Solemn evensong on the Feast of Candlemas Thursday 2nd February 5.30pm marks the Dean of Lincoln, Christine Wilson’s final service at the cathedral. Although she officially retires at the end of March, this is the cathedral’s, the diocese’s and the greater Lincolnshire community’s opportunity to say farewell and thank you for all she has been and done in Lincoln.
The Bishop writes:
I write to celebrate the nearly twenty-six years of ordained ministry served by The Very Reverend Christine Wilson, Dean of Lincoln. Dean Christine retires on 31st March after six years in leadership at the Cathedral and she takes with her our thanksgiving to God for her, and our gratitude and heartfelt thanks to her as our Dean.
Christine was one of the first women to be made parish priest in the Diocese of Chichester, not least because she was well-regarded by John Hind, the diocesan bishop, in spite of his opposition to the ordination of women. Christine was appointed parish priest of St John’s, Hove, where she worked with the small but faithful congregation to build an outward-facing, diverse and significant community church in the catholic tradition. Christine set the tone of her future wider ministry by her engagement with civic authority and networking with community agencies and charities.
Before coming to Lincoln, Christine served as the Archdeacon of Chesterfield. For her final two years she was seconded specifically to transform the deanery structure of the Diocese of Derby. Anyone who has been involved in the renewal of any diocesan structures will know what an acutely delicate, collaborative and strategic challenge this was. Christine successfully rationalised sixteen to eight deaneries. The current Bishop of Derby recently confirmed to me that Christine’s work has been the foundation of all subsequent organisational development. That is a significant achievement.
I have had the privilege to participate in celebrations of the Eucharist and in the Divine Office where Dean Christine has presided, led prayers or preached. I have been struck by her grace, recollection and focus. She has modelled spiritual leadership of the community. We were both invited to the resumption of the Lincolnshire Show after the pandemic, and I saw at first hand Christine’s interaction with prominent people in the county and stallholders and visitors. It demonstrated her being a parish priest to her fingertips and her commitment to modelling the place of the Cathedral at the heart of the community of Greater Lincolnshire.
In her time we have seen the opening of the Visitor Centre, overseen by Christine as Dean. We have had the glorious West Front restored to us. More quietly, Dean Christine has worked with Chapter to strengthen governance and financial management, putting the Cathedral on as secure a footing as possible for the future. She has recruited excellent lay members of Chapter to sustain the high standard.
It is well-known that Dean Christine was caught up in the safeguarding debacle leading from allegations made against the Canon Chancellor. He was subsequently found not guilty; but both the Bishop of Lincoln and Dean Christine were disciplined for a reporting error with regard to the safeguarding breach. Dean Christine voluntarily stepped away from her duties. The Bishop was suspended. Later the Bishop received an apology from the National Church for the undue duration of his suspension. Perhaps because the Dean’s situation was more informal and local, she received no corresponding recognition. A subsequent independent review of the case found that Dean Christine paid too high a price for her mistake, which she apologised publicly for on her return to work. The review, conducted by a senior and highly-esteemed barrister, also found that Christine was never a threat to children or vulnerable adults as had been asserted.
Of course, the first priority of the Diocese was to ensure that no breach of process could possibly lead to a vulnerable adult being hurt. The Court finally determined that there was no case to answer; but the two senior leaders involved paid the price in the meantime. That price has been high and provides a media narrative which will linger for a long time. However, the whole matter can now be seen in perspective, and Dean Christine should in the years ahead be allowed to celebrate her many achievements in ministry under God, as I am celebrating today.
Yours ever in Christ,
The Rt Revd Stephen Conway Bishop of Ely
Acting Bishop of Lincoln