Thinking Anglicans

proposals for constitutional reform

Here is what the Green Paper from the Ministry of Justice says about church matters:

The Government’s role in ecclesiastical, judicial and public appointments

Appointments in the Church of England

57. The Church of England is by law established as the Church in England and the Monarch is its Supreme Governor. The Government remains committed to this position.

58. Because The Queen acts on the advice of Ministers, the Prime Minister as her First Minister has a role in advising The Queen on certain appointments within the Church. Diocesan and Suffragan Bishops, as well as 28 Cathedral Deans, a small number of Cathedral Canons, some 200 parish priests and a number of other post-holders in the Church of England are appointed by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.

59. In the case of Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops, reflecting the agreement reached between the Church and the State in 1976, the Crown Nominations Commission (formerly the Crown Appointments Commission) passes two names to the Prime Minister, usually in order of preference, who may recommend either of them to The Queen, or reject both and ask for further nominations. The Crown Nominations Commission is a Church based body, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as Chair and the Archbishop of York as Vice-Chair. However, the Prime Minister’s Secretary for Appointments is an ex-officio and non-voting member. The chair of the Crown Nominations Commission is taken by the Archbishop in whose province the vacancy has arisen.

60. For the appointment of Suffragan Bishops the relevant Diocesan Bishop is required by law to submit two names to the Crown. These are passed to the Prime Minister by the Archbishop of the Province concerned with a supportive letter. It has been the convention for more than a century that the Prime Minister advises the Monarch to nominate the person named first in the petition.

61. In the case of Deans appointed by the Crown, it is the practice for the Prime Minister to commend a name to the Queen, chosen from a shortlist provided by the Prime Minister’s Secretary for Appointments and agreed with the Diocesan Bishop, and following consultations with the Cathedral, Bishop, Archbishop of the province concerned and others as appropriate. (The aim is to reach agreement with the Bishop on the preferred order of the list.) In the case of the Crown canonries and parishes, following consultations led by the Downing Street Appointments Secretariat, the Prime Minister recommends the appointment to The Queen.

62. In considering the role which the Prime Minister and the Government should play in Church appointments, the Government is guided by four principles:

  • the Government reaffirms its commitment to the position of the Church of England by law established, with the Sovereign as its Supreme Governor, and the relationship between the Church and State. The Government greatly values the role played by the Church in national life in a range of spheres;
  • The Queen should continue to be advised on the exercise of her powers of appointment by one of her Ministers, which usually means the Prime Minister;
  • in choosing how best to advise The Queen on such appointments, the Government believes in principle that the Prime Minister should not play an active role in the selection of individual candidates. Therefore, the Prime Minister should not use the royal prerogative to exercise choice in recommending appointments of senior ecclesiastical posts, including diocesan bishops, to The Queen; and
  • the Church should be consulted as to how best arrangements can be put in place to select candidates for individual ecclesiastical appointments in line with the preceding principles.

63. To reflect the principle that, where possible, the Prime Minister should not have an active role in the selection of individual candidates, for diocesan bishoprics the Prime Minister proposes that from now on he should ask the Crown Nominations Commission to put only one name to him, a recommendation he would then convey to The Queen. The Government will discuss with the Church any necessary consequential changes to procedures. The current convention for appointing Suffragan Bishops will continue.

64. The Government respects and understands the different arrangements for Cathedral, parish and other Crown appointments in the Church. Developing any new arrangements for such appointments will require a process of constructive engagement between the Government and the Church, and the Government is committed to ensuring a productive dialogue. The Government is aware that a Church review of certain senior appointments, including Cathedral appointments, is to be debated by General Synod later this month; it hopes that this will be a good starting point for that dialogue. Until new arrangements are agreed, the Secretary for Appointments will continue to assist as appropriate.

65. These changes would also have implications for the Lord Chancellor’s patronage of some 450 parishes and a small number of canonries. It would be sensible for any changes agreed to the procedures for Crown patronage to be also agreed for the Lord Chancellor’s patronage.

66. No changes are proposed to Crown appointments to the Royal Peculiars such as Westminster Abbey and St. George’s Chapel,Windsor, reflecting the personal nature of the relationship of these institutions with the Monarch. Current conventions will continue.

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Marshall Scott
Guest

For those of us across the water, how do lay and non-bishop clergy voices get heard in this process? I trust there is a process, and I’m not surprised that it isn’t spelled out in this kind of document. I’m just interested in how another province does this.

