Next Bishop of Exeter Named
21 January 2014
The next Bishop of Exeter is the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, currently Bishop of Stockport in the Diocese of Chester. His appointment was announced this morning by the Prime Minister’s office.
Bishop Robert will become the 71st bishop of the Diocese of Exeter which comprises more than 500 parishes across the county of Devon.
Aged 59, he spent ten years as a Benedictine monk at Burford Priory in Oxfordshire, and then served as a parish priest in London before becoming Bishop of Stockport in 2008.
He said: “I’m immensely honoured and a little bit daunted to be chosen as the next Bishop of Exeter. From family holidays I know Devon to be a beautiful county, large and full of variety, and I’m looking forward to getting to know it better and above all getting to know the people of the county.
“I realise that the picture postcard image many have of Devon isn’t the whole truth. There are communities facing great hardships, through poverty and lack of employment, as well as the recent flooding which has affected many people and caused problems for the farming community. I’ve been moved by the stories I’ve heard of churches and individuals across the county getting stuck in and helping people.”
He pledged to spend time listening to people and explained that his priority will be to lead the Diocese in prayer, witness and service.
He said, “My ten years as a Benedictine monk taught me that all growth is rooted in prayer. God doesn’t want us just to exist or to fritter our lives away. He wants us to be fully alive and to serve people with joy.”
He is passionate about the church’s role in providing education for all, and looks forward to supporting the 130 church schools serving families all over Devon.
In his spare time he enjoys gardening and writing. He is the author of a number of books, including Pilgrim: a course recently launched by the Church of England to encourage people to explore the Christian faith.
Bishop Robert will spend the day visiting communities across Devon, including a church-run debt counselling centre in Plymouth, a foodbank in Okehampton and a farm in Iddisleigh, before attending evensong at Exeter Cathedral. For the full itinerary and photo opportunities see programme below.
Bishop Robert will be installed in Exeter Cathedral in July and will be living in Exeter. He succeeds Bishop Michael Langrish, who retired last year.
What a nice surprise! The next Bishop of Exeter is to be a Benedictine, a former monk of Burford Priory in Oxfordshire, England. I like his ‘opening speech’ at his election:
“My ten years as a Benedictine monk taught me that all growth is rooted in prayer. God doesn’t want us just to exist or to fritter our lives away. He wants us to be fully alive and to serve people with joy.”
This sounds a pretty good foundation on which to embark as a episcopal leader in the Church of England at this important time in it’s history. One hopes that he isn’t so inundated with bureaucratic governance that he has little time left to engage in prayer. However, one suspects that his monastic formation will have equipped him to balance his administrative duties with the prayer and sacramental under-girding that a bishop really needs in today’s religious and spiritual environment.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand