Downing Street has announced today (10am, 28 April 2022) that the Rt Revd Michael Beasley will be the next Bishop of Bath and Wells. He is currently the Bishop of Hertford, a role which he has held since 2015. Prior to taking a fulltime role with the church, Bishop Michael was an epidemiologist, a background he was called on to use during the pandemic as a member of the Church of England’s Covid task force.
Bishop Michael is already familiar with Somerset. His wife Lizzie is from a farming family from Somerset and prior to Bishop Michael being interviewed for the role of Bishop of Bath and Wells, they both undertook a 60 mile walk around the county.
Speaking in advance of today’s announcement, Bishop Michael shared his joy in becoming the 80th Bishop of Bath and Wells and said he was looking forward to getting to know the people of Somerset.
He says, “I am delighted to be coming to be the Bishop of Bath and Wells and to joining with everyone in the diocese as together we live and tell the story of Jesus.
“We have strong family connections with Somerset and I’m very much looking forward to working alongside its people, communities and churches.
“We have all been through a challenging few years. The COVID pandemic pushed us all apart. Now is the time to come back together. Our churches have an essential role in helping us rebuild communities and in facing the challenges present to us both internationally and at home.
“Jesus’s message is one of peace – a peace I’m looking forward to sharing and pursuing as I join you as your bishop.”
Before his ordination as Bishop of Hertford in the Diocese of St Albans, Bishop Michael served as Director of Mission in the Diocese of Oxford. A scientist by background, he was an epidemiologist specialising in infectious diseases of children in low-income countries.
As well as being a member of the Church of England’s Covid task force he also worked with UNICEF, the NHS, the Government and leaders of different faiths to launch vaccinaid.org which has raised more than £10 million in support of vaccination for low-income countries.
Commenting on his work on the taskforce he says, “I thought I’d left science behind but God never wastes anything! So in the last few years the skills I gained before have been of use to the Church now.”
A whistle-stop tour of the diocese
Bishop Michael will spend the day meeting people from across Somerset. He will begin his day in Bridgwater meeting children at St Mary’s Church of England Primary School before travelling on to North Newton to join members of the farming community at Little Bankland Farm to hear about the challenges faced by farmers in the county.
From there he will make his way Highbridge to see a display of hundreds of origami butterflies which are part of a Covid community artwork at St John’s Church. He’ll also be introduced to Revd Scott Patterson who along with his wife Rowena raised more than a million pounds as part of a twin my vaccine campaign, and Rob and Trish Munday who used their canal boat as a floating walk in Covid vaccination clinic for the boating community.
The next stop is Weston-super-Mare where Bishop Michael will have lunch with the principal and students at Weston College before travelling on to St Andrew’s Church, Cheddar to hear about the local support being offered to Ukrainian refugees.
Representatives from across the diocese who helped in the process to select Bishop Michael said of the appointment, “Bishop Michael shone through the discernment process as someone who has the qualities we are seeking. He is deeply relational, has mission at his heart and is highly respected by clergy and laity in his current role. He has offered leadership and vision in St Alban’s and has spoken and worked effectively in the public square, most notably making use of his epidemiologist background over the Covid-19 pandemic. He comes from a rural background and brings experience of a wide variety of church traditions and church sizes and much more besides including church planting, pioneering and work with children and young people.”
Brought up in rural Staffordshire, Bishop Michael attended a small Church of England primary school and a rural church. Bishop Michael was ordained in 1999 and until his appointment as Director of Mission in the Diocese of Oxford in 2010, he combined his scientific work 50:50 with work in Christian ministry as a missioner and theological educator.
The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, the Bishop of St Albans “I am delighted to receive the news that Michael Beasley is to be the new Bishop of Bath and Wells. Michael has served with distinction as Suffragan Bishop of Hertford in this diocese since mid-2015, and he will leave an impressive and long-lasting legacy here.”
Bishop Michael and Lizzie have two young children. In his spare time, he enjoys tending his garden and his bees.
His appointment follows the retirement of the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, who stood down as Bishop of Bath and Wells in May 2021 due to ill health.