Comments: CNC delays

I don't know enough about this to say where the problem lies (still less to say what might be done), but the length of time it is taking to fill diocesan sees is unacceptable. The period from from the moment the incumbent diocesan announces their departure to the point where there successor takes up their duties must be deeply frustrating for a diocese. In any organisation, this kind of gap often means delaying key decisions and appointments and can leave people feeling anxious, uncertain, and less cared-for. Perhaps someone who knows more about the process can suggest solutions ...

Posted by Philip Hobday at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 12:54pm BST

Question from one who is ignorant about the ins-and-outs of the process: why can't the CNC begin considering a replacement when the bishop announces his retirement and not when he actually retires?

Posted by Jesse at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 1:27pm BST

My learned colleagues, may a Yank (although of chiefly English and Scottish ancestry) make a comment on the 4th of July?

The combination here of formality and propriety and the discussion of the minutiae of scheduling and process is what so many of us find both baffling and refreshing about official life in England.

One glimpses that there are deeply held concerns in play about propriety and respect, about the burdens and responsibilities of public life, about doing things decently and in good order.

These concerns seem to apply to even the most ordinary of human actions as well as to matters of great significance.

One also notes that in the House of Lords the title "Lord" has become gender inclusive.

One might well ask how and where people learn to speak this way, but I couldn't possibly comment on that.

Posted by JNWALL at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 1:37pm BST


Posted by Susan Cooper at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 1:48pm BST

The issue with delays is that there are only a certain number of CNC meetings each year. Each CNC has two meetings (shortlisting then interviewing and voting). The process does start before the outgoing bishop actually goes, but there is a great deal to be done.

Before each CNC the diocesan Vacancy in See committee must meet, the diocese must prepare a statement and elect CNC representatives and the two appointments secretaries must visit the diocese. CNC members, both central and diocesan, consider who they wish to see on the list for consideration.

There is, consequently, a great deal of time spent both before the meetings and at them which means that it is, as currently set up, a long process.

When a bishop announces his retirement is not entirely predictable (unless they hit 70). How much notice he give is likewise not predictable. The translation of a bishop from one diocesan post to another (e.g. Durham to Canterbury; Southwell to Durham) creates a vacancy by filling another.

Diaries being what they are the meetings of the CNC have to be set a long time in advance, which means that there is little flexibility at times such as now when there are a lot of vacancies.

Vacant dioceses are put in a queue (and someone will be able to say whether this is based on date of announcement or date of resignation) and considered in that order.

Making the process quicker could involve cutting corners on the deliberative process. However, it may be (and I think this has happened) that extra dates for meetings of the CNC are put in the diary in case they are needed. It is unfortunate that dioceses like St Edmundsbury and Ipswich are left vacant for so long but it could just be one of those things.

Posted by Wilf at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 3:40pm BST

One might make the same comment about the selection and appointments of Deans. Here in Chichester, Dean Frayling retired in February, the advertisement is only today in the Church Times, interviews are in September, which means essentially the new incumbent won't take up his place until into the New Year.

One might ask whether the significant financial savings achieved through the long delay is part of the reason. Or am I being cynical (again)?

Posted by Richard Ashby at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 3:46pm BST

Vacant dioceses generally join the queue by the date of announcement as my list here demonstrates.

Posted by Peter Owen at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 4:10pm BST

I made the suggestion here on an earlier thread that the central CNC panel could be larger, with a subset of the panel being empanelled to deal with each vacancy. That way there could be more meetings of the Commission without any individual having to attend more meetings, other perhaps than the secretariat.

There would have to be some overlap and communication between the central CNC members to give continuity and ensure that candidates were being interviewed in too many places at the same time -- again the secretariat would need to help with that.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 5:26pm BST

Note the comment in the Church Times made by the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church who states that the nomination system would have promoted more women in the US. There are only four women diocesans in TEC, due to electoral bias.

Posted by robert ian Williams at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 5:29pm BST

In the education world, the usual pattern is:

July 2013 - Head Teacher notifies the governors she/he will retire in July 2014

September 2013 - The post is advertised, to commence from August 2014

October 2013 - Interviewing begins

November 2013 - Appointment is confirmed, and parents informed

August 2014 - new Head takes over, having had 6-9 months to liaise with predecessor and governors for seamless transition

Seems to work :)

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 6:04pm BST

This portion of the debate copied in below is encouraging.


The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, would the Minister find it helpful if the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury was made aware of the concern of the House about there being sufficient meetings of the Crown Nominations Commission, so that when there is a pile-up of episcopal vacancies, as it were, there are sufficient meetings to address that? Is the Minister also aware that we very much hope to have legislation by the end of this year so that women can become bishops?

