THE next Third Church Estates Commissioner will be Canon Flora Winfield, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Adviser on Reconciliation, it was announced on Tuesday.
Canon Winfield will take up her new post on 1 February. She succeeds Dr Eve Poole, an academic who taught leadership at Ashridge Business School for 15 years (News, 9 March 2018; 26 November 2021).
Canon Winfield is the second member of staff at Lambeth Palace to be appointed to a new senior post in recent days. The appointment of the Archbishop’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Stephen Knott, as the Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments was announced last week (News, 7 January).
Canon Winfield was ordained deacon in Oxford in 1989 and spent two years as a county ecumenical officer in Gloucestershire before being priested in 1994. She then served as Chaplain of Mansfield College, Oxford, and as local unity secretary for the Council for Christian Unity, based at Church House, Westminster. She was Canon Pastor of Winchester Cathedral from 2002 to 2005.
In 2005, she was appointed assistant secretary general of the World Conference on Religions for Peace, before becoming Secretary for International Affairs at Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Anglican Relations (2007 to 2014). This involved facilitating face-to-face conversations on sexuality across the Anglican Communion (News, 14 May 2009).
She served as the Anglican Communion’s representative to the UN institutions in Geneva (2014 to 2017), and since 2017 has been the Archbishop’s special representative to the Commonwealth. She has held her current post since 2019. From 2008 to 2014, she was Priest-in-Charge of St Mary At Hill with St Andrew Hubbard, St George Botolph Lane, and St Botolph By Billingsgate, in the City of London. She has been a Chaplain to the Forces (Volunteer Reserve) since 1997.
As Third Church Estates Commissioner, Canon Winfield will join the Church Commissioners’ Board of Governors and will chair the Mission, Pastoral and Church Property Committee and the Bishoprics and Cathedrals Committee.
Among the items in her in-tray will be proposals for changes to the Mission and Pastoral Measure (2011), which governs parish reorganisation and settling the future of churches no longer deemed viable as Anglican places of worship (News, 2 July 2021; 16 July 2021). A consultation paper released last summer foresaw the possibility of a “wave of closures” over the next 20 to 30 years and reported that five dioceses were planning up to 40 closures within the next two to five years.
It proposed giving dioceses responsibility for managing the processes, including the consideration of representations that currently come to the Church Commissioners. It also suggested streamlining the current consultation process, including potentially limiting those allowed to make representations, and expected more cases where clergy would object to pastoral reorganisation.
The consultation closed at the end of October. An analysis of the responses will be presented to the General Synod next month.
While the Pastoral and Closed Churches Department has denied that the proposals represent a threat to the parish system and argued that it will mean that dioceses can “spend less on the administration of the processes and more on parishes and mission”, the paper has been described as a “Church Closers’ Charter” by some campaigners (Comment, 1 October 2021).
Canon Winfield will also oversee the establishment of co-regulation of cathedrals by the Church Commissioners in partnership with the Charity Commission, following final approval of the Cathedrals Measure in 2020 (News, 27 November 2020), and the target set by the General Synod in 2020 for all parts of the Church of England to achieve year-on-year reductions in carbon emissions with a view to reaching net zero by 2030 (News, 14 February 2020). A consultation on how to reach the target is due to close at the end of February (News, 5 February). A survey last year suggested that just 250 churches were meeting the target (News, 26 November 2021).
Awarded a doctorate in divinity by Virginia Theological Seminary, in the United States, in 2010, Canon Winfield has taught ecclesiology and church history, and has written on ecumenical theology. She has been a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London since 2010, and is a Director of the Anglican Alliance, a member of Chapter at Bradford Cathedral, and a Trustee of the Community of St Andrew.
She said on Tuesday: “I welcome the opportunity to make this contribution to the life and work of the Church of England in a time of change, development, and possibility, as we respond to Christ’s call to grow as disciples, building on our historic inheritance and looking forward together with confidence and hope.”