Downing Street announced on May 7 that Queen Elizabeth II has accepted the nomination of three women to suffragan sees in the Church of England: 

  • The Venerable Sarah Bullock as the next Bishop of Shrewsbury, in the Diocese of Lichfield.
  • The Venerable Joanne Woolway Grenfell as the next Bishop of Stepney, in the Diocese of London.
  • The Reverend Canon Dagmar Winter as the next Bishop of Huntingdon, in the Diocese of Ely.

Women have been consecrated as bishops in the Church of England only since 2015. But at the time of the consecrations of these three nominees this autumn, the total number of women in the Church of England’s House of Bishops (22) will be significantly larger than that of other churches in the Anglican Communion, including provinces like the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, where women have been consecrated since the 1980s and 1990s, respectively.  

In the Church of England’s 42 dioceses, the majority of women serving as bishops are suffragans. At the moment, only five women lead English dioceses:

  • The Rt. Rev. Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol
  • The Rt. Rev. Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle
  • The Rt. Rev. Libby Lane, Bishop of Derby
  • The Rt. Rev. Sarah Mullaly, Bishop of London
  • The Rt. Rev. Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester

The nominees

The Venerable Sarah Bullock currently serves as Archdeacon of York. She will be the first woman to serve as a bishop in the Diocese of Lichfield. Her particular responsibility will be the pastoral oversight of churches, ministers, and communities in the towns and villages of North Shropshire, including Shrewsbury, and the northern part of Telford.

She trained for ministry at Cranmer Hall, Durham, a theological college in the evangelical tradition of the Church of England. She was ordained 26 years ago after a short career in teaching and children’s and youth work in the Diocese of Manchester. She then served in a variety of parish and diocesan roles including Bishop’s Adviser for Women’s Ministry and Borough Dean for the City and Borough of Manchester. She was made an Honorary Canon of Manchester Cathedral in 2007, and became Archdeacon of York in 2013.

“I am honoured and delighted to have been invited to become the Bishop of Shrewsbury. I’m looking forward to really getting to know the communities of this area and those who live, work and worship here,” she said. “I’m passionate about the Christian faith and journeying with people to discover and share the love, joy and hope that Jesus offers to everyone. I look forward to supporting the churches, schools, colleges and communities of this area as we share the good news of God’s love, which brings transformation, hope and renewal.”

The Venerable Joanne Woolway Grenfell is currently Archdeacon of Portsdown in the Diocese of Portsmouth. As Bishop of Stepney, her responsibilities will lie mainly in an area covering the boroughs of Hackney, Islington, and Tower Hamlets. She will also be the lead bishop for social responsibility and, along with the Bishop of London, take a lead for safeguarding. 

Photo credit: Colin Ross

She is a graduate of the University of Oxford and the University of British Columbia, and has completed a DPhil on the writing of the 16th-century poet Edmund Spenser. She trained for ordination at Westcott House, a theological college in the Catholic tradition of the C of E. 

Her life and ministry in the Church of England has taken her from outer housing estates and inner city parishes, to chaplaincy, diocesan ministry, and cathedral outreach, on to her current role as archdeacon.

“It is a joy and a privilege to be asked to become the next Bishop of Stepney and to live in this gloriously diverse and creative part of the capital,” she said. “I am looking forward to listening to local people to learn what is already happening here, and to discerning how I can best support churches to be confident, growing communities as they live out the good news of the gospel. There are particular opportunities and challenges here – empowering young people, celebrating each other’s many gifts, seeking the common good, working across different communities – and I am excited at the thought of being part of God’s work, with others, across Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets.”

The Rev. Canon Dagmar Winter is Rector of Hexham in the Diocese of Newcastle. As the new Bishop of Huntingdon, she will be the first female bishop in East Anglia, and will take particular responsibility for rural ministry and for sponsoring ordination candidates.

Dagmar is of British and Swiss-German descent and studied theology at various universities including Aberdeen and Heidelberg, where she completed a PhD in New Testament studies. Along with various articles, she is the author of In the Footsteps of Jesus: A Thoughtful Guide for Pilgrims to the Holy Land (Epworth Press, 2005) and with Gerd Theissen, The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria (Westminster John Knox, 2002; originally published in German in 1997).

She served her title from 1996 to 1999 in Bromley, Rochester Diocese, before becoming associate vicar and deanery training officer at Hexham Abbey. From 2006 she was rural affairs officer for the Diocese of Newcastle, as well as priest-in-charge of a group of rural parishes in Morpeth Deanery, Northumberland. 2015 saw her return to Hexham as Rector. 

Dagmar has been a member of General Synod since 2005, has served on the Rural Group and the Mission and Public Affairs Committee of the Church of England, and is currently on the Meissen Committee. Since 2012 she has been on the Bishop’s Senior Staff as Bishop’s Adviser for Women’s Ministry. 

In response to her appointment, she said: 

I am honoured and delighted to have been invited to become the seventh Bishop of Huntingdon. The Fens will be quite a different experience to the Northumberland Uplands for me and I can’t wait to meet people from the varied communities across the breadth of the Diocese.

I have a particular passion for rural and market town ministry, and I am impressed with the Diocesan vision and will to grasp the great opportunities there are. Cambridge and its universities make a distinct contribution which I deeply appreciate and I hope to build further on relationships here. 

There is a remarkable connection between Hexham and Ely: Etheldreda gave the land for the building of Hexham Abbey and in Ely she founded a monastery on the site which is now Ely Cathedral. I believe this legacy of generosity and prayerful commitment is rooted in the life-affirming, encouraging and inspiring love of God which we see in Jesus Christ, and I look forward to working with Bishop Stephen and many others to share this.

Adapted from the Diocese of Lichfield, the Diocese of London, and the Diocese of Ely 

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