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Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, is to be new Dean

16 March 2023

Ian Wallman/Christ Church

Canon Sarah Foot

Canon Sarah Foot

THE new Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, is to be one of its current residentiary canons, the Revd Professor Sarah Foot, Downing Street announced on Thursday.

Canon Foot is Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the University of Oxford, of which Christ Church, the college, is part. Her duties, like those of her predecessors, will include both those of the Dean of the cathedral for the diocese of Oxford, as well as those of an Oxford head of house.

She is the first woman to be appointed to the unique joint post. In a statement released on her announcement, she said: “It is an honour to have been appointed to this role and to work alongside the Governing Body to serve the students, academics, staff, Chapter and congregation of Christ Church.”

The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, said that he was “delighted” by the appointment. “Sarah combines a distinguished career as an historian, a deep personal faith and reservoirs of wisdom from her experience of leadership of Christ Church in recent months,” he said.

“I look forward very much to working in partnership with Sarah in the coming years in the implementation of the governance review.”

An independent review of the governance of Christ Church is under way, prompted by the four-year dispute between the former Dean, Dr Martyn Percy, and the college’s governing body.

A settlement was reach last year, when Dr Percy agreed to leave the college with what was described as “a substantial sum in compensation” (News, 4 February 2022).

The governance review is being conducted by the former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve KC. Because of the college’s unusual constitution, any changes require Parliament, Privy Council, and church approval, as well as that of the university (24 June, 2022).

Canon Foot is expected to stand down at the conclusion of the review, which the parallel press releases issued by the college and the diocese announcing her appointment describe as “likely to be a lengthy process”.

As Censor Theologiae of Christ Church, Canon Foot has been, in effect, the acting head of house since Dr Percy’s departure. She is expected to take up her new appointment in July.

At the start of February, it was announced that a separate review of safeguarding issues relating to Dr Percy’s tenure will not be conducted by the Church’s Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) (News, 1 February).

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