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Canon Nicholas McKee to be next Director for Ministry for the Church of England

06 June 2023

Church of England

Canon Nicholas McKee

Canon Nicholas McKee

THE Archbishops’ Council’s next Director for Ministry will be Canon Nicholas McKee, currently diocesan director for vocations in Blackburn diocese, it was announced on Tuesday.

Canon McKee will succeed the Rt Revd Chris Goldsmith, who retires at the end of July.

Canon McKee leads the Blackburn “Growing Leaders” team, and oversees lay and ordained vocational discernment. Investment in lay ministry with a focus on the discernment of vocations in under-represented groups is a key tenet of the diocese’s Vision 2026. With support from the Church Commissioners, its “M:Power” programme, which trains “new urban leaders”, is tied to a commitment to having a Christian presence on every urban estate (News, 8 March 2019).

Canon McKee led the formation of Emmanuel Theological College, a non-residential institution with several teaching centres, on behalf of the bishops in the north-west (News, 15 October 2021).

The diocese of Blackburn has made a commitment to maintaining numbers of stipendiary clergy (Features, 17 September 2021), which makes it “an outlier in the north”, the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, has said.

In his national post, Canon McKee will inherit a context in which stipendiary numbers are being reduced in many dioceses, driven by financial pressures, in the wake of a national push to increase ordained vocations by a half.

Last year, the then chair of the Ministry Council, the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Rt Revd Martin Seeley, told the General Synod that central funding was needed to overcome the discrepancy between the “ambitious aspirations” of Vision and Strategy — the national plan for the Church in the 2020s — and the financial situation driving dioceses to cut stipendiary posts (News, 11 February 2022).

Also in Canon McKee’s in-tray will be a new funding model for theological education (News, 27 January) and the ongoing implementation of a new framework for discernment (News, 25 June 2021). After a peak of 591 in 2020, numbers of ordinands have fallen in the past two years, to 510 in 2021, and 378 in 2022.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the Ministry Council has reported signs of increase. A paper on the new funding model, published this year, stated that the Church needed “at least 630 new ordained ministers per year, with 430 of those to serve in stipendiary ministry”.

Having grown up on an outer estate in Northern Ireland, Canon McKee took an engineering degree at Nottingham University before spending ten years in international business. He trained at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, and was ordained deacon in 2008 and priest in 2009. He first served in Manchester diocese: his title at St James’s and Emmanuel Church, Didsbury, then as Vicar of St Paul’s, Astley Bridge, and as Area Dean of Walmsley.

Responding to his appointment on Tuesday, he said: “I am passionate about developing the support we offer to people from all backgrounds and traditions to explore God’s call on their lives, together with how we form, deploy and resource them for life-long mission and ministry.”

The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Mark Tanner, who chairs the Ministry Council, described Canon McKee as “a servant-hearted, deeply practical man of infectious energy and profound Christ-like faith”.

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