Comments: When will Justin Welby officially become Archbishop of Canterbury?

Best wishes to Justin and may he find grace, love and wisdom to serve the church.

But should bishops sit on thrones? What is that all about and what does it say?

Just wondering.

Posted by Susannah at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 1:58am GMT

Most businesses would plan succession carefully and include a period of handover to ensure that the company continues to run smoothly.

What is the rationale behind a 3 months long vacancy for Canterbury?
I understand the purpose of an Interregnum in parishes where it is helpful if parish profiles can be written after the current priest has left, but I don't understand why this would be helpful in a case where the successor has already been chosen and announced.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 9:00am GMT

I think the vacancy is only a month or so, Erika, but even so it is not clear to me who is formally in charge if anything momentous should happen!

Posted by Savi Hensman at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 1:06pm GMT

A three or one month interregnum is nothing compared with the average length of interregna that most parishes have to face. If those churchwardens who maintain the ship between reigns get away with a mere twelve months then they are indeed most fortunate. It saves on the stipends, don't you know!
As for who is formally "in charge if anything momentous should happen!" Well, if the Church is anything like Parliament - then I suppose it is the Archbishop of York. When the Prime Minister is away we can all sleep soundly in our beds knowing that Nick Clegg's hand is on the tiller - as indeed we could during the Blair/Brown years secure in the knowledge that John Prescott had all our interests at heart.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 2:29pm GMT

Fr David,
yes, but in parishes an Interregnum makes sense. It allows a parish to think carefully about what kind of priest they would like next, someone to build on the strengths of the previous incumbent and maybe someone with different weaknesses. Parishes change over time and it is important that they have enough time to think about their new parish profile and without any interference or the potential embarrassment of saying something negative about their current priest before he/she has left.
Plus, of course, it saves on stipend.

But in this case the successor is already known and the stipend saved negligible. There would be real advantages in a properly managed handover whereas I cannot see a single benefit in a 4 week long interregnum.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 2:59pm GMT

Surely the guardians of the spiritualities are in charge of the spiritualities, and the Crown no doubt takes charge of the temporalities. I conjecture that if there were an urgent need of a coronation it would fall to Londin. No doubt York could deal with all the pretend stuff like the AC.

Posted by american piskie at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 3:42pm GMT

Caught a comment in a radio discussion about elitism and people in government to the effect that the new ABC has more experience of business, finance and the economy than the prime minister, deputy prime minister and the chancellor between them.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 3:47pm GMT

But I don't think he oficially becomes Archbishop until he pays homage to the Queen and the temporalities, currently with her during the Vacancy in See, are restored to him as office holder. This will take place at some point after 4 February.

Posted by Kevin at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 5:04pm GMT

Kevin is correct that the temporalities of the see are not restored until the new Archbishop pays homage to the Queen, which will be some time after 4 February. These would once have included the episcopal residence and estates, but these are all now vested in the Church Commissioners. The only temporalities now administered by the Crown during a vacancy in the see are the patronages of livings of which the bishop is patron by virtue of his see.

Posted by Peter Owen at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 6:54pm GMT

"What is the rationale behind a 3 months long vacancy for Canterbury?" - Erika -

My understanding is that the present archbishop of Canterbury remains in that position until the official enthronement of the next Archbishop. Is that not correct?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 8:19pm GMT

"My understanding is that the present archbishop of Canterbury remains in that position until the official enthronement of the next Archbishop. Is that not correct?"


The See of Canterbury became vacant when the outgoing Archbishop's resignation came into effect at midnight at the end of 31 December 2012.

There is now a formal Vacancy in See.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 9:09pm GMT

The short interregnum is necessary and desirable. Presumably Bishop Justin will have existing commitments to the Durham diocese he wishes to honour, and I don't think we'd begrudge him a retreat, a good holiday, and time to move house and office. Legally, the steps required to make him Archbishop can't begin until his predecessor leaves office. And I can't imagine anything which would require the personal urgent attention of the incoming Archbishop before he comes into office, but presumably his opinion would be sought on anything major and there will be longstanding arrangements to cover more routine business. A brief gap to give him time to settle in doesn't seem to me unreasonable or disproportionate.

A change of government in the UK usually takes less than a day, and I can't help wondering whether making an exhausted party leader take over the whole lot in a few hours is really conducive to preparation and clear-sighted appointments and decision making in the early days of a new administration. Perhaps this is an area the state could learn from the church ...

Posted by Philip Hobday at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 9:30pm GMT

I was at the Confirmation of Roy Williamson (then a priest) as Bishop of Bradford in 1984. The event took place the evening before his ordination as a bishop the following day. Bishop Colin Buchanan was to be the preacher at that service and was also present at the Confirmation.

To describe the event as arcane would be an understatement as the various legal dramatis personae read to one another from their lengthy A4 scripts. Colin Buchanan kept shaking his head and chuckling in what I interpreted as amused disbelief (shared by others of us who were present).

At the end of the proceedings of the court, the judge who was presiding invited the 'new Bishop of Bradford to give us his episcopal blessing'.

I remember wondering what the event had cost in terms of legal fees and travel expenses.

Posted by Lister Tonge at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 9:43pm GMT

Philip Hobday,
when a new government takes over it is usually after an adversarial election process when a new team of people wants to change completely what the previous administration did.
I don't know whether that ought to be a good example for the church to follow.

I think business would be a better example, where top management usually have a handover period during which internal processes are explained, introductions made etc. Smooth handovers are something to be proud of, not something to dismiss as unnecessary.

I'm sure it would be possible to arrange such a system to give an incoming Archbishop a holiday if s/he needs one first.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 4 January 2013 at 8:36am GMT

Far better than "a holiday" for the incoming Archbishop would surely be a Retreat. I'm sure that in his all too brief tenure as Bishop of Durham Justin Welby has already been on pilgrimage to Lindisfarne so I would suggest as a possible venue the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham which never fails to refresh and renew the batteries.

Posted by Father David at Friday, 4 January 2013 at 10:58am GMT

The process is certainly arcane, but it works. The confirmation of election is the point at which he actually becomes Archbishop of Canterbury and ceases to be +Dunelm. It is an extraordinary affair, usually held at St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside for regular diocesans. It is a cross between an act of worship (there is liturgy of sorts) and a lawyers' Dickensian tea party. There are more wigs present (seated around a large table as if in conference) that you can shake a stick at all reading stuff aloud and confirming that all the arcanery is in order. I am not sure who an Archbiship receives his charge from: for diocesans it is the Archbishop of the province concerned. In the meantime +Sentamu is in charge for national CofE affairs, there are arrangements for particular provincial matters to be handled by another bishop and for the Anglican Communion the Standing Committee decides what to do for matters that cannot wait, but no-one can remember when there was ever one of them!

Posted by Anthony Archer at Friday, 4 January 2013 at 3:42pm GMT

The 'lawyers' Dickensian tea party' I beheld is well described thus. It was in the Zouche Chapel of York Minster, I believe, since a Northern See was involved.

But it was the 'episcopal blessing' from someone still in priest's orders that seemed the cherry on our tea cake.

Posted by Lister Tonge at Friday, 4 January 2013 at 6:28pm GMT

Why can't these appointments just be confirmed in a sentence on the cofe website, and a signed contract, without the arcane role-play?

And if I may repeat my opening question, why do we even tolerate the concept of 'enthronement'? Even John Paul I declined a papal coronation.

I'm all in favour of mystery and wonder in ritual, but the legal fripperies mentioned above just seem silly.

Posted by Susannah at Friday, 4 January 2013 at 10:31pm GMT
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