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: They would therefore be eligible, and much overdue, to come into this House.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, what the right reverend Prelate said last is of great importance not only in this House but to the nation as a whole. I wish the deliberations of the General Synod extremely well. I know that when we had a previous exchange the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury was going to be made aware of some of the concerns, and it would be extremely helpful if a record of our discussions today were made known to him.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 6:39pm BST

If memory serves me correctly, it took us about six months to elect a new bishop in this diocese after Bishop Victoria Matthews resigned. That included forming a diocesan search committee with provincial involvement, putting together a profile, receiving nominations, calling an electoral synod and holding it.

I know, i know, colonials shouldn't give the C of E advice about electing bishops rather than appointing them. But it does seem to this expatriate Brit (now a happy Canadian for many years) that a lot of these problems are all connected to the C of E appointment system.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 7:23pm BST

I like the appointment of coadjutors with rights of succession.
Seamless ..... Respectful of both the old and new bishop and the diocese.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 11:34pm BST

There's a good argument, given how much time the CNC takes up in the diaries of the Archbishops and others, for them to spend three or four days together considering 3 vacancies at the same time and interviewing a pool of candidates. So, the Hereford re-run, Guildford and Gloucester could be done as a job lot. That at least would be a more rational use of time, prayer and energy while not changing the existing system.

There are plenty of other changes that would improve the system, but that at least would be a step in the right direction. It's all interminably slow.

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Friday, 4 July 2014 at 11:35pm BST

The diocese of Guildford doesn't seem to have collapsed in the absence of a Diocesan. Dorking with all his years as a Suffragan behind him seems to be coping!
Which reminds me of a story John Gladwin once told me. At his Enthronement at Guildford cathedral there was an outburst from a member of the congregation who was protesting that the new bishop was the same man who as Provost of Sheffield gave a sermon in Southwark cathedral at a gathering of and for the Gay community. A Steward went to try and calm the protestor who remarked - "If you lay a hand on my, I'll call the police!" To which the said Steward replied - "Well, actually, I'm the Chief Constable of Surrey!"

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 5 July 2014 at 5:47am BST

In the circumstances - with the possibility of the government having to intervene if the Ordination of Women as Bishops in the C. if E. does not go ahead; perhaps the following speeches in the House of Lords may have more significance than we think:

"Lord Morgan (Lab): My Lords, would it not be desirable if the Prime Minister made no suggestion about appointing the Bishop of Guildford, as would be the case with the disestablished Church in Wales? Would that not greatly liberate the church as an independent body free from the trammels of state interference?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: I am not sure that I am inclined to that view. Obviously the Church in Wales and the Church of England have taken different paths. That is a matter for the Church of England.'

Although the hope might be that things could be speeded up if the CNC had complete control over the selection process; one wonders why the Church of England does not follow the example of other Provinces of the Anglican Communion, allowing for the more democratic process of local diocesan elections by the synodical process? This seems to work more quickly in other Provinces.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 5 July 2014 at 11:18am BST

I'm not sure I want episcopal vacancies to be filled any more rapidly than parochial ones. In both cases there is much to be gained from the gap. In particular it needs to be long enough that the rest of the leadership has to parcel out the day job among them. That allows the incoming incumbent, priest or bishop, an easier route to not taking on all that their predecessor did. It can also be a valuable learning period for the rest of the team.

A gap of between eight and twelve months would seem to allow that. I do agree that the recent spate of retirements has extended this somewhat, and some vacancies (as sometimes for parishes) are going to be too long, but my recollection is that it thins out again soon.

As to elections, elections tend to give you politicians. No thanks!

Posted by David Walker at Saturday, 5 July 2014 at 5:01pm BST

And just what sort of person, do you think, is delivered by the present appointment system then?
I have heard several phenotypes suggested .......

Speaking from Wales where we do elect our bishops, politicians don't generally get a look in .......... But I shall mention your observations to Barry in the morning.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Sunday, 6 July 2014 at 12:41am BST

As to David Walker's comment - here in Canada, where we have elected our bishops for years, I have known a few politicians, but I have also known some dedicated pastors. I don't think the proportion of politicians to dedicated pastors is any higher here than in the UK. But I'm at a loss to know how a person would substantiate such a comment, and can only put it down to folks in the C of E not realizing how strange their system looks to most of the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 6 July 2014 at 9:53am BST

No one has grasped the point that electing bishops is more difficult for women. The recent selection of a woman bishop in Ireland was only because with an electoral deadlock the bishops could intervene and nominate.

In New Zealand women are grossly under represented and it took 25 years to get two women bishops, and there are none in the Maori or Polynesian tikanga.

Posted by robert ian Williams at Sunday, 6 July 2014 at 2:25pm BST

Pete Broadbent's solution is something I have been banging on about for some time. There is absolutely no reason why there should not be back-to-back meetings so that central members (whose calendars are the most pressed) deal with two vacancies at the same time. It is very rare that the CNC makes a meaningful annual report to the General Synod. It is too late for questions to be put down now (maybe there are some on this vital subject) but if I was there this weekend I would want to be calling officials to account. It would not work to have a central member pool from which to draw. The key person in the process is the Archbishop of the province concerned with the vacancy.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 9 July 2014 at 8:23am 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.