THE next Bishop of Dover is to be Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, it was announced on Friday.
She succeeds the Rt Revd Trevor Wilmott, who retired in May after ten years as bishop. She brings the number of BAME bishops in the C of E to six.
Although officially a suffragan, the Bishop of Dover in effect runs the diocese of Canterbury with authority delegated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Welby has spoken warmly of Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin. Last Friday, he described her as one of the “most influential and effective ministers in the public square”.
She will be consecrated in St Paul’s Cathedral on 19 November and installed in Canterbury Cathedral on 30 November.
Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin, who is 58, was born in Jamaica. She trained with the Church Army and was commissioned in 1982 as an Evangelist. She began her clerical ministry in Lichfield diocese in 1991, before moving to London in 1998, where she served as Vicar of Holy Trinity with St Philip, Dalston, and All Saints, Haggerston, for 16 years. She was appointed a Chaplain to the Queen in 2008, and a Prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral in 2013.
In 2010, she was appointed 79th Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the first woman to hold the post. She is a priest-vicar of Westminster Abbey.
She said on Friday: “One of the major things that makes Canterbury different is that it was the place where Christianity first entered Britain. It is a unique place.
“It is important that the Church in Canterbury, and the wider diocese, reflects the Christian witness and faith in a way that honours the history.”
She has been an outspoken defender the current Speaker, John Bercow. Last year, she said: “I know that he is a decent human being. He has been accused of lots of things in the media, but I can tell you that he is a decent, generous human being” (News, 16 July 2018).
Mr Bercow said last Friday that “she will be sorely missed by Members across the House, the staff and, especially, by me. . . She has an unfailing sense of duty and an ability — more than she would herself ever know — to bring comfort in times of tragedy.
“Furthermore, her steely resolve when confronted with loss and evil, following the death of our dear colleague Jo Cox [the Labour MP murdered by a neo-Nazi in 2016], and in the wake of the Westminster Bridge attack, was plain for all to see. Both in the celebration of happiness and in condolence and prayer, she has the most reassuring, fortifying presence anyone could want.”
Speaking earlier this year, Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin revealed that she had been subjected to racist abuse, which she attributed to the Brexit debate (News, 7 February). “For the first time — I’ve lived here for well over 30 years — I was shouted at in the street and told to go back to Africa.
“Now, I don’t come from Africa, so I don’t know which country in Africa they wanted me to go back to. I think there has developed an unpleasantness, an underbelly that has suddenly thought: ‘This is our time, and we can say this and do this.’”
Her new diocese has more immediate concerns about Brexit. She said on Friday: “My main concern is, if things don’t go right, we might end up with a massive gridlock in Kent, which will impact the regular people. . . I’m interested in how this is going to pan out.”
As for the reception of refugees who land on the Kent coast, she said: “Compassion has to be the first and foremost response.”
Interviewed for Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in 2014, Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin said that anger about immigration came from “plain ignorance”.
In the same interview, she said that she had no interest in being a bishop: “I have never sat down and given any thought to it, really.”
Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin was a member of the General Synod from 2000-2010, during which time she was on the panel of chairs of the Synod. The Bishop of Dover is an ex officio member of the House of Bishops.
In 2012, she told The Times: “I have known some decent gay people who are in faithful monogamous relationships, and who are hugely committed to each other. I’m deeply saddened that parts of the Church continue to be obsessed by this whole business.”
She also said: “We need to ask why there are not more people of minority-ethnic backgrounds in leadership within the Church. We have been encouraging people to stand, and people have been putting themselves forward and have not been elected. I think there is a level of racism around that.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury said last Friday: “I have constantly been told that she has been an effective pastor in one crisis or another, especially in the last few years. Before that, she was a parish minister of great impact.
“She has been described as prophet, pastor and evangelist. She has challenged the Church of England over its engagement with UK minority ethnic groups, and has spoken forcefully and effectively at many evangelistic meetings.”
Last Friday, Archbishop Welby introduced Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin at a school in Broadstairs, where she took questions from schoolchildren.
She said: “I am looking forward to journeying with the people of Kent, celebrating the good work that is already happening there, and working together with its religious and secular leaders to ensure that the good news of hope, love, and justice remains at the heart of our changed lives together. . .
“I will be someone who is passionate about the Gospel — I don’t have any hidden agendas, and just proclaim the love of Jesus Christ.”
Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin is married to Kenneth, a prison chaplain, and they have three adult children.