Monday, 24 September 2012

George Pitcher on the next Archbishop of Canterbury

In a major article in the New Statesman, George Pitcher, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s secretary for public affairs from 2010-2011, ponders the challenges confronting the Archbishop’s successor: Between church and state.

Politicians are accustomed to the media distorting whatever they have to say for dramatic effect – every discussion is a row, every initiative a push for power. So it is with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Anglican apparatchiks have been busy playing down the suggestion that their Church is planning to appoint a “global president” to relieve the next archbishop of some of the workload. The line is that Dr Rowan Williams, in a valedictory interview in the Daily Telegraph, merely said that the job was too big for one person. The Telegraph thought otherwise.

But the story stirred some emotions, not least relief that Tony Blair had converted to Roman Catholicism and so would not be available for the job. And it drew attention to just how political is the role of archbishop of Canterbury. Not only is Williams presented as a more virulent opposition to the present government than the Labour Party, but what he has to say is presented in the media about as sympathetically as Boris Johnson’s denials that he wants to be prime minister…

John Martin writes for The Living Church about the Horse Race for Lambeth Palace and concludes with

Odds are strong that the commission will name Richard Chartres as a short-term “caretaker” to give Justin Welby time to gain more experience as a bishop before taking the reins at Lambeth Palace.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 24 September 2012 at 5:05pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

One can only reiterate that, if Chartres as caretaker, followed, after a decent interval, by Welby as 'real', is the 'grand plan', it shows how miserably out of touch C of E 'high-ups' are with reality and with the ever-worsening crisis facing Christianity in western liberal societies. I know it sounds snobbish, but how can/could they be so ineffably stupid?

Posted by: John on Monday, 24 September 2012 at 7:31pm BST

Let it not be forgotten that hidden away in the archives is a statement that RIchard Chartres of London made to, I think, the British Sunday Telegraph or it could have been the Daily Telegraph, to the effect that if he went to Canterbury he 'would ordain women as the office required it'.

This was, of course, the last time around when Rowan Williams got the job and Chartres has never spoken in this way since.

Thought your readers would like to know this?

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Monday, 24 September 2012 at 7:38pm BST

RE: Richard Chartres would ordain women as priests, as posted by me earlier.

Here's the Telegraph link:

Make of it what you will.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Monday, 24 September 2012 at 11:00pm BST

"Oh, no John, no John, no John, No!"
Chartres for Canterbury - Surely not "ineffably stupid" but in the words of the hymn - "Thine" by Mary Dagworth James -
"What bliss ineffable, divine"

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 5:43am BST

John, in answer to your question, long years of practice.

Posted by: toby forward on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 6:38am BST

The thing we all need to remember is that neither Mr Pitcher nor Mr Martin actually know what is going on within the CNC. Speculation is great fun but exceedingly pointless.

Posted by: Wilf on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 9:28am BST

Dear Concerned,
No where in your posted Telegraph link does it say that if the Bishop of London were to be offered Canterbury last time round 'he would ordain women as the office required it'. There's a world of difference between that statement and what the Telegraph article actually says that 'close friends' of the bishop say that "he will happily do so".

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 9:33am BST

Well if that is the case Fr David there is surely no way that he would be recommended for Canterbury.

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 10:00am BST

At the risk of sounding impossibly naive / optimistic / pious, I really do believe that the Holy Spirit works through the process and that the CNC members will be doing their best to find the person whom God is calling to this thankless but crucial task.

Posted by: Philip Hobday on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 10:01am BST

If indeed Richard Chartres were appointed as a 'caretaker', how long might he serve before handing over to Justin Welby, and how would this fit in with the timing of the Lambeth Conference, since presumably one of the key tasks for the next ABC would be planning an 2018 Conference? By my reckoning Richard C would turn 71 in July 2018 - not the best timing if he were to retire then! But if he retired just a couple of years after taking office, say, to give his successor time to prepare for Lambeth, would this not involve a lot of upheaval for little gain?

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 10:45am BST

Isn't "patrician" just "authoritarian" in a velvet glove? I smell the whiff of racism....

Posted by: David Cavanagh on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 10:57am BST

I'm with Philip Hobday here. I have great hope for the aphorism; "Man proposes, God disposes"

I'm all for "Veni Creator Spiritus", which is what I will be praying for the commission's enlightenment.
May God's sovereign sway bring the right person!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 11:33am BST

I find it interesting that I haven't been able to find any comments in the press or otherwise that suggest that the new Archbishop ought to be a theological heavyweight, or failing that really quite gifted theologically. I suspect that we want someone prayerful, holy (if it can be defined), not managerially inept, gracious, wise, tested and so on. But we also need someone who is knowledgeable enough to discern the theological roots and implications of our common life. I think we need some real theological leadership to get us out of some of the jams we're in, and not just more and more process-driven strategies. If I had any reservations about Rowan, I suspect it was that his humility and his conversational style of governance might have impaired his ability to take a lead on various issues, lest he overpower the debate. That lead could have been a theological one rather than a power-based one....

Posted by: joe on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 11:37am BST

So the Prince's non-woman ordaining, good buddy (Trinity) is top candidate (excuses aplenty for his WO position but no first-hand assurances he would change if appointed, and no reason, on his record, to assume that any second-hand assurances might be acted upon), closely followed by RAB Butler's grand-nephew (Eton & Trinity), who needs just a wee bit more time gathering experience? Obviously the Church is adapting to the times; the old "Establishment" is dead, and pleasing the Palace is no longer a significant job requirement.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 1:10pm BST

I doubt whether we'll ever know if the 2002 Telegraph article was a deliberate 'leak' by Richard Chartres, testing the waters as it were, or whether it was a reporter's fantasy. Make your own minds up on that one.

