Church of England appoints Sarah Mullally as first woman Bishop of London
Mullally’s appointment will be controversial, with her predecessor even refusing to ordain women priests
A former nurse was appointed the Bishop of London on Monday, the first time the senior role within the Church of England has gone to a woman.
Sarah Mullally, 55, will be installed early next year as the 133rd Bishop of London, the third most powerful job in the Anglican church. Her appointment was approved by the British government and Queen Elizabeth.
At a news conference in St Paul’s Cathedral, Mullally said she was “delighted and slightly terrified” at her nomination, which comes as the church is trying to diversify its hierarchy. Libby Lane was consecrated the church’s first female bishop in 2015.
“If our churches are to be more relevant to our community, this means that we need churches that are led by priests who are women, who come from black, Asian and ethnic minority groups,” Mullally said. “To have churches that are confident, we need local ministers and priests who are enabled to be the best that they are. London could be that gift to the rest of the Church of England to demonstrate how unity can work.”
Mullally conceded that her appointment would not please church traditionalists. Her predecessor, Richard Chartres, refused to ordain female priests.
“One of the wonderful things about London and its church is that it reflects the diversity of the church, and I am very respectful of those who, for theological reasons, cannot accept my role as a priest or a bishop,” Mullally said at the news conference.
“My belief is that church diversity throughout London should flourish and grow; everybody should be able to find a spiritual home; and that those who minister should be able to do so to the best of her ability,” she added.
Wonderful news - Bishop Sarah brings to this remarkable ministry in this great city an extraordinary experience and profound gifts, which are guided by her faith in Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of all that she is. #BishopofLondon https://t.co/dt2EyuHpYV
— Justin Welby ن (@JustinWelby) December 18, 2017
Mullally was the third woman to become a bishop in the church, according to Forward in Faith, a group that opposes having women in the priesthood. There are 11 others. Britain began ordaining female priests in 1994.
Forward in Faith maintains that “women and men are equal, but in the roles of father and mother, bride and bridegroom, and in Christian symbolism, they are not interchangeable,” according to its website.
It says “ordaining women as bishops and priests overturns the tradition of Christian symbolism that is rooted in the Old Testament, the teaching and example of Christ, and the message of the New Testament.”
Mullally is married with two children. She became a priest in 2006 after spending more than 35 years in the National Health Service, Britain’s publicly funded health care system. She is currently the Bishop of Crediton, in Devon, in southwest England.
The leader of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, described Mullally’s appointment as “wonderful news.” In a tweet, he said “Bishop Sarah brings to this remarkable ministry in this great city an extraordinary experience and profound gifts, which are guided by her faith in Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of all that she is.”