This, of course, is where we Americans get into discussing whether the word “appointment” is apt for bishops of the Episcopal Church. There is no such centralization of the process in bishops taking office here. So, this is a place where we don’t necessarily understand each others’s processes.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

For diocesan bishops: each diocese has a statutory standing committee, called the ‘vacancy in see’ committee. Some members of this are ex officio, e.g. suffragan bishop, dean, chairs of house of clergy and laity; others are elected by the diocesan synod by houses. When there is a vacancy the committee meets to draw up a statement of needs, diocesan profiles etc. They also elect some of their number to sit on the Crown Nominations Commission. The other members of this Commission are either ex officio (the archbishop of the province) or elected by the General Synod by houses. The Commission… Read more »

jeremy pemberton
Guest
jeremy pemberton

Well, it all seems perfectly sensible – if hardly earth-shattering. The bigger question is whether the General Synod will use this opportunity to re-examine the whole internal methodology of appointments and the question of whether the balance between widespread consultation and the deciding cabals is right or whether, in the currently vogueish phrase, it needs ‘rebalancing’!

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

To provide more detail in reply to Marshall’s question, our colleague Peter Owen has a page which deals with this:
http://peterowen.org.uk/articles/choosing.html
I notice he last revised it in February 2006. If anything has changed since then, I am sure he will tell us here.

badman
Guest
badman

Interesting reaffirmation of establishment: “the Government reaffirms its commitment to the position of the Church of England by law established, with the Sovereign as its Supreme Governor, and the relationship between the Church and State. The Government greatly values the role played by the Church in national life in a range of spheres” I suspect the Queen has something to do with this; I don’t think she would favour disestablishment and this is one of the few matters still within her personal sphere of influence. On the other hand, nothing is said about the House of Lords, or bishops within… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

Sigh: this is all still beyond me.

Why can’t the CofE just *disestablish*, and be done with it?

[With perhaps some govt subsidy, to keep the ancient buildings up]

Come on over to “the separation of Church & State”, UK: the water’s fine! 🙂

Martin Reynolds
Guest

And is anyone considering that these clerics might be openly elected before their name is submitted – or is that too much?

Peter Owen
Admin

I have reviewed my article on Choosing diocesan bishops linked above. I have made one minor correction (in one place I had the number of diocesan members on the CNC as four; the correct number is six). I have also added the requirement that at least three of the diocesan members must be lay people. So far as I am aware the article is correct, but I am open to correction. Changes to procedures that do not require action by General Synod are often announced in GS Misc papers which I may not see as they do not always appear… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Well, the only real difference that these proposals would have made in recent years is – no George Carey as ABC. Wow! There must be a God after all…. But seriously – the reason the CofE doesn’t disestablish is simple – if they did so, they would be another small Christian denomination which few people go to, and they would lose their link with the broader community of non-churchgoers, which, however, tenuous still exists. It does vary from area to area – Liverpool is a predominantly Catholic city, for example (and RC attendance is going the same way as ours!)… Read more »

Marshall Scott
Guest

Thanks so much for the information. To give credit where due: while the last step is “appointment,” there is certainly representation of the laity and of non-bishop clergy in the process of nomination. It’s a different process, but I wouldn’t see it as unrepresentative, unless the Prime Minister chose to be an active participant. I was particularly struck that in filling an archiepiscopal vacancy the Chair of the Crown Nominations Commission must be a lay person, and the General Secretary of the ACO is a non-voting member. While the General Secretary couldn’t speak *for* the Communion, he might speak *to*… Read more »

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Well, the only real difference that these proposals would have made in recent years is – no George Carey as ABC.

My Significant Other and I were invited (along with many others) to contribute to the ‘soundings’ in Bath & Wells when John Bickersteth retired in the 80’s. Guess who we got…..

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

Oddly this move could delay the appointment ( when approved ) of women bishops. Look at the Church of Ireland…women bishops approved 1990/1? and not one senior ranking woman, dean, bishop or even archdeacon.

NP
Guest
NP

common sense….we should not have outside political views interfering in CoE decisions – we have too much internal politics already!

Terence Dear
Guest
Terence Dear

The commitment to Establishment and the Royal Prerogative is very welcome. At least the CofE wont be able to sign up to a covenant that commits it to ‘obeying’ or ‘conforming to’ the wishes or directives of the Primates’ Meeting.

The Prerogative stills remains a prerogative – at the end of the day the Queen can appoint who she likes, as she did when she insisted on moving Donald Coggan to Canterbury. Any covenant that required the Queen to seek the approval of the Primates for ‘her’ choice would be illegal.

