A historic first: Iranian Guli Francis-Dehqani named Bishop of Loughborough


The Revd Canon Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani is the first woman from an ethnic minority to be named a bishop in the Church of England, reports Anglican News.

As the first Bishop of Loughborough, Guli will take a full role in the work of the Church across Leicester and Leicestershire, but the post will also have a focus on supporting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) clergy, lay workers and congregations in the county.

Francis-Dehqani is also the daughter of a bishop, and her family fled Iran to Great Britain in 1980 after her mother was shot and wounded and her brother killed. From Church Times:

Canon Francis-Dehqani was born in Iran, where her father, the late Hassan Dehqani-Tafti, was the first Iranian Anglican bishop, and the first President Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Her appointment is another step toward greater diversity in the Church of England. The Church Times:

She praised the vision and leadership of her new diocesan, the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, in recognising the Church’s lack of diversity, but said that the C of E as a whole had been far too slow to act.

“In a sense, the Church has been talking about it for 20 to 30 years, and we haven’t really seen the changes that we should have done,” she said on Tuesday. “We are still living with the legacy of the 1950s and ’60s when we got it badly wrong and we did not offer a welcome to immigrants.”

It was not good enough simply to hope, or even to pray, for change, Canon Francis-Dehqani said: instead, it was high time that the C of E began to take some risks and do “things that might make us feel quite uncomfortable” to increase ethnic-minority representation and ensure that non-white Christians felt welcome in parishes.

Once consecrated, Canon Francis-Dehqani will bring the number of ethnic-minority bishops in the Church up from two to three. When the Bishop of Woolwich, the Rt Revd Karowei Dorgu, was consecrated in March, he became the first person from an ethnic minority to join the College of Bishops since the present Archbishop of York became the Bishop of Stepney in 1996.

Her background informs her new ministry in a number of ways:

Canon Francis-Dehqani’s experience of coming to the UK as an immigrant, and struggling to fit, will help her to minister to ethnic-minority groups in the diocese of Leicester, she suggested. “I have a sense of what it is to be on the margins, and the work it takes to find a sense of belonging.

“My particular experience and background gives me quite an unusual and unique understanding of issues that arise out of bringing different cultures together.”

Canon Francis-Dehqani, who is 51, worked as a religion producer for the BBC before training for the ministry from 1995 to 1998. After a curacy in the diocese of Southwark, she worked as a music-college and school chaplain for two years.


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