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First the IRA … now the CofE for peace negotiator

By John Bingham, Telegraph

A cleric who held secret talks with the IRA during the Troubles in Northern Ireland has been leading behind-the-scenes efforts to help the Church of England resolve its differences over women bishops, it has been confirmed.

Documents released on Friday confirmed that Canon David Porter has been leading a team of “facilitators” to help find a solution to the crisis in the Church.

Canon Porter, originally from Belfast, is the director of the International Centre for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral, a post once held by the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

During his previous ministry in Northern Ireland he and a small group of church leaders worked for years behind the scenes preparing the way for the peace process.

Uniquely, he held talks with both the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries.

At the time the British Government was publicly denying that it was speaking to terrorists.

The Church of England confirmed for the first time that the Canon and his team had been leading mediation sessions between different interest groups last week as part of a process to attempt to find a solution to the crisis over women bishops.

The General Synod rejected a plan to allow women to become bishops in November, despite overwhelming support in the Church as a whole.

At the talks, the facilitators used conflict resolution techniques usually applied in war-zones, encouraging the participants to share their “anger and grief” at the result of the vote and even how it had caused “damage to the soul”.

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