Church of England appoints its first black bishop in 20 years

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Prebendary Dr Woyin Karowei Dorgu to the Suffragan See of Woolwich,  Downing Street announced today.

According to a press release by the Diocese of London, where Dr Dorgu has served for all of his ordained ministry so far, he is the National Vice Chair of AMEN, the Anglican Minority Ethnic Network. Dorgu, who was born in Nigeria, worked as a medical doctor before ordination.

The Guardian newspaper notes that the only other black bishop serving in the Church of England is the Most Revd John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, who was consecrated Bishop of Stepney 20 years ago. Sentamu was born in Uganda.

BAME [black and minority ethnic] representation among clergy and senior leadership has long been a concern in the church. Last year, the proportion of BAME people among those embarking on the process of becoming a priest fell to 1.9%, compared with a share of the general population of about 15%. In previous years it has been 4-5%.

The church established a committee for minority ethnic Anglican concerns more than 30 years ago, which recently stepped up efforts to improve BAME representation. An initiative called Turning Up the Volume was set up in 2012 with the aim of doubling the number of BAME clergy in senior positions within 10 years.

Dorgu told the Guardian his appointment was “a small step in the right direction”, adding: “Quite a lot of Nigerian Christians [in the Woolwich area] are from an Anglican background. I hope my appointment will be a model. Seeing someone from a similar background could be a catalyst for dialogue between the C of E and black majority churches and Nigerians looking for a spiritual home.”

…Dorgu said he did not believe the C of E was institutionally racist, adding that he preferred the term “unconscious bias”. “If the church was racist, I wouldn’t be where I am today. The church is making an effort to be more inclusive.”

Dorgu will be consecrated at Southwark Cathedral in March.

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