THE next Bishop of Hereford is to be the Rt Revd Richard Jackson, translated from Lewes, in Chichester diocese. His nomination was announced by Downing Street on Tuesday.
He will succeed the Rt Revd Richard Frith, who retires in the autumn (News, 11 January).
It will be the first post that Bishop Jackson has held beyond Chichester diocese. Speaking on Tuesday, he said that what he was “looking forward to most is being able to be in the position to commend Jesus Christ to this community. . .
“There’s some fantastic people here, and some fantastic work being done by Bishop Richard and the team. Strategically, I don’t think there’s a huge amount of re-envisioning to do: it’s very much continuity. I think we can move on with what we’ve got, and concentrate very clearly on the work of proclaiming Jesus and helping other people to know him.”
Bishop Jackson, who is 58, will take up the new post at the start of 2020.
He was born in London, and came from a non-Christian family. He joined the Church at 17, and said that he was a “reluctant convert”. He studied agriculture and forestry at Christ Church, Oxford, and completed a Master’s degree in soil and water engineering at Cranfield. He then worked as an agronomist, advising farmers.
“I’ve got quite a strong agricultural background. Although Hereford diocese is not entirely agricultural, agriculture is a very important part of the community here. To have that background is quite helpful in getting to know people and being able to understand.”
Bishop Jackson trained for the priesthood at Trinity College, Bristol. His title parish was Lindfield, in Chichester diocese. He was Vicar of Rudgwick from 1998 until 2009, and Rural Dean of Horsham between 2005 and 2009, when he became Mission and Renewal Adviser and Leader of the Church Growth Team for Chichester diocese. He became Suffragan Bishop of Lewes in 2014.
He said on Tuesday: “My experience and track-record is of working with people across a hugely diverse range of theological and churchmanship views. I think I’m known as somebody who brings people together: as someone who holds the space and enables people to say what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling in a way that moves the conversation forward.
“My main aim as a bishop has been to inspire people to Jesus and to commend Jesus to those who don’t know him. We can always get into the institutional side of the Church, but, actually, fundamentally, that’s what my ministry is all about: pastoral care for the people and commending Jesus.”
Bishop Jackson has previously stated his opposition to same-sex marriage. In 2017, he told the New Wine Summer Conference that the previous meeting of the General Synod, in York, had been “a theological train crash . . . of conflicting pain narratives”. Furthermore, he said that bishops were called to “make some definitive statements’’ (Comment, 4 August 2017). “We have to make decisions on the basis of biblical theology, not on the basis purely of listening to people’s experiences,” he said.
A few months later, Bishop Frith spoke and voted for a diocesan-synod motion to commend an “order of prayer and dedication” to be used for same-sex couples after a civil partnership or marriage (News, 23 October 2017).
On Tuesday, Bishop Jackson said, “Whatever opinion people hold on that particular issue, what we’re trying to do is to create churches that are welcoming and open spaces for everyone.
“Over the course of the next few years as bishop, I’m going to have to help steer this diocese through our discussions in the Living in Love and Faith process.To do that, I think it’s important that the ministry that I’ve had already, as someone who holds the space and who helps people to articulate the views, is something that is going to continue.
“I think my track record is one of bringing people together, dealing with lots and lots of different views, and trying to hold that space, and I think that’s something that is really very important going for. As a whole Church, I think those conversations might be quite hard, but we have to create a space where people can hear one another, and respect one another.”
He will be moving from an area that voted Remain in the EU referendum to one with a large Leave majority. Bishop Jackson said: “The tone of the debate is something I think we need to try and moderate. I think there are hugely different views within the Church, and the country, and I think we need to move away from defining one another by how we voted in the referendum three years ago.
“The important thing is that we learn to listen to one another, and to recognise that, whatever people’s views, the Church here in Hereford diocese is here for everybody, and we seek to be a place for people struggling in all sorts of ways.”
Bishop Jackson made clear that Hereford diocese is not only rural: “While lots of people in Herefordshire live in rural areas, we have to remember, of course, that there are significant urban areas, and areas of great deprivation. We have to be open and serving all of those different communities.”
He continued, however: “Farming is going through one of the most challenging times in a generation. In that context, as a Church, we want to be there for those people, and enable them to talk through the issues they’re facing.
“Hereford has some of the hardest working farmers in the country; it has a people who are producing food to the highest global standard, and, as bishop, that is something one wants to be shouting from the rooftops, an advocate for what is going on here.”
The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, commending Bishop Jackson, spoke of his “kindness, humour, and flair.”
Bishop Jackson is married to Deborah, and they have three grown-up children. He is a keen motorcyclist, which he promised will continue in Hereford diocese.