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New bishop of Bath and Wells says the next may be a woman

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 11, 2013

By Tristan Cork

The new Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Rt Rev Peter Hancock speaks with Prockters Farm owner Mark Besley in West Monkton, Somerset, as he explores his new diocese

The new Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Rt Rev Peter Hancock speaks with Prockters Farm owner Mark Besley in West Monkton, Somerset, as he explores his new diocese

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The new Bishop of Bath & Wells was unveiled by Downing Street yesterday, and immediately got stuck in to his Somerset patch with a whistle-stop tour of farms, schools and churches.

One of the first things the Rt Rev Peter Hancock said was that he hoped it would not be long before the next bishop's position would be filled by a woman, admitting that the general public could not understand why the church had not "got on with" its decision to allow women bishops.

The 58-year-old has risen steadily through the ranks of the Church of England, and was most recently a suffragan bishop in Hampshire, where he has spent most of his career.

Now moving to Somerset with his wife Jane, he said he was most looking forward to his diocese's rural nature, as well as exploring the coast.

The 79th bishop to hold the post, which is based at Bath Abbey and Wells Cathedral, said that by the time the 80th was appointed, it could easily be a woman.

He said the Church has "made a very clear decision" on women bishops.

"It is not a matter of 'should we', or 'will we', but 'when will we'. I am very confident it will not be long until the first woman bishop is consecrated," he said.

Despite church leaders and a vast majority of church-goers wanting to allow women bishops, the C of E's arcane voting structure saw the vote to make the change defeated at a controversial synod last year. Since then, church leaders have come together to force another vote next year.

"Young people, those of my children's generation cannot understand why the Church does not just get on with it. When the first woman bishop is consecrated I hope to be there to see it," added the new bishop, who takes over from the Rt Rev Peter Price, who retired at the end of June after 11 years in the Bishop's Palace in Wells.

Minutes after his appointment was announced yesterday, Bishop Peter visited a farm at West Monkton, near Taunton, before touring the diocese. That tour included visiting Weston-super-Mare Pier, eating a bag of chips for lunch on the prom, visiting a church project in the town and then meeting staff and pupils at a primary school near Bath.

He ended the day meeting diocesan staff at Bath, before seeing the Christmas Market outside the city's abbey.

"I am delighted to be coming to Bath and Wells; it's a wonderful part of the country," he said. "It will be a great privilege to meet all who live and work here in Somerset, to hear people's stories and to discover all that God is doing in their lives.

"The mission of the diocese is 'Changing Lives, Changing Churches for Changing Communities'," he added.

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