Indian-born pastor among youngest bishops in CofE as denomination aims to hit BAME targets

Canterbury Cathedral, Church of England
Canterbury Cathedral, England. |

The Church of England has ordained a 42-year-old India-born priest as a bishop as part of its plans to increase the number of clergy from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The Archbishop of Canterbury last week consecrated the Right Rev. Malayil Lukose Varghese Muthalaly, also known as Saju, at a service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, The Telegraph Online reported.

“I have been preparing for this service very much aware of what a great privilege it is that people around the world are praying for this moment,” the newly ordained bishop, one of the youngest in the denomination, was quoted as saying. “There is a very strong sense of the wider church affirming this calling.”

Saju grew up in the Syrian Orthodox Church in South India. He was educated at the Southern Asia Bible College in the southern Indian city of Bangalore and trained for ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.

Saju was appointed Associate Vicar at St Thomas,’ Kendal and St Catherine’s, Crook in the Diocese of Carlisle in 2011. He has served at St Mark’s, Gillingham and St Mary’s Island in the Diocese of Rochester since 2015, initially as priest-in-charge before being appointed vicar in 2019.

Last April, a report titled From Lament to Action was released by an anti-racism taskforce set up by the archbishops of Canterbury and York calling for the denomination’s governing bodies to have at least 15% of minority ethnic representation by 2030, according to The Guardian.

If immediate action is not taken, it would be “potentially a last straw” for clergy and worshippers from minority ethnic backgrounds, with “devastating effects” on the future of the church, the report said.

“Racial sin dehumanizes people by taking away their fundamental God-given human dignity. Wherever racial sin flourishes systematically, either in society or in our church, we must challenge it together,” it said.

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said at the time, “This may seem like a small step to some, but it ensures that a diversity of voices and experiences enriches the discussions of the House of Bishops as we seek to be a church that truly embraces people of global majority heritage at every level of its life.

“I am grateful for the work that has gone into making this possible. This is a step on the journey. I look forward to the blessings this change enables and the way forward it opens up.”

Among the CofE's 53 bishops, four are from U.K. minority ethnic or global majority heritage backgrounds, Christian Today reported earlier this month, adding that, in addition to the existing four UKME/GMH bishops, another three suffragan bishops have been invited to join meetings of the House as observers.

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