Sunday, 13 May 2007

Will Brown hand back powers to the Church?

Religious Intelligence carries this report by Christopher Morgan:

Will Brown hand back powers to the Church?

…The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told senior colleagues that he intends to give the church control over its own senior appointments. At the moment the Prime Minister plays a major role in the appointment of diocesan bishops and has the sole right to nominate deans of most English cathedrals. Mr Brown himself hinted at lifting control of the ecclesiastical appointments in a speech to the Fabian Society last year. Until 1976 the church had no formal role in the appointment of bishops at all, although it was consulted as a matter of courtesy. Thirty years ago, however, James Callaghan then Prime Minister established the Crown Appointments Commission, now renamed the Crown Nominations Commission, which draws up a shortlist of two names which it may offer in order of preference. The Prime Minister chooses either of the names or seeks other names from the Commission. Tony Blair used this veto at least once in 1997 to turn down both candidates proposed for the diocese of Liverpool.

The Prime Minister’s appointment secretary plays an active role in the whole process and is a non-voting member of the Commission.

Sources close to Mr Brown, who is a member of the Church of Scotland, indicated that he will introduce the change by producing a memorandum of agreement with the Church’s General Synod. One source said: “Brown does not need to introduce any legislation or take up any parliamentary time in this matter. He is simply altering convention.”

The present Crown Nominations Commission would remain but present only one name to Downing Street which the Prime Minister would then pass on to the Queen for her final appointment. In the case of cathedral deans it is said that Mr Brown will invite the bishop of the diocese to consult with his senior colleagues to produce one name which again he will then pass on to the Queen. However the Chancellor’s advisors are not so clear about these intentions. It is expected however that he would leave untouched the appointment of deans of Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in which the Queen still plays an active role. As “royal peculiars” the monarch remains the ultimate authority rather than a bishop…

Read it in full here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 13 May 2007 at 2:15pm BST | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England

All other arguments aside, a sensible pragmatic move - at this point in time, no British politician in his right mind would want any responsibility for the appointment of the next Archbishop of Canterbury, now would he?

".... for the first time since the rein of King Henry VIII the church will be given the right to choose its own archbishops and bishops" might indicate a hazy knowledge of the medieval power structure.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Sunday, 13 May 2007 at 4:00pm BST

Can the Church of England introduce elections for bishops?

Posted by: Pluralist on Sunday, 13 May 2007 at 7:11pm BST

In the diocese of Lincoln, it was believed by some of us that the appointment of one recent dean by the then PM, a person of the female persuasion, was an act of revenge for the 'Faith in the City' report, and the CofE's opposition to the government's piecemeal destruction of UK society.

Posted by: Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Sunday, 13 May 2007 at 7:26pm BST

Agree with Pluralist, elections for bishops; otherwise I'd favour antidisestablishmentarianism. Wouldn't fancy the new Anglican Curia having veto-powers over CofE bishops.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Sunday, 13 May 2007 at 7:28pm BST

Good move by the son of the manse

Pluralist - where does it say we should elect leaders? (the bronze age book so many here despise certainly does not teach this)

Posted by: NP on Monday, 14 May 2007 at 7:02am BST

Another example of local customs or "polity"? I hope you Brits have more loving acceptance of your local structures than TEC received upon trying to work within it's pre-existing system -such as General Convention -and the limits it places upon it's actions.

Posted by: ettu on Monday, 14 May 2007 at 12:10pm BST

Firstly, I don't think anyone here actually 'despises' the 'bronze age book' (and anyway, it's the New Testament to which we would refer if we wanted guidance on the appointment of bishops, and that's hardly 'bronze age', is it?)

Secondly, you ask 'where does it say we should elect leaders?' I'd respond with: 'where does it say bishops should be appointed by the crown?'.

Election of bishops has historical precedence, in that in the early church the college of presbyters 'elected' their bishop (often from amongst their number).

Posted by: northern_soul on Monday, 14 May 2007 at 1:05pm BST

Bishops chosen amongst the people to be their servant, not by some feudal scheme in the dark.

NP, no one is going to reorganise the Anglican Communion and have a top heavy system based on having a Book of Rules. Treating the Bible seriously and critically is not the same as having a Book of Rules.

