Indian-born priest becomes youngest consecrated bishop in Church of England

LONDON: An Indian-born priest was ordained a bishop of the Church of England in a ceremony held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Tuesday.
Aged 43, Saju is now the youngest bishop in the Church of England, though not the first of Indian descent as the current Bishop of Bradwell, Bishop John Perumbalath, was also born in Kerala.
The Rt Revd Malayil Lukose Varghese Muthalaly, known as Saju, until then vicar of St Mark’s Gillingham, Kent, was born in Kerala and grew up in a leper hospital in Bengaluru. He was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby as the next Bishop of Loughborough, in the Diocese of Leicester.
Family, friends, colleagues and well-wishers from India, Dubai and Britain gathered at the service where two others were ordained bishops and two of Saju’s children – Zipp and Abraham – said prayers.
Welby then praised Saju in Hindi on Twitter. In English, he tweeted: “A wonderful, exciting and beautiful day for @churchofengland – a diverse, global church united in the joy of Jesus Christ.”
His parents live in Kollam, Kerala. “Our father said God had given him the opportunity to serve across borders and he should use it well. Our parents – aged 90 and 83 – missed the chance to attend the ceremony due to the pandemic,” said his brother Siji Malayil, a Karnataka high court attorney.
As suffragan bishop, Saju will share oversight of the diocese with the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow. Snow said: “Leicester can be rightly proud of our record of giving to bishops in the wider church who represent different ethnic groups and will help the church reflect the fullness of life in Christ.”
Saju, who now carries an Indian rosewood bishop’s staff, will be officially installed as Bishop of Loughborough during a service at Brockington Church of England Academy in Enderby, Leicestershire on February 5. The event will be streamed live on YouTube.
He was born in the backwaters of Kerala into a Syrian Orthodox Church family whose spiritual and cultural lineage dates back to St. Thomas the Apostle. He said his priorities were people-centred and helping the poor and marginalized to thrive.
He said: “I spent much of my childhood in a leprosy hospital in Bengaluru where my mother was a nurse serving some of the most ostracized and rejected groups in the world. From my earliest memory, my heart has leaned towards those who live in poverty. The poor are not just poor; they are mothers, artists, gifted leaders, friends, people passionate about the environment.
He will oversee cross-cultural communities and racial equity strategy as well as priestly vocations.
Muthalaly moved to Loughborough just before Christmas with his wife Katy, whom he met on a gap year in England, and their four children. “I’m never more home than when I’m with Katy, our kids and our eclectic collection of pets,” he said. “I am also happily at home when I play the beautiful game of cricket. I carry this belief that the game of cricket is the finest contribution the English have made to the world. He also enjoys running, playing the guitar and cooking .
After attending Cambridge School in Vijayanagara, he continued his education in PU (Arts) at Christ PU College in 1996 after which he attended Southern Asia Bible College in Bengaluru and trained for ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He was ordained a priest in 2009.
He left for England at the age of 20. source of inspiration for us. The process (consecration) is long at the end of which the British Prime Minister takes a call. It’s a proud moment for all of us,” said Siji, his brother.
Muthalaly grew up in Bengaluru in the 1980s and 1990s and lived with her parents, older brother and sister at HBR Layout. “Spirituality was part of our lives, like any other family. It was more a way of life and a matter of discipline with Sunday mass and Sunday school. We were taught values,” Siji said.
(With contributions from Bangalore)

Martha J. Finley