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New Bishop of Birkenhead welcomed by survivors of abuse as one 'who recognises that corruption in the Church needs to be faced'

by Cara Bentley
Diocese of Rochester - Banner image
Diocese of Rochester

The next Bishop of Birkenhead, Venerable Archdeacon Julie Conalty, current Archdeacon of Tonbridge, has spoken of the strong sense of calling for the role because of its emphasis on victims and survivors of abuse. 

After being appointed on Thursday, Archeacon Julie said: "What Chester has asked for is bishops who keep survivors central to their safeguarding work, the lost central to their mission work, and Christ central to all that they are."

Julie's appointment is one of two suffragan bishop posts announced this week in the Diocese of Chester. She has been the Bishop of Rochester's lead for safeguarding for three years. 

One survivor and campaigner, Gilo, co-editor of the book Letters to a Broken Church, was invited by Julie to be one of her referees for the job, something he saw as a hugely encouraging sign of her commitment to survivors. He said: "I am not a church insider, so I approached the reference in terms of my experience of Julie's honest engagement and compassion towards survivors.
 
"If the Church were seeking someone who would conform to the status quo, not speak out of turn or rock boats but deliver sound-bites - then I knew they would not be ready to embrace the witness to truth and justice that Julie brings.
 
"I think many of us are confident that Julie will help accelerate change in the Church. She takes the need for culture and structure change and the need for justice and rebuilding of lives very seriously."
 
Referring to a speech she gave at a meeting of General Synod in 2020, Gilo said: "Anyone who heard her courageous speech will remember the electrifying moment she called out the Church's insurer and lawyer for their unethical strategy and behaviour. 
 
"She tells it as it is because she instinctively knows that the tenacity of the Church has to match the tenacity of survivors. And she is one of very few senior figures who recognises that corruption in the Church needs to be faced."

Martin Sewell, a member of General Synod in the Diocese of Rochester and an advocate for victims and survivors of Church-context abuse said: "Archdeacon Julie has been an important agent of change within the Safeguarding culture of the Church both nationally and locally, enabling the broken to begin to believe that the Church can be trusted again.
 
"She has developed a team culture centred on integrity, victim welfare, and fair process for all. That will be what she takes to Birkenhead and leaves behind her in Rochester."
 
Archdeacon Julie was educated at the University of Sheffield and was ordained in 2000. 
 
She moved to the Diocese of Rochester in 2012 when she was appointed vicar at Christ Church Erith. She took up her current role as Archdeacon of Tonbridge in 2017.  

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