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Cultural “first” appointments highlight diversity of Anglican Communion

Posted on: December 20, 2016 4:46 PM
The Bishop-designate of Woolwich, Dr Woyin Dorgu (left), with the Bishop of Southwark, Christopher Chessun.
Photo Credit: Diocese of Southwark

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Church of England has selected a Nigerian to be the next Bishop of Woolwich in the Diocese of Southwark, it was announced today. The Revd Prebendary Dr Woyin Karowei Dorgu will be the first Nigerian to be a stipendiary bishop in the Church of England when he is consecrated in Southwark Cathedral on St Patrick’s Day, 17 March 2017; and the first black person to be appointed bishop in the province for 20 years. Today’s announcement follows the appointment of the Revd Yaqoob Khushi as the first Pakistani priest in Wales, and the Very Revd Miguelina Howell as the first Hispanic Dean in the US-based Episcopal Church; and highlights the wide cultural diversity in the Anglican Communion.

While Dr Dorgu will be the first Nigerian to be a stipendiary full time bishop in the Church of England, he isn’t the C of E’s first Nigerian bishop - the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, is an honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of London.

In line with usual practice, Dr Dorgu’s appointment was announced this morning by 10 Downing Street, the official home and office of the UK’s Prime Minister – the appointment of Church of England bishops are 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.

Dr 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 Church in Tollington Park before becoming Vicar of St John the Evangelist in Upper Holloway. He was made a Prebendary (Honorary Canon) of London’s St Paul’s Cathedral earlier this year.

“Mosun [his wife] and I are delighted that Southwark, under the visionary leadership of Bishop Christopher and the area bishops, is a dynamic diocese of clergy and laity working hard for the Gospel of salvation for all through Jesus Christ,” he said. “We are greatly honoured to be invited to share and contribute to this dynamic ministry of bringing God’s love to the people of Woolwich and the Diocese. I look forward to getting to know the clergy, people and churches of the area in the coming months.”

The diocesan Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, said: “I am delighted that Karowei Dorgu is joining the episcopal team in Southwark Diocese as Bishop of Woolwich. 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. I look forward to working with him and to welcoming Karowei and Mosun to the Diocese.”

Father Yaqoob Khushi was appointed Priest of Llanfair Caereinion, Llanllugan & Manafon, in the Church in Wales’ Diocese of St Asaph, earlier this month. He had a long ministry in the Church of Pakistan before he moved to London, where he had been working as a hospital chaplain and assistant priest in Holy Trinity, Southall, prior to moving to Wales.

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The Revd Yaqoob Khushi and his family with the Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron.
Photo: Diocese of St Asaph

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

Miguelina Howell has spent her entire lifetime in the Episcopal Church – her first role was as an eight-year-old acolyte at a church near her home in the Dominican Republic; and in 1997, at the age of 20, she was at the pre-Lambeth Conference young adult gathering in England, where she met the then-Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey.

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 Episcopal Church in Patterson, New Jersey. It was a call that required her to leave her family and country and settle in the US where she would have to minister in English – which was not her first language. Last year she was invited to take become the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut, and she was installed in February – becoming the first Latino Dean in the Episcopal Church.

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The Very Revd Miguelina Howell is the first Latina dean in the Episcopal Church. She was installed as dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut, in February.
Photo: Amanda Trahan / ENS

Howell recognises the historic significance of her appointment, but stresses that her focus is being a child of God who is willing and 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 the Episcopal News Service this week. “Being a woman and a Latina are aspects of my identity that I cherish and I do recognise how those aspects enrich my ministry and allow me to serve God’s ever changing, multicultural church in a unique way.

“This has been the most exciting 10 months of my ministry in the United States. . . Every day is a new day. God is doing a new thing in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and I am blessed to be part of it.”