Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani, the Bishop of Loughborough, has been elected Vice President of the Conference of European Churches. The regional ecumenical body is a fellowship of some 116 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, and Old Catholic Churches from across Europe. It also includes 40 national councils of churches and partner organisations. It celebrates its 60th anniversary next year. Her appointment maintains a Church of England presence at the senior leadership of CEC, following the retirement of Christopher Hill, the former Bishop of Guildford.
Bishop Guli was elected at the CEC’s quinquennial General Assembly, which is currently taking place in Novi Sad, Serbia. Bishop Christopher’s successor as President is Christian Krieger – President of the Reformed Church in Alsace and Lorraine and Vice-President of both the Union of Protestant Churches in Alsace and Lorraine and the Protestant Federation of France. In addition, the Assembly elected Metropolitan Cleopas Strongylis of the Greek Orthodox Church in Sweden as another Vice President.
“The first goal belongs to the community of churches in Europe. I want to strengthen their dialogue, their encountering,” Krieger said when asked about the priorities for his Presidency. “The second goal belongs to their witness in Europe and for Europe to strengthen also the work with social issues, with economical issues, with migrant issues and so on.”
It was a theme echoed by Bishop Guli, who said her priority is “to be engaged with others in work around issues with refugees and the movement of people across Europe.”
Metropolitan Cleopas said: “The most important aspect of our work should be working united as the body of Christ for a better tomorrow, for a better Europe and especially for our youth, to make sure that they fully participate.”
The President and Vice President of the Conference of European Churches: the Revd Christian Krieger (left) and Metropolitan Cleopas Strongylis.
Photo: Albin Hillert / CEC
Bishop Guli, who was consecrated by Archbishop Justin Welby at Canterbury Cathedral in November 2017, has first-hand experience of the crises faced by refugees. Her father was Bishop of Iran – as had been her maternal grandfather – when, in 1980 at the age of 14, in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution, her family were forced into exile and they made their home in England. The departure followed the murder of her brother, Bahram, who had been killed at the age of 24. He is amongst a number of Christian martyrs commemorated in the Chapel of Saints and Martyrs in Canterbury Cathedral – situated just meters away from where she was consecrated to serve as Bishop of Loughborough in the Diocese of Leicester.
In addition to the Church of England, the CEC membership includes a number of Anglican Provinces and Churches, including the Church of Ireland, the Church in Wales, the Igreja Lusitana, and the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church. On the first day of this year's Assembly, the Scottish Episcopal Church was admitted into membership.
- This article was amended on 5 June to correct the time-line of Bishop Guli and her family’s departure from Iran. We apologise for the error.