Theologian David Porter, who was a visiting practitioner at the Duke Center for Reconciliation in 2006, has been appointed the Director for Reconciliation to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The connections and experiences that led him to this post began in 2004, when Porter attended a Lausanne ecumenical consultation in Thailand as a representative of a peace-building non-profit now called the Centre for Contemporary Christianity in Ireland. There he met representatives from like-minded organizations, including Chris Rice from Duke Divinity School.
“Rarely do we know what will happen with the seed we are given to plant,” Rice said.
Several months after the Lausanne consultation, Porter, Rice and other Lausanne participants reconvened at Coventry Cathedral in the United Kingdom, which had a thriving Christian reconciliation ministry, to discuss their actions together as partners in nurturing reconciliation in the world. At that meeting Porter met Justin Welby, who would go on to become the Archbishop of Canterbury in January 2013 and invite Porter to become his new Director for Reconciliation at Lambeth Palace, where the Archbishop works and resides.
“While an initial focus will be on the ongoing conflicts within the church over deeply held differences, the ultimate aim is to look out to a world torn apart by violent conflicts, and enable the church to live as the children of God, peacemakers,” Porter said.
In his role, Porter is expanding the Archbishop’s commitment to reconciliation ministries and exploring “creative ways for renewing conversations and relationships around deeply held differences within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion,” according to an official press release from Lambeth Palace. Porter will split his time between working for the Archbishop and continuing in his role at Coventry Cathedral, where he has been the Canon Director for Reconciliation Ministry since 2008. A graduate of the London School of Theology and a Baptist layperson, Porter has extensive experience working with Christians in areas of deep conflict — including those living in the Balkans, Columbia, Egypt, Northern Ireland, and Sri Lanka.
“The challenges that lie ahead are certainly daunting,” Porter said. “Yet I can’t help but sense that God is in this journey as He was in the journey I took just over 35 years ago when my life in Christian ministry began.
Those meetings in 2004 and the friendships that ensued are crisp in Porter’s mind — concrete reminders of how God has shaped him and still urges him on. Rice invited Porter to spend a sabbatical at Duke Divinity School and the Center for Reconciliation, writing and teaching as a visiting practitioner in 2006. That time was rich and invaluable to Porter’s health and development as an ambassador of reconciliation, he said.
“The sabbatical was the first long period of getting away from it all,” Porter said, “and reflecting on who I was as leader, reflecting on where I was going in the next phase of my life.”
Rice said he feels fortunate that Duke Divinity and The Center for Reconciliation could be part of Porter’s journey deeper into the work of reconciling God’s people in a divided world. “The semester at Duke created to space to hear God’s call in a fresh way and was a turning point in his ministry,” he said.