New Bishop of Portsmouth announced
Downing Street has announced that the new Church of England Bishop of Portsmouth will be the Right Reverend Christopher Foster.
Bishop Christopher, 56, who is currently Bishop of Hertford in the St Albans diocese, will become the ninth Bishop of Portsmouth later this year. He succeeds the Rt Revd Dr Kenneth Stevenson, who was bishop for 14 years until he retired last autumn.
The new bishop was introduced on February 9 at the top of Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower, from which he could see much of his new diocese – 142 Church of England parishes in south-east Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Bishop Christopher spent the day touring the diocese to visit some of his future colleagues and parishioners. To see photos from his tour, click here.
He visited one of the parishes and met children at work in the classroom at St Matthew’s C of E Primary School, Blackmoor, near Petersfield – one of 49 church schools in the diocese. He met the vicar of St Matthew’s Church, the Revd Will Hughes, who is also chairman of governors, as well as staff, children and other governors.
He then joined future colleagues and members of the public for prayers in Portsmouth Cathedral with senior clergy and lay members of the diocese. The 1pm service, led by the dean of the cathedral, the Very Rev David Brindley, included prayers for Bishop Christopher’s future ministry.
And he completed his tour of the diocese by visiting Newport Minster in the Isle of Wight in the afternoon. He met representatives of the community including the Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff and leader of the Isle of Wight Council, as well as senior clergy and lay members of the island’s Anglican churches.
Bishop Christopher is looking forward to joining the diocese, but will not actually take up the role until he is officially installed as Bishop of Portsmouth at a special service in Portsmouth Cathedral later this year, at a date to be announced.
Bishop Christopher said: "I am honoured and excited to be invited to be Bishop of Portsmouth. Sally and I are looking forward to meeting the people of the diocese both in the churches and also in the wider community, and discerning how I and the church may serve them and the gospel. There will be much to discover as I get to know this part of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, the people, villages and towns.
“Christians are called to be visible and approachable, with the Bishop leading that witness and service. My role as Bishop of Portsmouth will be to lead a church that cares for people, encourages discipleship, shares in God's mission, and stands for truth and justice. So I shall enjoy the great variety of the diocese and its church life as I join with lay and ordained colleagues in living the good news of Jesus Christ."
The Ven Caroline Baston, Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight, served on the Crown Nominations Committee that recommended his appointment to the Queen and prime minister, alongside five others, lay and clergy, from Portsmouth diocese.
She said: “I am delighted that Bishop Christopher has accepted God’s call to be our next Bishop. I look forward very much to working with him on the island and across the diocese. Right from the beginning, those of us involved in the process felt that he had just the right mix of gifts and skills for the post.”
Bishop Christopher grew up in the industrial West Midlands and in Surrey before studying economics at Durham and Manchester Universities and briefly working as an economics lecturer.
He studied at Westcott House, Cambridge, before his ordination in 1980. He was a curate in Wolverhampton before he became chaplain of Wadham College, Oxford. He then became vicar of Christ Church, Southgate, in London (serving additionally as director of clergy continuing education), and then Sub Dean and residentiary canon at St Albans Cathedral in 1994.
He was consecrated as Bishop of Hertford in 2001, one of two suffragan (assistant) bishops to the Bishop of St Albans. He is Warden of Readers in the diocese, leading the training and work of licensed lay ministers, chairs the Mission and Pastoral Committee, and is especially involved with outreach among young people and the encouragement of their ministry and leadership.
In the wider community and Church he has been a working trustee and is now patron of a local media trust, chairs the finance committee of the University of Hertfordshire, chaired Churches Together in Hertfordshire and represents the Church of England at Churches Together in England.
He has a particular interest in the mission and ministry of the church in the 21st century through the work of lay and ordained Christians, which echoes the diocese’s current commitment to creating a new strategy for lay and ordained ministry to meet new challenges.
He is a keen Wolves fan and is looking forward to what may be a crucial relegation battle with Portsmouth at Fratton Park in May.
He married Sally four years ago following the death of his first wife, Julia, in 2001. He has two grown-up children, Richard and Miriam.
The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Dr Alan Smith, said: “I have been privileged to know Bishop Chris as a valued colleague, as a fellow Christian, and as a good friend.
“As suffragan Bishop of Hertford in this diocese, and formerly as Sub Dean at St Albans Cathedral, Chris has demonstrated outstanding leadership, as a pastor and teacher. He has been assiduous in his commitment to parish visiting and in keeping close contact with the clergy and churches in his care.
“Chris is a man of deep prayer, in whom there is an infectious enthusiasm for the furthering of God’s work. St Albans diocese has benefited immeasurably from his ministry and mission.
“Chris and Sally will be greatly missed, but they will leave with the prayers and good wishes of the many thousands with whom they have worked, worshipped and prayed in this place.”