You keep banging on that the AC is going to do this - latest bit is a fantasy that CESA will join the Anglcian Communion while the South African Church will not (presumably to join your other fantasy of TEC Global) - but, see what is actually happening.

What is happening is that, launched on this policy of unity (or, rather, uniformity)that leads to fears of a restrictive Covenant and a Roman style Curia via bishops, the Anglican Communion is actually finding out what its limits are. They are indeed where they were designed to be - subject to autonomous Churches. The Churches are not independent but autonomous, as has been pointed out recently. One possible consequence of recent policy initiatives is that the Anglican Communion becomes even looser, without any centre at all.

It remains a possibility too that one of these autonomous Churches, of Nigeria, will form its own view of Anglican Communion, and that will be within its Church and close relations with those of which it approves. But this is an entirely different. Your analysis, NP, is according to what you think should happen, but it is not according to what seems to be happening.

Posted by: Pluralist on Monday, 14 May 2007 at 1:56pm BST

People might be interested in Archbishop Cranmer's views on the subject of Church appointments, given that we owe the present arrangements somewhat to his influence:

"In the apostles’ time, when there was [sic] no christian princes, by whose authority ministers of God’s word might be appointed, nor sins by the sword corrected, there was no remedy then for the correction of vice, or appointing of ministers, but only the consent of christian multitude [sic] among themselves, by an uniform consent to follow the advice and persuasion of such persons whom God had most endued with the spirit of counsel and wisdom. And at that time, forasmuch as the christian people had no sword nor governor amongst them, they were constrained of necessity to take such curates and priests as either they knew themselves to be meet thereunto, or else as were commended unto them by other that were so replete with the Spirit of God, with such knowledge in the profession of Christ, such wisdom, such conversation and counsel, that they ought even of very conscience to give credit unto them, and to accept such as by them were presented: and so sometime the apostles, and other, unto whom God had given abundantly his Spirit, sent or appointed ministers of God’s word; sometime the people did choose such as they thought meet thereunto; and when any were appointed or sent by the apostles or other, the people of their own voluntary will with thanks did accept them; not for the supremity, impery [sic], or dominion that the apostles had over them to command, as their princes or masters; but as good people, ready to obey the advice of good counsellors, and to accept any thing that was necessary for their edification and benefit."

‘Questions and Answers Concerning the Sacraments and the Appointment and Power of Bishops and Priests’ in Miscellaneous Writings and Letters of Thomas Cranmer, Ed J E B Cox (Cambridge: The Parker Society, 1846, reproduced by Regent College Publishing), pp 116-117

Posted by: John Richardson on Monday, 14 May 2007 at 2:15pm BST

It seems to me that the casting of lots as in Acts 1 would be a precedent and for some this is interpreted as elections. On the other hand Matthias seems to have disappeared from the pages of church history only to be replaced by God's choice of Saul of Tarsus as the Apostle to the Gentiles. The trouble with elections and the episcopacy is that we get too many politicians and too few theologians. My 0.02 cents

Posted by: Ian Montgomery on Monday, 14 May 2007 at 2:28pm BST

How about the more ancient practice of bishops coming from the ranks of deacons rather than the non-biblical presbyterate ;-)

Posted by: Deacon Charlie Perrin on Monday, 14 May 2007 at 3:02pm BST

Bothering with careful scholarly and critical inquiry - of a bronze age or newer book or extant text - seems to demonstrate respect in my view.

Else, why bother?

Puh-leese don't get me started on considering yet again how and when and whether the special presuppositional rightwing readings of scripture so often being advanced as essentially Anglican these days - actually show such scholarly and critical respect for the text(s) involved. Do we need that lesson yet again? Yes we probably do. But it is not a sound bite affair.

So far as elections and church life, we do not yet have any signs that God cannot sometimes work as well through equality and democracy processes as through the older-fashioned divine rights of kings and appointments. Or, as poorly, for that matter.

Must this back and forth ever repeat the gaps and misunderstandings which have characterized the hot button debates about evolution and rightwing readings of scripture?



Why mention evolution and scripture? Because the hermeneutical dilemmas concerning evolution and sexuality are so often similar - and similarly accurate - or mistaken when they ignore or misconstrue the new facts that no civilization before now actually in truth knew. I especially recommend Stephen Jay Gould.


