Over the last few days there was an unexpected announcement made regarding the new Bishop of Horsham along with the announcement for the new Bishop of Lewes. This was really good news for people who are part of the Church of England here in Sussex as they are posts that have been vacant for quite some time. However for the last 6 weeks the Church of England has been working in a very different manner to normal due to COVID-19 and this was the first senior appointment announcement that has been made in that timescale. Along with the practicality of this important decision comes a major breakthrough in the Diocese of Chichester which will no doubt be a challenge to many people who are part of the Diocese along with a complete breakthrough of a glass ceiling for many others. It is potentially one of the most radical decisions for the last two decades.
My own work for the Diocese, on their payroll was relatively modest and did not cover many hours, but it was a fascinating opportunity for me to take on the role of their Ecumenical Officer, when the previous person left. This was in addition to my role as County Ecumenical Officer for Sussex that was also significantly funded by the Chichester Diocese along with 6 other regional Church networks or Denominations. The main part of my work started in May 2001 and ended in December 2014 and throughout that time my role as an evangelical Christian in a setting that was very strongly Anglo-Catholic gave me a huge opportunity to see how people with other ideas and traditions worked. Some of my experience was very positive and inevitably some of it was very difficult. One of the significant themes was how some members of evangelical communities along with many members of the Anglo-Catholic communities do not support the idea of female leadership which is not a position I agree with, but it was not my role to have to try to change such policies or views. However I had the great opportunity to meet many people whose views sat on both sides of those ideas in both settings. Many people in the Diocese would not agree to having a female Priest in their Parish and indeed at the beginning of my work, the new Bishop who I got on with very well was willing to appoint female Priests unlike his predecessor, but did not feel it was possible for him to formally ordain them in the Cathedral. However his successor has now appointed a Bishop known as a Suffragen (or in effect a junior and sub regional Bishop) who is a woman and this is a fantastic breakthrough. There are of course more senior female Bishops in other parts of the Church of England who are Diocesan Bishops, but the first female Church of England Bishop, Libby Lane who was appointed as the Suffragen Bishop of Stockport was only appointed in late 2014 and so this appointment less than 6 years later is very substantial as the two Bishops that have moved on, creating the vacancies were both appointed before the Stockport decision was made.
The Revd Ruth Bushyager, currently Vicar of St Paul’s, Dorking in the Diocese of Guildford will serve as Bishop of Horsham. Ruth Bushyager was ordained priest in 2006 and after serving in the Southwell & Nottingham and Oxford dioceses became Area Missioner for the Kensington area in the Diocese of London in 2010. She has served as the Vicar of St Paul’s, Dorking since 2014 and now also serves as Area Dean of Dorking. Ruth is married to Ron, a psychotherapist, and they have two young daughters. There is a formal announcement here.
“I am really looking forward to getting to know the churches, chaplaincies and schools of the diocese and seeing how I can help to encourage and serve their mission,”said Ruth