New Bishop of Horsham is Mirfield Man: Fr. Mark Sowerby

The Diocese of Chichester have been permitted to announce the replacement for Bishop Lindsay, now at Walsingham. His name is Fr. Mark Sowerby who trained at the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield.

The release says:

An opera-loving Yorkshireman with significant experience in the field of vocations and ministry has been named as the next Bishop of Horsham.

The appointment of the Revd Mark Sowerby, currently Team Rector at St Wilfrid’s, Harrogate, was announced by Downing Street at 11am this morning (Friday, June 19th).

Fr Mark read theology at King’s College, London before training at The College of the Resurrection, Mirfield. He was ordained deacon in 1987 and then priest in 1988 in Ripon Cathedral where he had also been baptised.

He was curate first in Knaresborough and then in Darwen with Tockholes in the Blackburn Diocese. He remained in that diocese to become vicar of St Mary Magdalen’s, Accrington as well as chaplain to St Christopher’s CE High School and Accrington Victoria Hospital.

From 1993-1996 he was also Assistant Diocesan Director of Ordinands in Blackburn Diocese. In 1997, Fr Mark moved to London, serving as a Selection Secretary, running Selection Conferences (now called Advisory Panels) on behalf of the House of Bishops. He was also the Church of England’s principal Vocations Officer, supporting the dioceses of the Church of England in their work to foster vocations to ordained and authorised lay ministries.

In 2001, Fr Mark returned to his native diocese and to St Wilfrid’s, Harrogate (Ripon and Leeds diocese), where he became Team Rector in the newly established Team Ministry in 2004. Over the same period he has served on the Diocesan Synod, the General Synod, and the Ministry Council of the Church of England as well as on the council of the theological college at Mirfield. For the last five years, he has also served as one of the House of Bishops’ Inspectors of Theological Colleges and courses.

Fr Mark is married to Ruth, an experienced RS teacher, and they have three teenage daughters, Bethan, Pippa and Anna. Mark and Ruth enjoy cooking and operas – both musical and soap.

Fr Mark will officially become the new bishop at a service in Chichester Cathedral on July 25th.

He was introduced to diocesan staff and others at a welcome reception held at Church House in Hove.

The area for which Mark will be responsible as Bishop of Horsham includes churches in Horsham, Midhurst, Petworth, Westbourne, Worthing, Arundel, Bognor, Storrington, East Grinstead, Cuckfield, Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath, and Crawley.

The Bishop of Horsham is an area bishop in the Diocese of Chichester, which covers the whole of Sussex, and he works alongside the diocesan Bishop of Chichester (the Rt Revd John Hind) and the area Bishop of Lewes (the Rt Revd Wallace Benn).

Fr Mark succeeds the Rt Revd Lindsay Urwin, who left earlier in the year to become priest administrator at the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham and an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Norwich. He will be the fifth Bishop of Horsham since 1968.

The Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Revd John Hind, commented:

“I am delighted at the appointment of The Revd Mark Sowerby as Bishop of Horsham. Bishop Wallace and I look forward to welcoming Mark, Ruth and their daughters to the diocese.

“Fr Mark has long parish experience and has also served as an assistant director of ordinands in two dioceses as well as a vocations officer and selection secretary for Ministry Division. He is a member of the General Synod. All of these provide a solid background as he takes on this new role.

“Mark will bring significant gifts to the diocese based on his experience, and I am confident that his appointment begins an exciting new chapter in the ongoing life of our diocese.

“It is an especial additional gift that the Archbishop of Canterbury has decided to come to Chichester to ordain Mark bishop in the Cathedral on 25th July.”

Fr Mark Sowerby commented:

“I am absolutely thrilled to be offered this wonderful opportunity to move here and be a part of the Church at work in Sussex. I am as delighted as I am surprised to be moving to Chichester diocese as Area Bishop of Horsham.

“The Diocese of Chichester, like the Diocese of Ripon, was first founded by Saint Wilfrid, a man with a passion for church unity but little personal warmth. I am glad to be going to assist the present Bishop of Chichester who shares Wilfrid’s longing for Christian unity though also with the personal warmth that the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds has come to appreciate in Wilfrid’s successor here.

“I am very much looking forward to getting to know the people of West Sussex and to working with Bishop John Hind in the service of Christ and his people.”

My comment:

When someone I know said that he wanted to train at the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, someone else said “Oh, I can see you don’t plan to be a Bishop then!” as Mirfield trained priests for parish ministry first. If you wanted a pointy hat, you went to Wescott or Cuddesdon. For that reason, Mirfield was right for me: a solid foundation of priestly formation. I know Fr Mark only peripherally, but our encounters have been good and believe he will be an effective Bishop, but of course his record on the ordination of women as either priests (Harrogate is A&B, although not affiliated to Forward in Faith) or Bishops (see voting record on recent synod vote) means that there will be little change in my neighbouring diocese and the vocations of women will continue to be stifled or mischanneled. I continue to pray for the diocese that sent me for ordination and eventually that there may be a small chink in the complete anti-women makeup of Chichester.