Almost all of his remarks about theory and fact in science could be lifted and transferred to our new empirical theories and facts about LGBTQ folks. With corresponding similar implications for how we read scripture according to different intentional frameworks. In Gould's sense, then, LGBTQ competence and decency (ethically and practically construed) are simply facts. What is, informs what ought to be, and sometimes corrects the mistakes in our legacy oughts. Why? Start provisionally with how we humans have evolution, change, and adaptation built into our very foundations as a species, and as individual members of a species.

Can these false pseudo-orthodox summaries and accusations do anything but distort our understandings of one another's views, and - is that the point? - help drag Anglican exchanges off course in favor of presuppositional and sound bite skewing and misunderstanding on hot button issues?

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 14 May 2007 at 4:08pm BST

'Don't vote- it only encourages them' - discuss with respect to the election of bishops.

I can feel a mischievous moment coming on - manifestos, election promises, ("My priorities if elected will be, consecration, consecration, consecration") 'Cash for canonries'.....

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Monday, 14 May 2007 at 5:21pm BST

Is the C of E predestined to suffer from a brownout?

Sorry, hate that when that happens.....:o)

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Monday, 14 May 2007 at 5:55pm BST

But Mynster,
"I can only go one way, I have not got a reverse gear".

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 14 May 2007 at 11:49pm BST

couldn't resist:

Posted by: rick allen on Monday, 14 May 2007 at 11:50pm BST

A Greek Orthodox priest friend of mine described an episcopal election in his Church as follows: The electors place a candidate's name in a chalice. The chair of the election committee selects a child under five years of age to pick a ballot from the chalice, after prayers and invocations of the Holy Spirit by the community. The one whose name appears on the ballot is deemed elected as a bishop in Christ's holy catholic Church.

I wish that were the process in TEC. Sadly, it is too political, having voted in four episcopal elections myself.

Posted by: John Henry on Tuesday, 15 May 2007 at 12:33am BST

How surprised most Americans are to discover that politicians are involved in the appointment of clerics! How rare and peculiar. Of course, should democracy intervene in your established polity, before long you'll have gay and female bishops, and fall from favor with Nigeria. Do beware!
Father Woodward (elected)
St. Edmund's Episcopal Church
San Marino, California

Posted by: George F. Woodward III on Tuesday, 15 May 2007 at 4:34am BST

In the Church of Sweden, for 313 years the King/the Senate/the Ecclesiastical Secretary of State/the Government appointed Bishop from a slate of 3, who had got the largest number of votes among the diocesan clergy.

By the 2000 Church Ordinance the Diocese, represented by the Chapter, Diocesan Board, Priests in active service (= office holders) and an equal (to the priests) number of Vestry, elects the Bishop.

Prior to this, a preliminary election is held (nomination is free).

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 15 May 2007 at 7:36am BST


It's a delight to find another who appreciates Stephen Jay Gould. I just love his models of punctuated equilibrium.

Have you done any study of Senge - in particular what happens when an apparently open system becomes closed?

That is relevant for these times as the apparently bottomless pit of oil energy disappears, the new frontiers to dump our excess populations and feed the homeland have disappeared.

We need theological paradigms that suit closed systems. The assumptions that Gaia has another resource hidden somewhere that will save the day needs to be exposed for what it is - complacency. And thus negligence.

Personally, I hope Brown does disassociate State interference in church matters. It sets the precendent for the converse to also apply. The debate about how or why it should happen will also help in international matters as other theologies grapple with whether statehood and/or "rules of law" can evolve (actually devolve) into destructive idolatrous monsters.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 15 May 2007 at 8:53am BST

Wouldn't it be refreshing for a bit of fresh air to blow through musty corridors in Canterbury? How many would sneeze? Would anti-histamines be passed around? Seriously, a bit of democracy might be illuminating.

Posted by: ettu on Tuesday, 15 May 2007 at 12:34pm BST

"Sadly, it is too political, having voted in four episcopal elections myself."

We could always meet as a diocese outdoors and select as bishop the person a dove lights on ... if I'm remembering my early church history, that's happened in the past. Not too many doves in downtown Richmond Va or in Reston [the two places we meet] - would a pigeon do?

