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New Bishop of Durham vows to fight 'scourge' of poverty
TACKLING the “scourge” of poverty in the North-East will be a key priority, the next Bishop of Durham pledged after being handed the job today (Thursday, September 12).
The Right Reverend Paul Butler, currently Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, said he was deeply conscious of the high unemployment dogging the North-East and vowed to speak up for the region in the corridors of power, including the House of Lords.
During a whistle-stop tour of his new diocese, the 57-year-old, whose promotion makes him the fourth most senior bishop in the Church of England, made a point of visiting a drop-in cafe in Easington Colliery and signing up for a credit union.
He also spoke out against pay day loan companies and loan sharks, saying both were deeply worrying.
The Bishop-designate signalled his intention to succeed his predecessor, Justin Welby, now Archbishop of Canterbury, as patron of the Foundation for Jobs, a joint initiative of Darlington Borough Council, The Northern Echo and the Darlington Partnership to help young people find work, saying getting people into good jobs was the best way to lift them out of poverty.
And he dismissed Education Secretary Michael Gove’s claim that people using food banks were often responsible for their own predicaments, saying most sought to run their lives well but found themselves genuinely overstretched.
“Poverty is a scourge that we can only tackle together,” he said.
The married father-of-four was announced as the next Bishop of Durham by Downing Street this morning, before visiting a Church school in South Shields, Durham Cathedral, Easington Colliery and a church in Barnard Castle.
He said his appointment had been a big surprise, but he was deeply humbled and honoured.
He said he would adopt a relaxed style and was looking forward to meeting people and visiting places.
A supporter of women bishops, but a traditionalist on homosexuality, Bishop Butler is being seen as a safe pair of hands.
He is known for his prayer walks and leading the Church’s response to sex abuse scandals. In July, he apologised to victims and said the Church of England had “failed, big time”.
He said: “I am delighted to be coming to Durham and the North-East at a time of significant change that is both exciting and challenging in equal parts.
“I come here to serve and to seek to enable the continual renewal of the faith and our engagement with all people in every community.”
TACKLE POVERTY: The Right Reverend Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, centre, signs up to Durham Credit Union with Avril Tough, Durham Credit Union collector, and Durham Credit Union manager Sid Rooke
Along with tackling poverty, his priorities will be growing the church and working with children and young people. He has served as an inner London evangelist and is the bishops’ advocate on children and safeguarding.
His appointment was welcomed by the Rt Rev Mark Bryant, who as Bishop of Jarrow is standing in for the absence of a Bishop of Durham.
Bishop Bryant said he was absolutely delighted and Bishop Butler would bring a deep interest in and concern for communities and make a real difference.
Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for Durham City, welcomed the appointment of someone who supported women bishops and would address poverty and said she looked forward to working with him.
Bishop Butler is expected to take up his new role early in the new year, when there will be a formal installation service at Durham Cathedral.
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