Comments: more articles about the Crown Nominations Commission

Surely the biblical thing to do in a complete deadlock situation would be to follow the precedent set in Acts 1 - pray for God's guidance and then cast lots. It worked for the apostles, why not for the Church of England?

Posted by Andrew Trueman at Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 1:20am BST

I'm sure all this speculation is very interesting, but none of us has any input or influence on the process. There will be plenty of entrails to divine in due course. In the meantime, perhaps we should all relax and get on with the mission of the Church.

Posted by Alan T Perry at Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 6:22am BST

John Martin writes "In 1987 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher provided the only known example of overturning a church nomination when she preferred Mark Santer to James Thompson as Bishop of Birmingham."
Surely there were other examples of Prime Ministerial intervention during the Thatcher years? Wasn't Bishop Leonard of Truro the second name on the list to become Bishop of London? More significantly - wasn't Carey number two on the list and was preferred by the Iron Lady to Habgood who was number one?
I also recall that our only female P.M. proved to be decisive and prophetic in the choice of a former Dean of Lincoln. Her words that there would be "blood on the carpet" at Lincoln - certainly proved unfortunately to be true.
In John Martin's article as a whole - it looks as though the prejudices of the CNC members against certain candidates seem to be having preference over that which is the best outome for the Church. Although, this is, of course, mere speculation as the sessions are held in secret and the members are sworn to complete and utter confidentiality - not with standing Ruth Gledhill seems to be remarkably well informed - or does she simply have a very good crystal ball? Surely - a better way MUST be found to select our chief pastors?

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 7:09am BST

Lots of churches have interregnums for months and even years and do perfectly well, so an interregnum at the top may exasperate some, but surely its best to have the right candidate rather than rush things. (Andrew, not sure if you're being tongue-in-cheek but the events of Acts chapter 2 changed decision-making processes somewhat).

I've heard Baptist ministers are advised not to take a post with less than 90% of the church vote - having even quite a small minority who don't want you there is a recipe for trouble - so if none of the 'big guns' can command a 2/3rds majority maybe its a chance to look at other candidates.

For myself I don't know why the Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin, is not on anyone's radar - if Justin Welby is in the running why not him?

Posted by Peter+ at Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 6:11pm BST

I am delighted that Lord Harries of Pentregarth thinks it would be ignominious for the decision over the next Archbishop of Canterbury to be handed back to the Prime Minister, and I agree with him, but this ignores the fact that the CNC seems not to be capable of reaching a conclusion. On that basis (absent of drawing lots, which is not permitted under the slightly flimsy rules that the CNC works under) the only solution is to revert to the constitutional reality, which is that this is a Crown appointment.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 8:38pm BST

For a simpleton like myself; it seems extraordinary that, if one nomination has been agreed, it is necessary to nominate a second - especially as the P.M. is duty-bound to accept the first nominee.

Could there not be a re-arrangement to avoid this seeming deadlock? Or would it require (another) Act of Parliament to facilitate such a simple action?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 10:28pm BST

There must be two nominees (a preferred candidate and a reserve) so that, should the preferred candidate be unable or unwilling to serve, another person can go forward without the Commission having to reconvene and start all over again. For instance, a preferred candidate might wish to withdraw in light of the medical exam.

The Prime Minister is NOT duty-bound to accept the preferred candidate. It is a convention rather than a rule that he do so (though failure to observe it might well lead to a constitutional crisis and demand within the church for a more radical overhaul of the current arrangements).

Similiarly, the idea of the Prime Minister simply imposing a nominee is absurd; even if the College of Canons as the electors and the senior bishops who confirm the election were prepared to go along with it, it would fly in the face of the increasing autonomy of the church in this area which has evolved since the 1970s and presumably fuel demand for a radical break.

Posted by Philip Hobday at Thursday, 4 October 2012 at 2:27pm BST

Dear Father Ron,

I am not a lawyer, but as far as I can tell, the CNC process is not enshrined in law at all. It appears that, as far as statute law (specifically, section 3 of the Appointment of Bishops Act 1533) is concerned, the selection of Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops is a responsibility of the Prime Minister, as holder of the Royal Prerogative power to issue letters missive.

The Commission came into existence not through legislation, but because Jim Callaghan agreed always to solicit the advice of such a body (in the form of two names in order of preference) before choosing a Bishop. Later, Gordon Brown agreed always to choose the first name suggested by the Commission. It's not clear to what extent either of their undertakings are binding on their successors.

Posted by Feria at Thursday, 4 October 2012 at 5:29pm BST

Dear Philip,

Technically, even if the Dean and Chapter absolutely refuse to elect the person named in the Queen's letters missive, they can only delay that person's appointment by twelve days - after that, the Crown can appoint directly by letters patent (it's in section 3 of the Appointment of Bishops Act 1533).

Of course, you're right that, lawful though such a course of action would be, it would carry with it certain practical risks, namely that people within the church who disagreed with the decision might resort to calling for disestablishment.

