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New bishop for Liverpool comes from North India, via Kent and Essex

18 October 2022

The next Bishop of Liverpool will be Dr John Perumbalath

Gareth Jones

Dr Perumbalath meets pupils at Beacon CE Primary School in Everton on Tuesday morning

Dr Perumbalath meets pupils at Beacon CE Primary School in Everton on Tuesday morning

THE next Bishop of Liverpool will be Dr John Perumbalath, Downing Street announced on Tuesday morning.

Dr Perumbalath, who has been the Area Bishop of Bradwell in the diocese of Chelmsford since 2018, was ordained in the Church of North India in 1994. He moved to the UK in 2001, and served in several posts in the diocese of Rochester — as Assistant Curate of St George’s, Beckenham; Team Vicar in Northfleet; and Vicar of All Saints’, Perry Street — before becoming the Archdeacon of Barking in Chelmsford diocese.

Dr Perumbalath currently chairs the Churches’ refugee network of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), as well as the educational charity Churches Aware, and he serves on the advisory group of USPG.

He gained his Ph.D. in 2007 from North-West University in South Africa, with a thesis entitled “Confident and Imaginative: Scripture & hermeneutic in the Johannine Passion narrative and today”.

He trained at an Evangelical theological college in Kolkata, adding this experience to Orthodox and Anglo-Catholic influences and a Benedictine approach to spirituality. “I don’t think I grew out of any of these,” he said on Tuesday, “and I still feel comfortable in all those traditions.” He suggested that it was important for a bishop being able to identify with multiple traditions: “I think all people should be able to feel like the bishop belongs to them.”

Dr Parumbalath was presented to the diocese on Tuesday at Beacon CE Primary School in Everton. He spoke afterwards of his excitement about being part of the “vibrant community life” of Liverpool, a city which he visited several times a year while his daughter was a student there.

“That’s something I want to be part of,” he said: “a community that is very proud about who they are — but at the same time recognising the challenges we face as a community.”

In August, the Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Revd Beverley Mason, was among those to express shock at the murder of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel, and wrote on Twitter that it came “on the heels of a series of fatal crimes in Liverpool” (News, 26 August).

On Tuesday, Dr Perumbalath said: “Nobody is born criminal, but society creates criminals. . . We need to help the community to take responsibility — we as the whole community are responsible for shaping the future.

“We have to ask how we can help our next generation to see their aspirations recognised, and be able to flourish, when people are pushed to the margins.”

In 2020, Dr Perumbalath contributed an article in the Church Times about racial justice in the Church, writing: “Ignorance is at the root of the cultural insensitivity and discrimination that I witness in the Church of England. What is worrying me is that we do not seem to be keen on addressing our ignorance” (Comment, 3 July 2020).

On Tuesday, Dr Perumbalath suggested that things had improved slightly in the past two years, attributing the change to the effects of the Black Lives Matter movement. “We are getting better at talking about inclusion, understanding why people are excluded, and making some particular initiatives to see that people are included,” he said.

“My hope is that my appointment will help in some way, as part of the whole solution, to reassure people who have been marginalised because of their race and culture that they have a place in the Church of England, but we still have a long way to go.”

He has also written about Epiphany (Features, 31 December 2021, included in the Church Times Christmas collection News of Great Joy).

The Archbishop of York described Dr Perumbalath as “a person of huge vision and integrity, a biblical scholar, a champion for justice, a loving pastor, and a humble and good-humoured disciple of Jesus Christ.”

He continued: “Building on the courageous example of previous Bishops of Liverpool, John will be a new and compelling voice for the Christian faith in the Liverpool diocese, across the north and in the life of our nation.”

Welcoming the appointment, Bishop Mason said that Dr Perumbalath’s “wisdom and grace will help guide us as we continue to seek to be fit for mission asking God for a bigger church to make a bigger difference”.

The recently retired Bishop of Liverpool, Bishop Paul Bayes, described Dr Perumbalath on Twitter as “pastorally warm, committed to the just reign of God, close to Christ, Spirit-filled, full of faith, unafraid”.

Dr Perumbalath is expected to be installed in Liverpool Cathedral early next year.

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