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Appointment of the Bishop to Prisons

Posted on: May 16, 2001 11:49 AM
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The Bishop of Worcester, The Rt Rev Peter Selby has been appointed The Bishop to Prisons. He will take up this appointment in September, succeeding the Rt Rev Robert Hardy, who will retire as Bishop of Lincoln later this year.

The Bishop to Prisons is licensed jointly by the Archbishops of Canterbury, York and Wales. The position involves:

  • being a resource and offering support to the Chaplain General and the Prison Service Chaplaincy,
  • being a bridge between the world of prison and the Church
  • being an advocate for Christian values and concerns within the criminal justice system.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said: "I regard the work of The Bishop to Prisons as a vital and strategic part of the Church's care for those in our society with some of the greatest human and spiritual needs. The Bishop of Lincoln has provided strong leadership for the last eight years and I am delighted that someone with Bishop Peter's pastoral skill, incisive mind and strong leadership will continue this vital work."

The appointment was recently announced of Rev William Noblett as the new Chaplain General to Prisons, in succession to the Ven. David Fleming.

Throughout his ministry, Bishop Peter Selby, has had a concern for prisons and prisoners. He said: "I was always interested in prisons. I trained for the priesthood in the USA and in 1965 I did a placement at San Quentin Prison in California for three months. This was a life-changing and important time. When I moved to Southwark Diocese I was Chair of the Prisons Group and in Durham Diocese I had links with Acklington Prison. I began my ministry in Worcester Diocese with a Eucharist in Long Lartin Jail and every Christmas I return there to preside at a Eucharist on Christmas Day."

Note for Editors

Biographical Details of the Bishop of Worcester

The Rt Revd Dr Peter Stephen Maurice Selby

Born: 1941


St John's College, Oxford BA 64 MA 67 in Philosophy and Psychology
Episcopal Theological School Cambridge Massachusetts BD 66
Kings College London PhD 1975
Ordination Training at Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge Massachusetts 1964-6 (including clinical training at San Quentin State Prison, California)
Deaconed in 1966 and priested in 1967

Family details:

Married to Jan, who is a professional counsellor and leads training courses in spirituality and spiritual direction. They have three grown up children, Ben, Suzanne and Naomi.

Published work:

Look for the Living - The Corporate Nature of Resurrection Faith (SCM) 1976
Liberating God - Private Care and Public Struggle (SPCK) 1983
BeLonging - Challenge to a Tribal Church (SPCK) 1991
Rescue: Jesus and Salvation Today (SPCK) 1995
Grace and Mortgage - The Language of Faith and the Debt of the World (DLT) 1997

Biographical summary

Peter Selby's parents met in London where they had come as refugees when Hitler came to power in their native Germany and Austria. He grew up in north west London and although his parents were members of the Church of England they did not at that time attend church regularly. His church involvement began with confirmation classes. He also pays tribute to the well-known Biblical scholar John Austin Baker for helping him to take the Christian faith seriously. John Austin Baker was a curate in his home parish. By the time Peter Selby went to Oxford he was already accepted by the Church for ordination training. He did his theological training in America during the height of the Civil Rights struggle. After his return to Britain he was ordained in St Paul's Cathedral in 1966.

His first post was as a curate at All Saints Church, Queensbury in Edgware. Here he met his wife Jan, who was in the choir. From there he moved to work for eight years as a member of the lay training team in the Diocese of Southwark, where he was involved in Christian adult education with parishes and other groups and as Vice-Principal of the Southwark Ordination Course, before moving to be the Canon Missioner for Newcastle Diocese from 1977-84. This work gave him an opportunity to reflect on the relationship between Christian faith and people's everyday life. The Bishop is concerned to explore ways in which the Church can structure itself so as to support Christians in their daily life and work.

In 1984, he moved back to the Diocese of Southwark to be Area Bishop of Kingston and was responsible for an area stretching from Lambeth to Brixton, through Wandsworth to Kingston-on-Thames and Richmond. "Among the main concerns of my job were the social tensions in south London and the problems facing the black community. I also worked hard at developing a collegial style of working with the clergy - we worked together at our expectations of each other." He chaired the Penal Affairs Group in the Diocese of Southwark.

In 1992 he moved north again to be a Professorial Fellow in Applied Theology at Durham University where he wrote his most recent book Grace and Mortgage - The Language of Faith and the Debt of the World. This reflects the interest he has credit and debt, both personal and global. He believes this is an increasingly worrying social problem, where in the 1980s debt increased five-fold and many Third World nations are enslaved by debt. The Bishop writes:"As I look back over my life, at those points where I've given or received pastoral help, we've hardly ever talked about financial matters, which actually dominate our lives in one way or another. We even find it easier to talk about sex than money!"

The Bishop was also a member of the working party which produced the Churches' report on Unemployment and the Future of Work. He writes:"Unemployment is a major concern for Christians and society as whole. Unemployment is unacceptable, but the fact that unemployment has become acceptable is even more unacceptable!"

The Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby was appointed to be Bishop of Worcester on 31st January 1997. He began his ministry in Worcester on 7th September 1997 with a eucharist at HMP Long Lartin on the day he was inducted and installed in Worcester Cathedral. One of the inmates presented him with an illuminated scroll at the end of that eucharist, which is one of Bishop Peter's most treasured mementos of that day.