Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, the next Bishop of Chelmsford, is to become the Church of England’s Lead Bishop for Housing to spearhead the Church’s efforts to help ease the UK’s crippling housing crisis.
The announcement comes ahead of the publication next month of the findings of a major two-year commission, set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, examining the role of the Church in tackling housing inequality and examining possible solutions.
Bishop Guli, currently the Bishop of Loughborough, will take up the new role later this year when she becomes Bishop of Chelmsford.
The new post will involve leading efforts to implement the recommendations of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community which will be published in late February
The Bishop of Barking, Peter Hill, will serve as deputy and the Bishop of Kensington, Graham Tomlin, currently vice-chair of the Commission, will also provide continuing support.
They will work alongside dioceses and other church bodies as well as strengthening relationships with groups from housing associations to developers and national organisations and landowners. The aim is to ensure the Church of England can play its part including, wherever possible, using its own land well to help resolve the housing crisis.
The announcement was made as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was interviewed by the BBC’s Mark Easton on housing and communities in one of the National Housing Federation‘s “Summit Shorts” events.
Archbishop Justin said:
“In April 2019, I set up a Commission to look at what the Church could do to resolve our housing crisis and to strengthen our communities.
“That Commission will report next month but has already recommended that the Church appoints a Bishop for Housing to ensure that we follow through on its recommendations.
Bishop Guli said:
“The work of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community is inspirational.
Bishop Peter welcomed the news and the opportunity to work with Bishop Guli and other colleagues on what is a key priority for the church across the country and the Diocese of Chelmsford. He said:
“The Church of England, both nationally and locally, is well placed to offer radical responses to this need so that many families and key workers who are currently denied access to such homes can be helped. The need in East London is particularly acute and this diocese is well advanced in modelling a practical scheme for such provision.”
Charlie Arbuthnot, chair of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community, said:
“Over the last two years, the Housing, Church and Community Commission has been brought face to face with the harsh and painful reality of our housing crisis. Our longing as a Commission is that we can make a difference. Bishop Guli’s appointment, supported by Bishop Peter as Deputy and with the continuing support of Bishop Graham, our Vice Chair, means that we can expect to see the recommendations and goals of the Commission followed through. I am therefore thrilled with this news.”