A priest who is passionate about planting new congregations and creating confident witnesses for Jesus Christ who can become ‘beacons’ in their communities has been chosen to be the next Anglican Suffragan Bishop of Lancaster.
Bolton-born Rev. Dr Jill Duff, 45, is currently the founding Director of the St Mellitus College, North West, which is the first full-time ordination course in the North West for over 40 years, offering context-based ordination training and theology courses.
She went to Bolton School before studying at Christ College, Cambridge and Worcester College, Oxford. Several years in the oil industry followed before Jill trained for the ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.
Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, made the appointment following consultation with a representative group from the Diocese.
The Archbishop of York has welcomed the announcement which was approved by Her Majesty The Queen and posted to the Downing Street website at 10am. Jill succeeds Rt Rev. Geoff Pearson, who retired last July. The date of her consecration at York Minster is June 29, 2018.
The Bishop of Lancaster-designate was introduced by Bishop Julian at Marsh Community Centre, Lancaster, this morning, alongside the Suffragan Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev. Philip North. Joining the Bishops were other members of the Bishop’s Leadership Team.
Later, Jill will move on to the region’s Anglican Cathedral in Blackburn where the Dean of Blackburn, The Very Rev. Peter Howell-Jones, will introduce her to members of the Cathedral Chapter over lunch.
In the afternoon Jill will visit St James’ Lower Darwen. This church is home to the Diocese’s new Leadership Hub in outer estates ministry for both lay and ordained training, part of an ambitious programme aimed at deprived urban estates in Lancashire, greenlit for funding by the national Church towards the end of 2017.
The Leadership Hub has been developed in conjunction with St Mellitus College and Jill has already been working closely with the Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev. Philip North and St James’ vicar Rev. Tim Horobin on the project. The rest of the day is given over to private appointments.
Introducing herself, Jill said: “I am thrilled and humbled to be appointed the eighth Bishop of Lancaster. This is a vibrant and exciting part of the Church of England with its Vision 2026: Healthy Churches Transforming Communities. Being born and brought up in Lancashire, the region has been on my heart in prayer for many years.
“Time and again I have seen how, with prayer and perseverance, churches can grow and it will be good to be part of a courageous Diocese that is looking to the future with real hope.
Jill continued: “I’ve been attracted by the sheer variety of Blackburn Diocese – in the range of its parishes, settings, and church traditions.
“At the same time I realise there are certain aspects of my episcopal ministry that some won’t feel able in all good conscience to recognise.
“I understand and respect the position of my brothers and sisters in Christ who do not accept the ministry of ordained women in leadership, whether sacramental or teaching.
“There is so much more that unites than divides us, and I am committed to working together for mutual flourishing. May this bring hope to our church at this time.”
Jill explained that she is attracted to the brief that the Bishop of Lancaster holds for Vision 2026 around the theme of ‘being witnesses’.
She commented: “A leader in mission is the dimension of the episcopal calling which I believe is most in line with my giftings and I believe the Diocese is so well placed, with all its diversity in parishes and church traditions, to raise church planting aspirations for the Church of England here and beyond the boundaries of Blackburn Diocese.
“I am passionate about planting new congregations and creating confident witnesses for Christ who can be beacons in their communities, sharing the Gospel message meaningfully in their own voices. The ambition currently in Lancashire is to have 50 new congregations of all traditions by 2026 – maybe we will look back and find God in his generosity has surprised us. Vision 2026 is impossible without God – and that’s a good place to be.”
The Bishop-designate is married to Rev. Prof. Jeremy Duff, who is Principal of the St Padarn’s Institute in the Church in Wales, and they have two sons, Robbie, aged 13 and Harry, aged 10.
Jill said: “I am deeply blessed by the persistent encouragement of my husband Jeremy and sons.
“As a mother, one of my other great passions is work with young people, and there is so much to build on in this Diocese, not least with the Diocese’s fantastic network of church schools and the fact that young people are the heart of the work for Vision 2026.
“Throughout my ministry I’ve found working with children and teenagers immensely energising; their responsiveness feeds the ways that the C of E is called to ‘proclaim the Gospel afresh in each generation’ and I look forward to seeing how that Gospel calling will play out in the coming years in this Diocese.”
Introducing Jill to the Diocese as the future Anglican Bishop of Lancaster, Diocesan Bishop Rt Rev. Julian Henderson said today: “Bishop Philip and I are delighted to welcome Jill as a new member of the episcopal team here in the Diocese.
“She comes to us with a wealth of experience; a passion for prayer and for spreading the Gospel. In Jill we have a new Bishop who will make a significant contribution to the life of the Church of England in Lancashire and we look forward to her consecration in York in June.
Bishop Julian added: “I want to make it clear that I see Jill’s appointment as another sign that the Anglican Church in Lancashire is modelling the principles of ‘mutual flourishing’ in the Church of England.
“I will soon have a female episcopal colleague alongside another from the traditionalist catholic constituency who will both serve the whole Diocese and will have my wholehearted support in carrying out their important work.
“Please remember Jill and her family in your prayers as she prepares for this important new role.”
Echoing Bishop Julian’s words, Rt Rev. Philip North added: “The commitment to mutual flourishing enshrined in the five guiding principles makes possible the kind of fruitful working relationship that I am looking forward to having with Jill in her new role. I am convinced that she will support and encourage Anglicans in Lancashire of all traditions.
“Jill and I have worked together on the development of the Leadership Hub at St James and we co-hosted a seminar in Preston just two weeks ago for clergy from the most deprived parishes in Lancashire.
Bishop Philip concluded: “Her insight and clear-sightedness about the ways we can be reaching out to people in deprived urban settings was tangible and the 40 or so clergy who attended were enthused by her encouraging and supportive words.”
The Archbishop of York, The Most Rev. and Rt Hon. John Sentamu, has added his voice to those welcoming the new Bishop-designate of Lancaster saying: “I am delighted that Jill will be joining the Episcopal Team in the Diocese of Blackburn. As Bishop of Lancaster she will bring her gifts as a Theological Educator to refresh theological wisdom in the Diocese.
“We are all rejoicing at her nomination and praying for her to flourish in her calling as Bishop in the Church of God.
“Our prayers too are with the family as they adjust to her new role as Bishop. Her Ordination as Bishop in the Church of God, in York Minster in June, will be a celebration for us all. Praise the Lord!”
More information is available at the Diocese of Blackburn website.