A picture of Sarah Foot standing - photo by Ian Wallman
Sarah Foot - photo by Ian Wallman

Sarah Foot becomes first female Dean of Christ Church

The appointment of Rev Canon Professor Sarah Foot PhD, FRHistS, FSA as Dean of Christ Church, has been approved by the King.

The first woman to be chosen for the role in Christ Church’s almost 500-year-long history, Professor Foot is the Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford University and a priest serving as a Residentiary Canon at Christ Church. Her teaching and research have focused on women in religion, medieval monasticism and the early history of the English Church. She is currently working on a study of the life and work of the Venerable Bede.

The Dean designate said: 'It is an honour to have been appointed to this role and to work alongside the Governing Body to serve the students, academics, staff, Chapter and congregation of Christ Church. As we approach our 500th anniversary, we can ensure that Christ Church continues to excel in advancing education, learning and religion long into the future.

'Together, we must make a success of the Governance Review process and see through changes that will be necessary when it’s complete. This work is vital. It will give our colleagues the structures that they need to do what matters most to all of us: offering teaching and research, and a Cathedral liturgy, of the highest quality.'

An independent review of the governance of Christ Church, chaired by Dominic Grieve KC, is underway. Implementing subsequent changes to the governance and statutes of Christ Church will require the approval of the University, the Church of England, the Privy Council and Parliament. This is likely to be a lengthy process. Once it is complete, Professor Foot intends to stand down to allow new leadership to take Christ Church forward under new statutes.

Stephen Croft, Bishop of Oxford, said: 'I’m delighted to welcome Sarah’s appointment as Dean of Christ Church in this key period in the life of the College and the Cathedral following her long tenure as one of our four Canon Professors in the Cathedral.

'Sarah combines a distinguished career as an historian, a deep personal faith and reservoirs of wisdom from her experience leadership of Christ Church in recent months. I look forward very much to working in partnership with Sarah in the coming years in the implementation of the governance review and as a member of the Bishop’s senior leadership team across the Diocese of Oxford.'

In addition to her Faculty position, Professor Foot has been serving since 2021 as Censor Theologiae of Christ Church. The holder of this role deputises in the Dean’s absence; since the Deanship became vacant, she has effectively fulfilled the role of Acting Head of House. She will take up her appointment as Dean in July 2023.