Honorary Degree for Bishop of Loughborough

The Right Reverend Doctor Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Loughborough, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by the University of Leicester.

She received her Honorary Doctorate at the University’s graduation ceremony in De Montfort Hall on Thursday morning, 16 January, in front of hundreds of graduating students and their families.

Bishop Guli was born in Isfahan, Iran in 1966. Her father served as a Bishop and her mother (also born and raised in Iran) was the daughter of Church Mission Society missionaries. The youngest of four children, Bishop Guli’s early faith was nurtured within the tiny Persian Anglican community. Her father’s church was affected by the events of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the cost for the family was great. Following the murder of her brother Bahram, aged 24, in 1980 the family sought refuge in England where Guli completed her schooling before studying for a music degree at Nottingham University.

After working at the BBC for several years, Guli began an MA in Theology before going on to complete her doctorate at Bristol University. She was ordained deacon in 1998 and priest one year later. In November 2017 she became the first woman from an ethnic minority to be consecrated as a Bishop in the Church of England.

After the birth of her first child, and until her appointment as Bishop of Loughborough, the suffragan Bishop in the Church of England Diocese of Leicester, Guli worked part-time for much of her ministry, including serving as a school and university chaplain and as Curate Training Officer in the Diocese of Peterborough.

Between 2012 and 2017 Guli served as a member of the Church of England’s General Synod and also as Adviser for Women’s Ministry in the Diocese of Peterborough. She has always maintained links with the Diocese of Iran and the wider Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Guli is currently Patron of Leicester Cathedral’s Music Foundation and the homelessness charity One Roof Leicester, and she is Chair of Trustees at Launde Abbey. In the Leicester Diocese, amongst other things, she leads on the initiative to increase participation from BAME heritage people across all areas of Church life.

Having been influenced by diverse cultural and ethnic experiences throughout her life, Guli has developed a great interest in exploring themes around identity and belonging, forgiveness and justice. She is increasingly convinced about the centrality of prayer as the foundation of all ministry and is committed to working for the Church to become a truly diverse place where all people can contribute, find their distinctive voice and feel they belong.

Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani said: “I am very honoured to be awarded this honorary degree from such a respected academic institution with a multi-cultural ethos. I am delighted to be receiving an honorary degree from the University of Leicester. The invitation came as a huge surprise and was both exciting and humbling. Having lived in Rutland for 13 years before becoming Bishop of Loughborough, I knew Leicester a little – my twins were born in the General Hospital and as a family, we have supported Leicester City Football Club and enjoyed the occasional visit to watch them play. I am looking forward to strengthening my links with the University in coming years, and very much hope this degree will provide the opportunity for me to further develop what I know are already good relationships with the Cathedral and the Diocese of Leicester.”

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said: “From her wealth of personal experience to her tireless and inspirational work, Bishop Guli has been a leading light within the Church of England. As a University of Sanctuary, it is fitting that we should bestow this Honorary Degree upon her. I am delighted to welcome Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani to our University family.”