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

“we should not have outside political views interfering in CoE decisions”

And we should be protected from external political interference by the Instruments of Communion. (The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction…)

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

The most significant part of this announcement in my opinion is not the change regarding diocesan bishops. It is the proposal to have “different arrangements for Cathedral, parish and other Crown appointments in the Church”. The Pilling report, which is to be debated at General Synod next Monday considered whether it wished to recommend changes in this area made only quite minor recommendations.
It now looks as if that whole area will have to be revisited.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

‘The Prerogative stills remains a prerogative – at the end of the day the Queen can appoint who she likes, as she did when she insisted on moving Donald Coggan to Canterbury. Any covenant that required the Queen to seek the approval of the Primates for ‘her’ choice would be illegal.’ I wonder what evidence you have for this comment about Donald Coggan. The royal prerogative is rarely exercised without ministerial advice. In ecclesiastical matters it is confined to appointments to St George’s Windsor, Westmninster Abbey and other ‘royal peculiars’. Otherwise it is exercised on the advice of the Prime… Read more »

Malcolm+
Guest
Malcolm+

“The royal prerogative is rarely exercised without ministerial advice.” I must dispute this. The royal perogative is NEVER exercised without ministerial advice. In this regard, the constitutional systems in the UK and Canada are identical. In a recent Canadian case, the vice-regal person (who exercises HM’s powers on her behalf) took advice as to what she must do if the Premier did not proffer the necessary advice to issue the writ for a general election prior to the expiration of the Legislature’s five year maximum term. The constitutional advice proffered was that the only action she could take in absence… Read more »

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

On the tension between the polity of The Church of England and The Covenant:

The appointment of bishops will be one of the “essential matters of common concern”, on which the C of E will be required to “have regard to the common good of the Communion in the exercise of its autonomy”.

The question is: how much weight is given to structures which are so far ‘merely’ advisory?

Terence Dear
Guest
Terence Dear

In 1963, the Queen personally chose Sir Alec Douglas-Hume (then Lord Hume) as Prime Minister without regard to ministerial advice. My comment about Donald coggan is based on personal knowledge – I’m afraid I can’t evidence it. Of course, it isn’t only a matter of the Queen taking advice from her Ministers. The convention works the other way too; Ministers are required to have regard to any advice that the Monarch chooses to offer them. And, when the person offering you advice has been in the job for 55 years it is wise to take note of that advice. But… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

‘In 1963, the Queen personally chose Sir Alec Douglas-Home (then Lord Home) as Prime Minister without regard to ministerial advice. My comment about Donald Coggan is based on personal knowledge – I’m afraid I can’t evidence it.’ I’m not sure what ‘personal knowledge’ means! Does it mean you have some real inside knowledge, or just that that’s what you think happened. As for the Lord Home case, he was not ‘personally chosen’ by the Queen. On the contrary, soundings were taken amongst the Cabinet, and it was the advice of the outgoing PM, Macmillan, that Lord Home be his successor… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

‘I must dispute this. The royal prerogative is NEVER exercised without ministerial advice.’ Not so, not in the UK anyway. Only last week the Queen exercised her prerogative without ministerial advice, when she invited Gordon Brown to form an administration. Of course, by convention, the Queen didn’t really have any choice over whom to invite. However, I was thinking of two things. One I mentioned in my comment — the appointment of some clergy to the royal peculiars such as St George’s, Windsor, and Westminster Abbey. This is entirely without ministerial advice. The other is the exercise of the royal… Read more »

Malcolm+
Guest
Malcolm+

Simon – You make a valid distinction. These would all be areas which are considered in the free gift of HM. (I have several friends who are members in various degrees of the Victorian Order.) However, in areas where HM (or her representatives in the Dominions) would normally act on ministerial advice, neither HM nor her representatives would act without advice. I rather suspect that the last bit of advice HM received from Mr. Blair was that she invite Mr. Brown to come for tea. The exception, as I noted (and as I believe has never actually come to pass)… Read more »

Neil
Guest
Neil

These proposals are not good. Too much power in the hands of unelected Bishops. The involvement of the government’s civil service (2 people work on appointments and consult widely, and most importantly amongst the laity as well) ensures balance and fairness. Bishops will appoint in their own likeness. The only acceptable alternative to the present way of doing things would be to have fully elected Bishops.

Malcolm+
Guest
Malcolm+

And why not have “fully elected bishops?”

After all, in the fiction of establishment, doesn’t HM actually nominate a candidate whom a compliant chapter then elects.

Instead, why not have a diocesan process whereby bishops are elected by a diocesan synod instead of the “Crown Nominations Committee? After all, although a well appointed CNC could be a committee of the great and the good, it could equally be a committee of agenda driven placeholders of no particular merit. At least with a diocesan synod, those promoting a corrupt agenda would have to work harder to fix the process.