese on Tuesday whether she considered herself a pioneer of women’s ministry, she said: “It would be hard to label me as anything else.
“But what has been lovely over the past four years is to see people emerging as bishops, suffragan or diocesan, and watch how they have begun to establish themselves in very different ways, and be themselves, which is transformative of the Church and perceptions of the Church.
“I am very glad that for once I didn’t have to pioneer that: I could watch my sisters flourish, which has been a delight. And, in the mean time, I could get on with some hard work at York Minster.”
Dean Faull was admitted as a deaconess in 1982, ordained as a deacon in 1987 and became Chaplain of Gloucester Cathedral in 1990. In 1994, she was among the first women to be ordained priest, and became Canon Pastor of Coventry Cathedral. In 1995, she was appointed Vice-Provost .
She left to become Provost (subsequently Dean, after the Cathedrals Measure reforms) of Leicester in 2000 — the first woman to head the chapter of an English cathedral.
For three years from 1987, and later for a further eight years until becoming Dean of York in 2012, she served on the General Synod, in which she was a passionate advocate of women’s ordination.
“There have been people who have found the change very difficult, and some of those will express that and speak out of a very profound theological perspective,” she said.
“I have worked hard with those who find it difficult to except my priesthood — which has been the case in York, Leicester, Coventry, and Gloucester. But what has been good is that I have had strong personal support and friendship from those who believe different things about women’s ministry.”
Does she expect resistance in Bristol? “There are some, who, from whichever wing of the Church, will be asking whether they have a continued and valued place, and my answer would be: absolutely.”
A shadow over her time in York was the safeguarding dispute with the cathedral bell-ringers, which silenced the cathedral bells (News, 16 June 2017). She had faced “loads” of challenges as Dean, she said, but did not comment further.
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said: “She has been a great Dean for York, taking risks for the Kingdom of God. . . She has made the Minster a great home of hospitality, worship and friendliness.”
The Bishop of Swindon, Dr Lee Rayfield, said that he was looking forward to seeing the “qualities and experience” that Dean Faull would bring to the diocese. “She will help us to build on what is and has been fruitful while enabling us to make progress in areas where fresh approaches are needed.”
Dean Faull will be consecrated bishop in St Paul’s Cathedral on 3 July, and installed as the 57th Bishop of Bristol at Bristol Cathedral in the autumn. She is married to Michael, a hospital consultant.
She concluded: “What has been lovely about God’s providence is that Bristol is a place where my family has deep roots, and where there was, right from the start, a sense that what Bristol diocese was looking for was something I might be able to offer.”