The Church of England has appointed Nigeria-born Woyin Karowei Dorgu as its first black bishop after twenty years.Dorgu will be the 13th bishop of Woolwich and will be consecrated at SouthwarkCathedral on 17 March.
Dorgu, a trained medical doctor in Lagos before being ordained, was brought up in a Christian family but said as a teenager he rebelled against the gospel and left the church.
Since his ordination, he has been a minister in London parishes.
Speaking at a press conference at the Cathedral, Dorgu, born and brought up in Nigeria, and ordained in the UK, said he intends to encourage BAME [black and minority ethnic] vocations and more participation in ministry.
He said one of his priorities as bishop would be to celebrate the racial diversity of the Woolwich area.
Dorgu said, “I will celebrate the diversity in race, ability, gender, sexuality and class … Celebrating our differences is a gift.
“My appointment is a small step in the right direction.
“Quite a lot of Nigerian Christians [in the Woolwich area] are from an Anglican background. The only other black bishop in the Church of England is John Sentamu, now archbishop of York – second in the church hierarchy.
“Although I and Sentamu are the only black bishops, I would not describe the position as lonely. There is a lot of support and friendship.
“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.”
“I do not believe the C of E was institutionally racist, I prefer 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.”
He described himself as an evangelical, saying “I will fly no party colours. I will promote unity, respect, integrity and collaboration among different traditions.”
On the issue of sexuality which has divided the Church of England and the global Anglican Communion for two decades, Dorgu said, “I stand firmly behind the church’s official position.
“The church refuses to conduct same-sex church weddings on the traditional biblical grounds that marriage is between a man and a woman, and its insistence that gay clergy must be celibate.”