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Bishop of Woolwich dies, aged 65, after long illness

11 September 2023

Diocese of Southwark

THE Area Bishop of Woolwich, in Southwark diocese, Dr Karowei Dorgu, has died after a long struggle with his health, the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, announced on Saturday.

Dr Dorgu, who was 65, died on Friday, with his family beside him, at King’s College Hospital, in south-east London. In a statement released by the diocese the next day, Bishop Chessun said: “There will be a time for proper tributes to be paid in due course — but for now I wish to convey my deepest sympathy to his wife, Mosun, son, Timi, twin sister, Collette, and the whole family.

“I express my gratitude for Bishop Karowei’s friendship and inspirational ministry — latterly as Bishop of Woolwich — where he brought much joy in his passion for the gospel and loving encouragement to all whom he encountered.”

Dr Dorgu was ordained priest in 1996, and served his title at St Mark’s, Tollington, in London diocese, before moving to St John the Evangelist, Upper Holloway, where he became Team Vicar and then Vicar. He was also a Prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral.

He was consecrated bishop on 17 March 2017.

Bishop Chessun (who served as Bishop of Woolwich from 2005 to 2011) spent time with Dr Dorgu during his final hours. “It was a privilege to join the family at his bedside and anoint him in his last hours, and I am grateful that the Archbishop of Canterbury came to pray with the family,” he said.

“We have lost a dear friend, brother and colleague and we will miss him greatly. I commend Bishop Karowei and his family to your prayers. May he rest in peace.”

Archbishop Welby said that Dr Dorgu was “a truly holy man, full of the Spirit and of grace, who simply radiated the joy of Christ.

“To be in his presence was to know a little of that joy, and so he was adored everywhere. The Church will be much poorer for his loss. However, he leaves us with a great legacy. May we continue to be inspired by his passionate commitment to evangelism and his passion for nurturing and developing new leaders.”

A short vigil was held in Southwark Cathedral for Dr Dorgu on Saturday evening, and a prayer by the former Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, was included on the diocesan statement and distributed to the diocese. Many tributes have been paid on social media to Dr Dorgu and his ministry, particularly his encouragement of vocations. He had served as an assistant director of post-ordination training in the Stepney Area, in London diocese.

The Chaplain to the Bishop of London, Prebendary Sandra McCalla, wrote on Saturday that Dr Dorgu had been “such an encouraging guide to many of us as we began our ministerial journey in the Stepney Area.

“I was delighted to be present when he became the Bishop of Woolwich. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

The Revd Dr Charlie Bell, a self-supporting minister at St John the Divine, Kennington, in Southwark diocese, expressed his thanks for Dr Dorgu’s “kindness, enthusiasm and for his great encouragement during my training for the priesthood”.

The Archbishop of York wrote that he was “thanking God” for Dr Dorgu’s “rich ministry”; and the Area Bishop of Kensington, in London diocese, Dr Emma Ineson, described Dr Dorgu as a “faithful, kind and wise man who will be very sorely missed”.

In a statement, the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, the Rt Revd Anthony Poggo, said: “I join with the Bishop of Southwark, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Anglicans in south London and around the world, in praying for the family of Bishop Karowei Dorgu, Area Bishop of Woolwich in South London, who has died after an illness.”

Dr Dorgu was born in 1958, in Nigeria, and practised as a medical doctor before ordination. He studied theology at the London Bible College, and trained for ordination at Oak Hill, in north London.

Read an obituary by the Bishop of Southwark here

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