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United Kingdom

Church of England: first husband and wife team of bishops

The UK's first husband and wife team of bishops has been created with the appointment of a new Bishop of Hull.

SOURCES The Telegraph LONDON 25 MARCH 2015 23:00 h GMT+1
Frank White, Canon Alison White Reverend Canon Alison White, with her husband Bishop Frank White / The Telegraph

The Rev Canon Alison White, 58, is to become the Church of England’s second female bishop, but the role will mean she will see far less of her husband of 30 years, the Right Rev Frank White, who is the assistant Bishop of Newcastle, writes The Telegraph.

The couple, who currently live in Riding Mill, Northumberland, are to relocate to Hull. But as a result, the Rt Revd White faces a 150-mile commute to Newcastle, forcing him to stay there several nights a week.

Rev Canon White acknowledged that she and her husband had given careful consideration to the job, given his own role and the hectic schedule that will ensue.

But said she hoped her appointment was the next step to making woman bishops an everyday part of Church life. In a message posted online, she wrote: "You may have noticed that I am married to a Bishop. This may seem excessive! "You would think that one in a family is more than enough. Believe me, this has crossed our minds.

"Actually, I am married to Frank and that is a gift. Both our lives have been made rich by this vocation to marriage which we have been working on together with joy for over thirty years.”

The Rev Libby Lane became the Church of England's first female bishop when she was consecrated as the eighth Bishop of Stockport in January.

Rev Canon White said she knew Bishop Lane and was hoping to take some time to swap notes with her.

"I'm hugely grateful to Libby. I don't think I would have wanted to be the first woman to be called into this ministry,” she said.

"Won't that be wonderful when, in the best sense, it isn't newsworthy because we're women, it's newsworthy because of what we're called into. It's step by step in making it business as usual."

Canon Alison White

Rev Canon White, who grew up in the North East, read English at Durham University before going on to study theology at Cranmer Hall, Durham and then undertaking an MA in theology at Leeds University. She was ordained a deacon in 1987, becoming a priest in 1994.

She was once part of a professional theatre company based at the city's church of St Nicholas and is an avid reader and school governor.

Announcing her appointment, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said: “This is a joyous day. I am delighted to be welcoming Alison as the next Bishop of Hull.

"Whilst she will be working with others across the Diocese of York encouraging faith in urban life, she will have particular responsibilities for the vibrant city of Hull and the glorious coastline and countryside of the East Riding.

"Alison is a person of real godliness and wisdom – it is fantastic that she has accepted God’s call to make Christ visible together with all of us in this Diocese of York.”

The Rt Revd White, 65, is currently acting Bishop of Newcastle in the Church of England. He was a social worker for nine years before becoming ordained in 1980.

His wife will be consecrated on July 3 at York Minster. She succeeds the Right Revd Richard Frith, who became Bishop of Hereford last November.

The Church's General Synod formally approved plans late last year to ordain women bishops after years of division and in the face of stiff opposition.




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