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Notice of Episcopal Election

To all people to whom this notice shall come or whom it may in any way concern

We David John Ison Dean of the Cathedral Church of St Paul in London and the College of Canons of the same Cathedral Church Greet you in the Lord

And We do make it known to you by these presents that the See of London being vacant by the resignation of the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Richard John Carew Baron Chartres, K.C.V.O., Master of Arts, Bachelor of Divinity, its late Bishop and Chief Pastor

We the Dean and College of Canons aforesaid by virtue and authority of The Queen’s Licence granted to Us to elect another Bishop and Chief Pastor of the Church did assemble together in Our Cathedral on this twenty fifth day of January in the year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Eighteen

And making a College there and observing the Laws and Statutes of this Kingdom and the Constitution and Statutes of this Cathedral Church did duly Elect The Right Reverend Dame Sarah Elisabeth Mullally, D.B.E., Master of Science, Master of Arts, Suffragan Bishop of Crediton, to be Bishop and Pastor of the Cathedral Church of St Paul in London

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ

The Very Reverend Doctor David John Ison
Dean of St Paul’s and President of the College of Canons
Signed by our hand on the Feast of St Paul in the Year of our Lord 2018

The Election of the new Bishop of London

How are diocesan bishops made?

Since Saxon times, English diocesan bishops have generally been nominated by the Crown, a system enshrined in statute law in 1534. In 1976 it was agreed that the Crown would nominate to diocesan sees only candidates proposed by a church committee, the Crown Nominations Commission. Its voting members are, normally, the two archbishops, six members elected by the General Synod and six members elected by the diocesan Vacancy-in-See Committee. This composition reflects the ancient interplay between the diocese and wider Church in the choice of bishops, the bishop being not just bishop of the diocese but also a member of the provincial or national college of bishops and a bishop in the Church of God.

Since the fourth century at least, there has been an interplay in the choosing of diocesan bishops between the local church and the province. Selection of the bishop by the diocese has been the exception, but the need for consent expressed on behalf of the diocese (together with confirmation by the metropolitan archbishop on behalf of the province and the wider Church) has been a fundamental principle.

Although the Crown nominates, it is acts of the Church – election by the Cathedral showing the consent of the diocese, and confirmation of that election on behalf of the province and the wider Church – which make the person concerned bishop of the diocese, in a similar way to how a parish priest is nominated to a living by a patron, but made the incumbent by the bishop at the institution.

How does the election of the Bishop of London happen?

For more than a thousand years, the election ‘made and celebrated’ by the Cathedral Church has indicated the assent of the diocese to the bishop-designate’s appointment. The body which elects was until 1999 the Dean and Greater Chapter (in St Paul’s, the five senior clergy and the 30 prebendaries of the Cathedral): it is now the College of Canons, which consists of the Chapter of the Cathedral (which includes lay people), area and suffragan bishops of the Diocese, the archdeacons, and the prebendaries.

The Crown grants the Cathedral a congé d’élire (permission to elect), accompanied by a separate letter nominating the candidate put forward by the Church through the Crown Nominations Commission, and requiring the Cathedral to elect the nominated candidate within a short time-frame.

The Dean summons a meeting of the College of Canons, held on this occasion on 25th January 2018, St Paul’s Day and so our patronal festival. The meeting is in private in the Crypt, in the context of prayer and worship. The College first appoints proctors who have to represent the College to the Crown, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the nominated candidate, and also have to ensure that the elected candidate is duly confirmed in office. Then each member of the College who is present is asked in turn to record their vote. Under the Appointment of Bishops Act 1534, individual members of the College of Canons are not obliged to vote for the Crown’s nominee. The consideration for members of the College is not about personal preference or principle, but whether in their role as representatives of the diocese they believe that the person nominated is God’s person at this time to fulfil the duties of being Bishop of London. The College is under a corporate duty to elect the nominated candidate, but the penalties which formerly applied if it did not do so were abolished in 1967.

After the election, the Dean through the proctors officially informs the Crown, the Archbishop and the candidate of the outcome, requesting the candidate to consent to the election; and the bishop-elect then requests the Archbishop, as metropolitan, to confirm her election.

What does the election of the bishop mean?

‘Election’ is the traditional (and statutory) name for the act whereby the consent of the diocese to the appointment of the new bishop is expressed. Only rarely has this involved ‘free election’ or a choice between alternatives; by the eleventh century (when the election of bishops was much discussed), electio was a procedure for making legally valid a decision which had usually already been taken. ‘Election’ is a biblical term, referring to the divine choice or calling – which may be discerned through human processes and human institutions – and thus remains an appropriate term for this solemn expression of consent.

The process of discernment which gives rise to the nomination of a bishop is conducted in the context of prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and involves:

  • discussion and consultation by the Vacancy in See Committee of the diocese
  • consultation with people in the diocese, including members of the Church and members of the wider community, with invitation to people within and beyond the diocese to comment and suggest possible names
  • deliberation by representatives of the diocese and of the Church of England as a whole at the Crown Nominations Commission
  • consideration by the Crown, acting on behalf of the wider community which, especially in an established Church, the bishop is also called to serve.

In electing the person nominated, the College of Canons expresses the consent of the diocese to the outcome of the process of discernment of who should be the new bishop. We have been pleased to affirm Bishop Sarah Mullally as our Bishop-elect, and look forward to her becoming legally the Diocesan Bishop at the Confirmation of Election, followed by her Enthronement/ Installation at which her role in the Cathedral and her ministry in the Diocese is publicly affirmed.