An evangelical, known as a ‘children’s advocate’, has been appointed as the new bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.
The Rt Rev Paul Butler (53) who is currently the Bishop of Southampton – a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Winchester – will replace the Rt Rev George Cassidy who retires next month.
The new bishop designate will be the first bishop to be enthroned under the new title of the Diocese.
The announcement was made from the top of a double decker bus, before the bishop set off on a tour around the diocese.
Bishop Paul has been actively involved in ministry to children throughout his life and in 2005, the Archbishop of Canterbury invited him to become an ‘advocate for children’ on behalf of the Church of England’s bishops – a role he will continue in the new diocesan post.
Paul Butler worked for the controversial evangelical Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) for two years when he travelled across the Midlands, the north of England and Northern Ireland supporting the organisation’s evangelistic work among students.
The group, which runs Christian Unions in universities up and down the country, has been involved in battles with Student Unions and Guilds over issues of equal opportunities and its attitude to lesbian and gay students. UCCF also requires members to sign an evangelical doctrinal statement which excludes some Christians from joining.
Bishop Paul also trained for ordination at the evangelical Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, which was recently the subject of a high profile dispute. It is one of the Church of England’s six evangelical training colleges and there was controversy over the management style of a new principal, Richard Turnbull. More than a third of its staff resigned, as many feared he wished to take the college in an even more theologically conservative direction.
The bishop has also been an Inner London Evangelist for the evangelical Scripture Union. This included time on a range of inner London estates and work with the Black majority churches. He was appointed deputy head of Mission at the Scripture Union in 1992.
Bishop Paul has served on the Council of the Rwanda Mission/Mid Africa Ministry from 1988-99 and 2000-1. In 2001 he became a Trustee of the Church Mission Society (CMS) and was appointed as an Honorary Canon of Byumba, Rwanda. He has visited Rwanda, Uganda & Burundi almost every year since 1997, a connection which started from a friendship with a Ugandan at theological college.
His work with children has spanned the whole of his ministry. Until 2004, he ran an annual Scripture Union camp for children in Kent, which he said was instrumental in helping his own children and many others establish their faith.
He said: “Seeking to help children and young people discover who God has made them to be and how much He loves them, has been a key part of my whole Christian life since I came to a personal living faith in Jesus Christ as a teenager. I long that every child can grow up fulfilling their God-given potential. In being given the enormous honour of becoming the next Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham I greatly look forward to working with both church and community to see this happening. I am returning to a county I grew to love in my previous years living here. I will seek to be out and about across the county and city learning what is happening in both church and community amongst every section of the community. The good news of Jesus Christ is transforming for both individuals and communities; I long to share in the task of making this good news known to people of all ages and backgrounds.”