However, whoever comes in as the next Archbishop and I hope personally that we get a older 'shorter term' candidate, that person would do the entire Anglican Communion a favour by announcing quickly (before his power wanes) a five year postponement of the next Lambeth Conference.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 2:11pm BST

"...if [+Richard Chartres of London] went to Canterbury he 'would ordain women as the office required it'." (Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Monday, 24 September 2012 at 7:38pm BST)

This would presumably have to include the probability, legislation pending, of ordaining women as bishops within the province.

Posted by: Alastair Cutting on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 3:27pm BST

Nobody has yet said who Justin Welby is, and why he should be waited for.

Posted by: Jeremy Hummerstone on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 5:17pm BST

It is the job of the current CNC to choose the best person for the job now. It is not it's job to do succession planning. Given five years, there may be more competition and other bishops curently not long in office may have proved their worth and earned their spurs. There may even be an obvious woman candidate by then!

Posted by: Susan Cooper on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 5:20pm BST

Father David,

Glad to hear you in good voice.

Stay with us.

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 6:48pm BST

Wilf is of course right, this speculation is pointless but as I pointed out in my letter to The Times in April the longer the process goes on the more acute and potentially ridiculous is this speculation. Re +Londin's approach to women's ordination, the CNC needed to know in 2001 whether or not he would ordain women as priests if he was translated to Canterbury as in those days there were no interviews. Always best to be able to ask the candidate face-to-face. I have no doubt that he was asked, thereby enabling the Commission to consider the question with the benefit of his answer. I should point out, for the avoidance of doubt and further speculation, that I was not a member of the last Canterbury CNC. Per Concerned Anglican, like the idea of postponing Lambeth 2018: why not just postpone it sine die. It's largely a waste of time and money.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 6:51pm BST

re Lambeth Conference As I understand it there was a body of opinion that wanted the 1978 Lambeth Conference to be the last. Paradoxically ( in view of their absence last time), it was the African Provinces that made sure this didnt happen.
A postponement might well be a good thing..without a generational change its difficult to see it would be much different to the last.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 7:29pm BST

My sisters and brothers, please ignore my earlier post: I just read the John Martin "Living Church" article.
I don't like it when the press uses a "horse race" style of approach for covering selection to high office, secular or religious -- regardless of whether the office is president of the United States, Prime Minister of England, or Archbishop of Canterbury -- or Pope, for that matter.
All such offices are complex, and come with issues not easily reduced to a Twitter tweet or campaign button.
At least in the case of PM or POTUS, the candidates are publicly known, they openly seek the position, they make known their views, and they can be judged accordingly.
But, that approach is, at least publicly, deemed unseemly within a church structure such as the CofE or the Roman Catholic Church -- while "more gentlemanly" versions of the same approach still go on.
We may pray that the Holy Spirit guides the church process, but nonetheless there are some people who want to show the Holy Spirit the correct path.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 7:33pm BST

I've never really understood why so much emphasis should be placed on the Lambeth Conference in deciding who is to sit on St. Augustine's throne - nor indeed whether or not the successful candidate will or will not ordain women to the priesthood - which seems to have become the modern test of orthodoxy within the Church of England. Just before the last vacancy we had one Archbishop who did (Carey) and one who didn't (Hope). Cannot the roles be reversed and we can have one who does (Sentamu)and one who doesn't (Chartres)? Clearly the present Bishop of London is by far the best candidate for Canterbury - as he shewed in his handling of the recent crisis at St. Paul's.

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 8:22pm BST

I doubt that there is anyone who is 'by far the best candidate for Canterbury' - each of the leading candidates has his own strengths and weaknesses.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 at 11:11pm BST

Surely - last time round Rowan was by far the best candidate for Canterbury. The time before that - John Habgood was by far the best candidate to become the Primate of All England (what happened there then?). In spite of Dr. Fisher's lobbying - mercifully Harold Macmillian regarded Michael Ramsey as by far the best candidate to go to Canterbury. When William Temple died so suddenly - George Bell was by far the best candidate to replace him - but Churchill thought otherwise. In the past sometimes we've missed out on the best candidate being chosen. Amid all the current difficulties being faced by the CofE - let us hope and pray that the best candidate "by far" is appointed.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 26 September 2012 at 6:21am BST

Good news that, if the BBC report is to be believed, an announcement is to be made next week. Not that long ago we were always told (by Caroline Boddington's predecessor) that it took 14 weeks from the time of the last Commission meeting to be able to make the announcement. The postal service between Downing Street and the Palace is by pony and trap and CRB checks take a long time you understand. However, quite how the Commission will fill its time over the next three days is a mystery. Hopefully lots of time to wait on the Holy Spirit.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Wednesday, 26 September 2012 at 8:12am BST

"Jonathan Wynne-Jones, who as religion reporter for the London Sunday Telegraph broke the story (never officially denied) that Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, had been blocked after having been chosen as Bishop of Southwark, reportedly has said he already knows who the commission will choose."

The phrasing of this passage is fairly ambiguous - we could be intended to assume that JW-J is just gifted at divining the intentions of the CNC. But if it is the case that he has an inside source, it is deplorable that the CNC is once again leaking.

Posted by: rjb on Wednesday, 26 September 2012 at 3:23pm BST
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