Historic Choice in Southwark

The Church of England has selected a Nigerian priest to become Bishop of Woolwich in the Diocese of Southwark. The Rev. Preb. Woyin Karowei Dorgu will be the first Nigerian to be a stipendiary bishop in the Church of England when he is consecrated at Southwark Cathedral on St Patrick’s Day, March 17, and the first black priest to be appointed bishop in the province for 20 years.

The announcement on Dec. 20 followed the appointments of the Very Rev. Miguelina Howell as the first Hispanic dean in the based Episcopal Church and the Rev. Yaqoob Khushi as the first Pakistani priest in Wales.

While Dorgu will be the first Nigerian to be a stipendiary full-time bishop in the Church of England, he is not the C of E’s first Nigerian bishop. The Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, was an archbishop in Nigeria and is now an honorary assistant bishop in the Diocese of London.

In line with usual practice, Dorgu’s appointment was announced by 10 Downing Street, the official home and office of the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister. The appointment of a Church of England bishop is subject to the approval of the Queen Elizabeth. The Diocese of Southwark issued a simultaneous press release giving further details of the new bishop’s background.

Dorgu was born and brought up in Nigeria, where he worked as a medical doctor before ordination in London in 1995 (deacon) and 1996 (priest). He served his curacy at St. Mark’s in Tollington Park before becoming vicar of St. John’s in Archway. He was made a prebendary (honorary canon) of St. Paul’s Cathedral earlier this year.

“We are greatly honored to be invited to share and contribute to this dynamic ministry of bringing God’s love to the people of Woolwich and the Diocese,” he said. “I look forward to getting to know the clergy, people and churches of the area in the coming months.”

“I am delighted that Karowei Dorgu is joining the episcopal team in Southwark Diocese as Bishop of Woolwich,” said the Rt. Rev. Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark. “He brings a wealth of experience of urban parish ministry and has a real passion for evangelism and reaching out to those who are not churched with the love of Christ.”

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The Rev. Miguelina Howell’s first role in the Episcopal Church was as an 8-year-old acolyte at a church near her home in the Dominican Republic. In 1997, at the age of 20, she was at a pre-Lambeth Conference young adult gathering, where she met with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

She was ordained as a deacon in 2002 and a priest in 2003, and served in two churches and a school in the Dominican Republic. In 2008 she was called to serve as associate rector of St. Paul’s Church in Paterson, New Jersey.

That call required her to leave her family and country and settle in the United States and minister in English, which was not her first language. In February she became the dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut.

Howell stresses that her focus is on being a child of God who is ready to serve.

“For me it’s not about my gender or ethnicity, it’s about the God-given gifts bestowed upon me as a child of God to serve God’s mission at Christ Church Cathedral and the larger Episcopal Church,” she told Episcopal News Service. “Being a woman and a Latina are aspects of my identity that I cherish, and I do recognize how those aspects enrich my ministry and allow me to serve God’s ever-changing, multicultural church in a unique way.”

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The Rev. Yaqoob Khushi was appointed priest of Llanfair Caereinion, Llanllugan & Manafon, in the Diocese of St. Asaph, Wales, earlier in December. He had a long ministry in the Church of Pakistan before he moved to London, where he worked as a hospital chaplain and assistant priest in Holy Trinity, Southall.

“We are delighted to welcome a priest of great experience and a broad understanding of the Christian faith to the Caereinion Mission Area,” said the Rt. Rev. Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St. Asaph. “Yaqoob Khushi and his family are making their home in Wales, and we welcome all the new perspectives that they will bring.”

Adapted from Gavin Drake, ACNS, with additional reporting by Erica Tricarico for Episcopal News Service

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