It was announced early this morning that the Dean of Bradford, Dr David Ison, is to be the next Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Great for London, but a real loss for Bradford and the glorious north of England.

David is brilliant and has been a superb colleague in the year since I began the move up north from Croydon. He will bring immense gifts to St Paul’s at a crucial time in its life. He has led a transformation of Bradford Cathedral and demonstrated great skill, wisdom and determination in reconnecting the cathedral and diocese with the city. (The cathedral was made bankrupt at the beginning of the decade.) The announcement reads as follows:

Dr David Ison (57) been Dean of Bradford since 2005, where he has enabled the Cathedral to play a significant role in the life of the city and the diocese of Bradford.

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines says, “I am delighted that St Paul’s Cathedral is to have as its new Dean a man of such warmth, ability and stature as David Ison. I am sad that Bradford will be losing a Dean who has done extraordinary work in the last six and a half years for the good of the Diocese, the city and its diverse people. David leaves a strong legacy for the next Dean of Bradford and moves to London with my deep personal gratitude for his friendship, advice and support in the short time I have been the Bishop of Bradford. London’s gain is Bradford’s loss, but it is good to know that a deep affection for and knowledge of Bradford will now be resident at the heart of the City of London. David and Hilary go with my love, my prayers and the gratitude of all in this diocese.”

David is married to Hilary, who is also an ordained priest and works in London for the Church of England’s Ministry Division, in the selection of prospective ordinands. They have two married daughters and two sons, and became grandparents two years ago. His interests include history and current affairs, interfaith relations, DIY and scuba diving; and he drives a kit-car he made himself.

About his appointment, David Ison says:

“My appointment as Dean of St Paul’s has been as unexpected for me as the vacancy itself was unanticipated. The upheavals of the last few months at  St Paul’s, and the underlying spiritual, social, economic and political  issues which they highlight for our country, are very much on the agenda  for the Cathedral in London; but they are also issues for people, churches and cathedrals across the country. Even Bradford has had an Occupy camp, although it was in front of City Hall rather than at the Cathedral. 

“Bradford is a special place, with a rich diversity of people, faiths and experiences. There is a huge amount of commitment to the future of the city, and a humour and realism which makes it a very rewarding place to be. The people of Bradford Cathedral are marked by their warmth, faithfulness and prayerfulness; and this is reflected in the city as a whole. It has been a welcoming place to come to, and it is a hard place to say goodbye to.

“I have always been clear that I would only leave Bradford for a post which was equally challenging and fulfilling. Having been strongly requested to explore the Church’s call to London, I can see how it will make use of my skills and the experience and learning I have had in Bradford and before: the call of the Church fits with my sense of God’s call to me. I will go south holding Bradford in my heart: and I will take the perspectives of working in what are considered more marginal areas, in London and the Midlands as well as Yorkshire, into the heart of the capital. It is an exciting and daunting prospect.

“I am glad to begin my work at St Paul’s while a Bradfordian, David Wootton, is Lord Mayor of the City of London; and I look forward to working together with colleagues in the Diocese of London, at Westminster Abbey and Southwark Cathedral, in other Christian churches and in different faith traditions, and with partners in civic and business life, in private, public and voluntary sectors, with rich and poor, alternative and establishment, organised and marginalised. I particularly look forward to getting to know the staff and community of St Paul’s Cathedral, and exploring with them and with all the Cathedral’s stakeholders the particular ways in which the Cathedral can serve the whole city of London and the wider nation in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

About his time in Bradford, David Ison says:

“When I came to Bradford Cathedral, I had no great blueprints or strategies in place: but I came to listen, to pray and to love, and to see what God would do. I will go to St Paul’s knowing that I have much to learn, and much listening to do. I want to build on the good work done in cathedral, city and diocese by my predecessors, and in particular by  Dean Graeme Knowles and his colleagues.  And I also have confidence in God, who calls us together to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Him.

“When I came to Bradford in 2005 people asked me why. The reasons I gave then have stayed the same since. Yes, it’s a place of challenges and there are some difficult issues to deal with, and the Cathedral too has had its share of sorrows and failures in the past. But there are great people here, and a city which has some simply wonderful buildings – I take visitors to look at the ceiling of the Santander bank and they’re gobsmacked! I love the cultural diversity, and the potential for people of different cultures to learn from and work with each other. There’s so much good will and friendliness when people really meet together. Bradford’s a small enough city to be able to get to know people well, and large enough to offer all kinds of possibilities, and I think its future is looking more hopeful than for some time. Being here has been testing and stretching and fulfilling in all kinds of ways, and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to work here. 

“What will I regret about moving? Of course I’ll miss the curries, and all the other good food around here too. I’ll miss the great countryside, and the buzz that comes when one of the Bradford sporting teams is doing well. But above all I’ll miss the people here: the friends we’ve made from many different communities, the basic honesty and down to earth nature of life, the way in which talking about God and faith is natural rather than an embarrassment, and the determination that, come what may, Bradford will get through it. It’s a world-leading place in its own way, and it’s been a real privilege to be part of it.

“And why am I moving in 2012? Going to St Paul’s Cathedral in London isn’t something I’d have thought of. But I’ve been asked to go, and I can see how what I’ve done and learned here is relevant to the situation in which St Paul’s now finds itself. I don’t see it as leaving Bradford behind, but as taking the spirit of Bradford with me to our capital city. I look forward to finding out more about London and its cathedral, and seeing how God is at work there as well as here. If you pray, then I’d be grateful for your prayers – and I’ll be praying for you and the city and diocese of Bradford as it goes forward into the future.”

David Ison was born and brought up in Brentwood, Essex. After taking a Combined Studies degree at the University of Leicester he trained for ordination at St John’s College, Nottingham. He served his curacy at St Nicholas and St Luke Deptford in the Diocese of Southwark (1979-1985), while also writing a PhD in church history at King’s College, London to develop skills to work in training people for ministry. From 1985 to 1988 he was Lecturer at the Church Army Training College in Blackheath. In 1988 he became Vicar at Potters Green in the diocese of Coventry, where he worked to physically and spiritually rebuild the church. In 1993 he moved to Exeter as Diocesan Continuing Ministerial Education Officer to take on a variety of roles in training and supporting clergy in their ministry, and in 1995 he also became a Residentiary Canon at Exeter Cathedral. Since 2005 he has been Dean of Bradford, where he has enabled the Cathedral to play a significant role in the life of the city and the diocese of Bradford.