Comments: Questions about leaks from the Crown Nominations Commission

So that's what it's like to read squirming.

Posted by Dan BD at Sunday, 23 November 2014 at 2:49pm GMT

Does anybody believe these pathetic responses from the Archbishop(s)? Isn't it about time that the Standing Committee of the General Synod took both of them to task?

Posted by Commentator at Sunday, 23 November 2014 at 5:06pm GMT

It's hard to imagine that the Archbishop of York, or Canterbury, have improved their eagerness to undo politics when SERVING on the CNC. Pride and fear/intimidation guide the ¨party line¨. Spite and cowardliness still masquerade as an honest days work choosing Bishops (of a certain *celibate* sexual orientation type).

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Sunday, 23 November 2014 at 8:58pm GMT

Maybe the one name constantly appears in the media because he's the only non-bishop Rev that anyone has ever heard of, and the broadsheets can guarantee a few good headlines out of the story. And because the process is confidential, nobody can confirm or deny the story, which is convenient.

How disappointing then when it's yet another suffragan or archdeacon whom nobody has ever heard of but who happens to be the best candidate. At least from now on the focus will shift to whether it will be Lucy Winkett/Rose Hudson-Wilkin/Vivienne Faull etc.

And surely confidentiality is as given in any interview process? Releasing the shortlist won't do the candidates, the CNC, or the diocese concerned any favours, and will just turn the whole exercise into an ecclesiastical equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing.

Posted by David Keen at Sunday, 23 November 2014 at 9:10pm GMT

How do we know that names have actually been leaked? Could this be journalese for "I suspect these names may have come up". Or "I think these names should come up". Do we have actual evidence that there have been any breaches of confidentiality?
If there is hard evidence that there have been breaches of confidentiality, then this must, surely, be a disciplinary issue. But presumably with confidential discipline.

Posted by Anne at Sunday, 23 November 2014 at 9:32pm GMT

The legal underpinnings for the CNC are contained in SO 122 of the General Synod's Standing Orders and are somewhat flimsy. SO 122(d)(iii) states: "[the Commission shall] report to the Synod from time to time as the Commission deems expedient on matters of general concern within its areas of responsibility". It almost never does. Why not? Synod members are idle in not taking the Commission to task. The principle that I understood as a central member of the CNC (for a short period from 2005-2007) was that the Commission needs to be transparent as to process but confidential as to deliberation. The advent of interviewing (which I greatly support) has materially changed the process. That being the case, confidentiality can be more difficult, as candidates are likely to share the fact of their candidacy with spouses, partners or spiritual directors et al. It is therefore not self-evident that alleged leaks have come from the Commission members themselves. As to whether the shortlist for interview should be published, I am quite unsure. It would require the consent of the candidates themselves and would lead to informal 'voting' on social media, which would be unhelpful. Some would regard it as a slippery slope towards open voting by the Commission or, as per TEC, voting by synods. The current rules for a diocesan vacancy (except Canterbury and York) is that a candidate needs a two-thirds majority - 10 out of 14 votes) to be nominated. Inevitably, some candidates don't secure that and are not therefore nominated. The reasons for that (under the current procedures) must remain confidential. However, the Comnmission must operate according not only to the standing orders but also applicable lesiglation (e.g. the Equality Act).

Posted by Anthony Archer at Sunday, 23 November 2014 at 9:38pm GMT

"The advent of interviewing"
Michael Ramsey wouldn't have stood a chance what with his long deep silences and his repetition of certain phrases.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 6:31am GMT

And surely confidentiality is as given in any interview process? Releasing the shortlist won't do the candidates, the CNC, or the diocese concerned any favours, and will just turn the whole exercise into an ecclesiastical equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing....

Can't say that is our experience in Scottish Episcopal Church.

Posted by kennedy at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 8:42am GMT

That is one of the big problems with the current system. It is perfectly possible that JJ was never nominated or interviewed and that, if he was, there was someone every single time obviously better qualified. That there is not a whiff of discrimination.

It is also possible that there is exactly the same discrimination in this process gay people face everywhere else in the church.
On balance, it would be surprising if the CNC was the one discrimination free zone in the CoE.

The result of the current system is an erosion of trust, all the same. Everywhere else in our lives we expect our systems and processes to be increasingly transparent and accountable, and we are increasingly suspicious of smoke filled rooms and behind closed doors processes that never see the light of day.

What Anthony Archer calls a slippery slope towards open voting is, to my mind, the only credible future process. True authority and acceptance cannot be imposed, and when a system causes nothing but endless suspicion, it's time to change it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 8:57am GMT

What might help transparency in the process would be making all the profiles and person specs available in the public domain. At the moment dioceses often publish their full and carefully drafted profiles, but what I don't think is in the public domain is what happens to the profile and the person spec once the central church wishes/requirements have been added to this. If it is a "requirement" that new bishops don't upset other provinces then this should be spelled out publicly, (so that it could then be challenged) or else this sort of "understanding" should not used as part of selection criteria.