Seriously, if the HOly Spirit can guide a child to pick the right name out of a chalice, then the Holy Spirit can guide a diocesan election. It's just messier.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Tuesday, 15 May 2007 at 2:01pm BST

Deacon Charlie said: 'How about the more ancient practice of bishops coming from the ranks of deacons rather than the non-biblical presbyterate ;-)'

What is un-biblical about the presbyterate? References to presbyters occur throughout the NT (leaving the Gospels aside). The author of 1 Peter even refers to himself as a presbyter: 1 Pet. 5:1.

In the pastoral epistles, the terms 'episkopos' (bishop/overseer) and 'presbyter' (elder/priest) are often interchangeable, having at this point no settled role. In the sub-apostolic period, the bishop is usually elected by and from amongst the college of presbyters i na particular place- as a 'chief elder'.

As far as I know, bishops did not come from amongst the ranks of deacons. The order of deacons has a distinct identity, unlike presbyter/bishops, which took a while to 'separate' into distinct roles and ministries. However, deacons do of course have a special relationship with the bishop. They are his 'helpers'. The unique link between bishop and deacon is expressed in the ordination rite, in that it is only the bishop who lays hands upon the deacon. Compare this to the ordination of presbyters (priests), where other priests are invited to lay hands upon the newly ordained (expressing the collegial nature of the presbyterate).

Posted by: northern_soul on Tuesday, 15 May 2007 at 2:05pm BST

Yes, Cheryl C let's add Senge to the list by all means. Have I got the right one?



If so, then problem is ... RW at Canterbury seems to sometimes be trying to foster a learning organization-learning environment sort of ecology with one hand, and appealing to a limited Primates Meeting top down organization-environment-leadership with the other. Quite a muddle, then. One stretch counters and tends to undo the other. And, of course, for the moment, TEC must be demonized from all rightwing Anglican angles.

So much anger, it must have been boiling ever since womens' ordination really started marching forwards again in the Anglican Communion. Meanwhile we lefties may have angers of our own, having watched so many gifted women in our families of origin and local communities fail to thrive as they dutifully sacrificed themselves to the interests of male privilege.

Hence, the challenge is to create organizations where we can learn enough about one another to stop fighting and agree to disagree to various degrees, but can legacy misogyny be healed by rational learnings?

Or, how does the beloved community carry/cradle/nurture the misogynist without itself being undone?

At these points I tend to get mystical, and so turn to folks like SJG and PS to get thinking again.

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 15 May 2007 at 3:50pm BST


That's the one

And the tensions go back before the ordination of women.

They go back to when the church first received sponsorship from a state leader and then started taking on organisational paradigms. Although the warning signs were already there with Paul's emphasing the boundaries of masculine versus feminine, age versus youth paradigms in some of his writing.

This was all reinforced by the choice of texts that were made "official" and the then blatent destruction and denouncing of the "non-official" texts.

Built a great organisation - but did not necessarily stay true to the heart of God's vision.

Who annointed Adam and Eve? Who chose Moses? Who sent Jesus? Human structures always have blind spots and idosyncracies. God intervenes in history every so often by raising challenges to our world views that can make us realise how and where our paradigms are failing. For some prophets, their legacy is to leave the smallest church footprint offset by the broadest repentance across the greatest number of denominations, faiths and creeds. That is God's desired aspiration for Jonahs. This is the vision that the Queen of the South is meant to leave (Luke 11:29-31 & Matthew 12:39-42) - a footprint the size of Jonah's with global repentance for all the peopleS of all the nationS. In Jonah 4:5-11 the vine stands for the church that sheltered Jonah - it withered because it was no longer required - the people of Ninevah had repented. Those who argue that their theology is best because they have the biggest church have misread this text. There are meant to be small churches because there is repentance in the masses.

ABC probably understands much of this. The problem is mediocre bureaucrats who do not want to lose their organisational status.

So we run the marathon and give example after example of where the paradigms are failing, and why, underpinned with biblical foundations. The slow to learn come to understand, the hard of heart come to repentance, the stubborn and proud become aggressive and rebellious. Yet in their rebellion, they merely confirm that their paradigms are flawed and need tweaking.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 15 May 2007 at 11:47pm BST
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.