Canon David Porter, who is highly regarded for his conflict and change work in Coventry and in Ireland, has been appointed to a post at Lambeth Palace.
The appointment is seen as indicating the fresh, positive impetus and style that Archbishop Justin Welby wishes to bring to bear on a troubled Church and conflicted world.
Mr Porter will work part-time on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s personal staff, as Director for Reconciliation, seconded by Coventry Cathedral where he remains Canon Director for Reconciliation Ministry.
The new incumbent is a lay Canon at the Anglican Cathedral, but comes from a Prebyterian background and has Anabaptist connections and sympathies. He is hugely experienced at working across church and community divides, including Protestant and Catholic ones.
The focus of the new role will be "to enable the Church to make a powerful contribution to transforming the often violent conflicts which overshadow the lives of so many people in the world", says Lambeth Palace in its announcement of the post.
But Canon Porter's initial focus will be on "supporting creative ways for renewing conversations and relationships around deeply held differences within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion."
The new appointee brings extensive front-line experience in the area of reconciliation having served on the Northern Ireland Civic Forum, chairing its working group on peacebuilding and reconciliation, as well serving as a member of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council.
He played a major role in the highly respected work on ECONI (Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland), which challenged sectarianism from a theological and dialogical perspective. In 2005, ECONI became the Centre for Contemporary Christianity in Ireland.
Since September 2008 Mr Porter has been the Canon Director for Reconciliation Ministry at Coventry Cathedral, England. An experienced community relations activist, peacebuilding practitioner and community theologian he has thirty years experience in regional, national and international faith based organisations.
Speaking about his new position, Canon David Porter said: “How we live with our deepest differences both within the Church and our increasingly fractured world, is one of the major challenges to the credibility of Christianity as good news.”
“It is a privilege to be asked to take on this responsibility for Archbishop Justin Welby, and I look forward to working with him in serving the Church in making reconciliation and peacebuilding a theological and practical priority in its life and witness.”
Speaking about the appointment, the new Archbishop of Canterbury declared: “I am delighted to welcome David Porter, Canon for Reconciliation at Coventry, who will join my personal staff part time as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation. David brings a wealth of experience in reconciliation and peacebuilding from his work in Northern Ireland and through the Community of the Cross of Nails in Coventry.
"Conflict is an ever present reality both in the Church and wider society. Christians have been at the centre of reconciliation throughout history. We may not have always handled our own conflicts wisely, but it is essential that we work towards demonstrating ways of reducing destructive conflict in our world - and also to setting an example of how to manage conflict within the Church," he said.
Archbishop Welby has been involved in reconciliation work in dangerous situations himself, and the two men know each other from their respective connections with the international ministry of Coventry Cathedral.