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‘I fell in love with the people’: Stephen Conway announced as next Bishop of Lincoln

24 May 2023

Diocese of Lincoln

Bishop Conway talks with church people outside Grimsby Minster on Wednesday

Bishop Conway talks with church people outside Grimsby Minster on Wednesday

THE next Bishop of Lincoln will be the Rt Revd Stephen Conway, the present the Bishop of Ely, Downing Street announced on Wednesday morning.

Bishop Conway has been the Acting Bishop of Lincoln for more than a year, starting in January 2022 and finishing just last month. This followed the retirement of the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson.

“The diocese has learnt a lot,” he said on Wednesday, and described the safeguarding department as “outstanding”, having taken steps in the light of a police operation looking into past cases of child abuse in the diocese (News, 16 March 2018). Both the former Bishop and the former Dean were investigated for safeguarding breaches.

“My job is to continue to build that culture of safeguarding as a gospel priority,” Bishop Conway said, “to ensure that not only are we providing a very good protective regime, but also that we’re providing proper support for survivors of past abuse.”

Bishop Conway was presented as the next full-time bishop at an event in Grimsby Minster on Wednesday morning. “A cross-section of the community turned out, including people from the Muslim community and a local Roman Catholic priest and the most senior police officer in these parts, along with leaders of councils and lots of clergy, so I’m feeling really buoyed up by that,” he said shortly after the event.

Reflecting on his period as both Bishop of Ely and Acting Bishop of Lincoln, Bishop Conway said that he saw his task in Lincoln as being to “help people feel more confident about their faith and about the contribution they can make in their communities”.

He continued: “Surprise surprise, I fell in love with the people and the place. I just found that there was a real opportunity for me — in this next five years before I can retire — to bring whatever wisdom I’ve garnered over 17 years as a bishop, to encourage and work with people in proclaiming the gospel and building flourishing communities across Greater Lincolnshire.”

He added that the implementation of “Time to Change Together”, a plan to reorganise the diocese around “key and local mission churches”, was a particular priority in the next five years (Features, 18 March 2022).

The Suffragan Bishops of Grimsby and Grantham, Dr David Court and Dr Nicholas Chamberlain, welcomed Bishop Conway’s return to the diocese as the permanent diocesan bishop. “The 14 months that we have already worked with Bishop Stephen are a wonderful platform on which to build when he comes to join the diocese as the 73rd Bishop of Lincoln. We have deeply valued his experience, companionship, and warm faith, and very much look forward to serving God’s people alongside him.”

On his translation to Ely in 2010, Bishop Conway told the Church Times that the Church “mustn’t run away from difficult issues” (News, 3 September 2010). He said on Wednesday that he was “determined to be a figure of unity for the diocese” as the Living in Love and Faith process was implemented.

Bishop Conway was the Suffragan Bishop of Ramsbury in the diocese of Salisbury between 2006 and 2010, but began his ministry in Durham diocese, where he was ordained as a priest in 1987, before serving his title at St Mary’s, Heworth, and St Michael’s, Bishopwearmouth.

He worked for eight years in parish ministry in the diocese, before becoming the Bishop of Durham’s senior chaplain in 1998, and Archdeacon of Durham in 2002.

He is expected to be installed in the autumn.

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