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Diocese of Leicester
Diocese of Leicester
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UK News

Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani to be next Bishop of Chelmsford

by Cara Bentley

The current Bishop of Loughborough will take on the role of Bishop in Chelmsford next year, the post where Stephen Cottrell, now Archbishop of York, used to serve. 

Bishop Guli, currently a suffragan (junior) bishop, told Premier she is extremely excited to get to know the area as the whole appointment process has been on the video calling programme Zoom: "I'm not sure I've ever been to Essex!" she said. 

"I know East London a little bit more. I have a sister who used to live in Forest Gate, which is in East London, for about 25 years so we often visited and I remember it very fondly: the sights and the sounds and the smells and the diversity. 

"My priority, when I eventually get there and start the role, is really to spend time getting to know people, gathering the stories of the diocese, getting a sense of the culture and then beginning to get alongside others so that we can continue the work that's already been going on there of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and serving our communities and working well in partnership with others."

Credit: Diocese of Leicester

Bishop Guli has been the Bishop of Loughborough since 2017 and has specific responsibilities in supporting clergy and congregation members from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background. 

She was born in Iran and grew up in a small, persecuted Christian community there, where her father was also an Anglican bishop. Her brother was murdered after the Iranian Revolution and her family fled to the UK when she was a teenager. She went to Nottingham University and then Bristol, before training to becoming a priest and getting a doctorate in theology. 

Having spoken a lot in her current role about issues of race within the Church, Francis-Dehqani told Premier she does want to see the church diversify: "The only way we'll do that is by being open, each of us, to being changed by those that we encounter. We can't keep talking about diversity if what we're hoping is that people will just come in and become a little bit more like us. We have to be open to real change and real transformation. I'll continue using my voice for those kinds of things and also for developing strong links in the community. 

"I'm very committed to working well with ecumenical colleagues, interfaith colleagues, civic and and social leaders of all descriptions. The Church of England increasingly has to work in partnership with others as we seek to challenge the structural injustices that are around us, as well as meeting the needs of those who are most marginalised, always, of course, expecting to meet Christ coming towards us and meeting God already active in perhaps the most unexpected of places."

 

Speaking about her aims for Chelmsford, she said: "For me, the focus is to continue being a church, through all our Christian communities, that are outward focused - less anxious about our own survival and sitting light to our internal problems and divisions and keeping the focus on the wider world and of meeting the needs that are around us now."

Bishop Guli has been a chaplain at the Royal Academy of Music and had an Inter-faith role at the University of Northampton. 
She is married to Canon Lee Francis-Dehqani, who is also ordained, and they have three children, one at university and twins at school.

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