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Bishop Wilfred Wood, The Church of England’s first black Bishop

By 24th September 2020Uncategorised

Born in Barbados in 1936, Bishop Wood came to London in 1962 and served as a curate of St. Thomas with St. Stephen, Shepherd’s Bush. Being struck by the harsh conditions that black immigrants faced and the wider problems of the inner city, Bishop Wood soon caught public attention in Britain for speaking out on racial injustice. In 1974, he joined the Diocese of Southwark, where he stayed until his retirement.​

In 1977, he was appointed Rural Dean of East Lewisham and Honorary Canon of Southwark Cathedral and was appointed the Bishop of London Officer in race relations.​

He recalled: “I was a member of a Royal Commission called the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedures and in our report, we recommended an establishment of an independent prosecuting service, which has now been established, called the ‘Crown Prosecuting Service’. Up to that point, police would investigate and prosecute, but we recommended an independent prosecuting service.”​

He became Archdeacon of Southwark from 1982 until his consecration as Bishop of Croydon in 1985, where he oversaw the Croydon Episcopal Area and assisted the Bishop of Southwark.​

Bishop Wood said that the honour was very humbling. “When I became Bishop of Croydon in 1985, it was a big occasion because I was then becoming the first ever black Bishop in the Church of England. At the service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, which holds 2900, there was not enough room, as people had come from all over the world.​

In 2000, another great honour was placed upon the Bishop, as Queen Elizabeth II appointed him Knight of St. Andrew (Order of Barbados), for his contribution to race relations in the United Kingdom and general contribution to the welfare of Barbadians living here.​

Bishop Wood retired as Bishop of Croydon September 30, 2002 and was succeeded in 2003 by Nick Baines. He returned to Barbados that same year. In 2004, he was voted by the public as second only to Mary Seacole on a list of the 100 Great Black Britons.

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