Posted by Feria at Thursday, 4 October 2012 at 6:24pm BST

Feria - apologies, I had forgotten about the residual power of direct appointment by letters patent where the Canons do not elect. Not that this is going to happen, but what about refusing the confirmation of election? If I read rightly, section IV of the Act requires that archiepiscopal elections be confirmed by a commission of eight bishops (including where possible the other archbishop), but doesn't say anything about what happens if they refuse to.

Posted by Philip Hobday at Thursday, 4 October 2012 at 8:19pm BST


In the copy of the 1533 Act on, it's not eight bishops but four (or three if one of them is an Archbishop). And the precedent of the consecration of Matthew Parker means that retired bishops qualify just as well as serving bishops.

Posted by Feria at Thursday, 4 October 2012 at 11:59pm BST

Further to my previous answer... You'll recall that section 6 of the 1533 Act was repealed in 1967. I can't get hold of the full text of section 6, but from the way it's described in the Act that repealed it, and from the Wikipedia article on the 1533 Act, I think section 6 probably made it a criminal offence for the Dean, Chapter, or existing Bishops to refuse to play ball.

Posted by Feria at Friday, 5 October 2012 at 8:33am BST

If the Church Times current "press" report is to be believed and "the Canterbury six [representatives from the diocese]" on the CNC are "making life very difficult" by blocking the nomination of the Bishop of London as the next Cantuar - then that's bad news for the Church of England and bad news for the Anglican Communion. Bishop Chartres is, by far, the best qualified to take on the onerous ministry as Archbishop of Canterbury. It is regretable that one particular diocese has so much power and holds so much sway in so vital an appointment. Canterbury is just one diocese among forty four within the CofE and an acceptable outcome has considerable consequences for the entire Established Church and wider Communion. If a less qualified candidate were nominated that surely would be most unfortunate. Twice in the recent past that is what has indeed happened when Fisher was preferred to Bell and Carey to Habgood. I hope and pray that the same mistake won't be made for the third time of asking.

Posted by Father David at Friday, 5 October 2012 at 10:07am BST

There is little doubt that the structural problem with the CNC, magnified with a Canterbury vacancy, is the disproportionate influence of the diocesan representatives, six out of 16 total Commission members with votes. Add to that the fact that the Bishop of Dover, who effectively runs the diocese, is one of the six, is clearly the shop steward and is electing his boss in the process. Regardless of who the candidates are who have been interviewed and are on the shortlist, the Canterbury six can block any name. General Synod was warned about this when it voted to increase the number from four to six a few years ago. By the way, @Father David, I don't think +Londin is one of the final candidates, good though he would be. The women issue is something the whole Commission would have a problem with. See the Sunday Telegraph tomorrow for more on all this.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Saturday, 6 October 2012 at 1:24pm BST

Having read the Sunday Telegraph article - I'm despondent that the future direction of the Church of England has been entrusted to a mere 16 people - many of whom have such liberal views on who should succeed Rowan.
If it isn't to be Richard Chartres - described this morning on the Sunday programme as "the best Archbishop of Canterbury we never had" - then it seems increasingly likely that the lot may well fall upon the relatively episcopally inexperienced Justin Welby. In his favour - the Bishop of Durham at least knows where to wear his pectoral cross - where it should be i.e. on his chest - rather than resting on the navel of an often substantial corporation as do many other bishops - or worse still - concealed in an inside jacket pocket. I also like his approach to the Parish Share - rather than telling the parishes from the central Diocesan Office what they ought to pay - asking the parishes what they feel the are able to pay. Would that such a revolutionary policy be adopted by all the other dioceses within the Church of England.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 2:30pm BST

Welcome to the Church of England, this is a prime example of how how attempts at decision making are made in the Queen of the Communion Province.
I think they should make the dean of canterbuy the next ABC (affectionate abbreviation)- the cathedral is truly the instrument of unity.

Father Jim Rosenthal

Posted by Fr Jim Rosenthal at Monday, 8 October 2012 at 10:54am BST

"I also like his approach to the Parish Share - rather than telling the parishes from the central Diocesan Office what they ought to pay - asking the parishes what they feel the are able to pay. Would that such a revolutionary policy be adopted by all the other dioceses within the Church of England."

Don't go there. It's great in theory and its theology is impeccable, but...

To all intents and purposes that's been how this deanery's operated for the last decade, and all it has done is create a limited vision of 'how little can we get away with?' Consequently I'm picking up the pieces of a system which has set one parish against another and has reduced any concept of the greater Church to 'what members of the CofE do inside the Deanery boundary.'

+Durham's method demands a strategic vision, when at best most parishes can only do the tactics of skirmish. I know there's always the 'accountability' problem with central structures, but it does rescue from parochialism. It's superficially attractive, and we all like the word 'empowerment', but this diocese is actively backing away from the experiment.

Posted by david rowett at Monday, 8 October 2012 at 4:13pm BST
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