Posted by RosalindR at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 10:33am GMT

Fr David said: ' "The advent of interviewing"
Michael Ramsey wouldn't have stood a chance what with his long deep silences and his repetition of certain phrases.'

Not only MR. How would the carpenter from Nazareth fare in such a process? Q. Full name please? A. Who do you say that I am?

As for the 'slippery slope towards open voting' be afraid, be very afraid. Whilst an obsession with things 'democratic' may make it inevitable, I wish we could find a way of avoiding a succession of compromise candidates. In this part of the world Bishops are elected by an Electoral Synod which is effectively every licensed cleric and two or three lay reps from each parish. Synods invariably exclude candidates with any 'edge' and opt for those that make the synod members feel most comfortable. The hallmark of the church was never meant to be the Bland leading the Blind.

Posted by Disgraced at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 11:56am GMT

Erika thank you. this is helpful. This discussion involves real sensitivities but is it really true that the system is causing 'endless suspicion'? We are at a very particular point in the life of the church over a very particular issue and with one particular person involved in a very particular way each time when a very particular aspect of church appointing is concerned. (very painfully so). For that reason I think this would be a very difficult time to review the system as a whole actually.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 12:03pm GMT

'and to prevent undue influence in the process, even say by the Archbishop of Canterbury, even say in the interests of the Anglican Communion'

This follow-up question is spot on!

Synod needs to keep asking whether the CofE selects its bishops with an eye to the requirements of Nigeria or Chile, as opposed to (say) Newcastle or Chichester.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 12:40pm GMT

the suspicion aspect has been focused on JJ, but it is already emerging in the context of other appointments, like conservative headship bishops who are suspected to have been a political appointment rather than a truly "best of the pool" decision.

Just wait until the debates about whether the first women bishops were political appointments or genuinely the best candidates...

I predict that trust will be further eroded in the years to come.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 2:55pm GMT

Good point well made, "Disgraced" . Apparently when Justin Welby was interviewed for the top job he was asked "Why do you want to be Archbishop of Canterbury?" He allegedly replied - "I don't!" And was promptly given the job.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 3:17pm GMT

Beware the so-called openness of an electoral college or other similar voting/election system. This has been monstrously abused in Wales in the last decade where a so-called 'liberal' archbishop has fixed the system to his own advantage. Famously, at Bangor in 2008, not only was it made quite clear that Jeffrey John would not be acceptable as a candidate (by a general reference to those in civil partnerships not being eligible) but there was collusion, which went right to the top, with a toxic plot against a single candidate who was 'outed' (without a scrap of evidence). It is the Church in Wales' worst kept secret and most shameful moment.

Only by adopting the Scottish system will we ever hope to flush out the shenanigans which go on at the CNC at the moment.

Posted by Tom Marshall at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 4:57pm GMT

Erika -
The leak about Jeffrey John and Southwark we know to be accurate because of Colin Slee's memo on that CNC, published posthumously by his family. But it was leaked through a journalist who has a remarkable record for getting 'confidential' church information. She also made public his candidature for Exeter and St Edmundsbury. There is no reason to think she has suddenly lost her skill or her channels of information.
The speech by the Lay Canon of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich at the most recent General Synod is a very clear pointer that Jeffrey John was a shortlisted and interviewed candidate. That leaves only Exeter without extra evidence. But on the balance of probabilities, i am prepared to accept that as true.
Add to all this the witness of the many people who have met with Jeffrey John, heard him teach and/or preach then it becomes extremely difficult to believe that on each of these three occasions there just happened to be a priest better qualified for the job. The only 'quality' would appear to be acceptability to 'the homophobic elements within the Anglican Communion'.

Posted by Commentator at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 5:03pm GMT

While I don't what perfection would look like, the CNC process is simply bad. We no longer live in an era where authority is trusted. Some degree of transparency is needed, such as releasing the names and profiles of the candidates. Also, having a committee of 18 or so that only has minority representation from the diocese with the vacancy is simply not designed to prioritize the needs of that diocese. The political agenda of others can clearly trump local needs, and apparently does. Did any of those dioceses ASK for male headship bishops? After just voted for WB's in massive numbers?

It appears that the CNC can "veto" the vote of its members for WB's and veto the polling that is much more gay friendly than CoE leadership. In short, the CNC has the power to keep CoE in Dark Ages for a long time to come, despite all the recent "democratic" processes.

Whether or not they abuse their power remains to be seen. The issue is that they should not have that degree of power in the first place. Reform is much needed.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 5:38pm GMT

Erika OK let's wait and see.
But I tend to think that when lack of trust is the issue in an organisation no amount of re-structuring for 'openness' will solve it. Because the problem actually lies elsewhere.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 5:41pm GMT

'The political agenda of others can clearly trump local needs, and apparently does.'

Give those with a political agenda the power to impose it, and they cannot resist.

So I'm inclined to agree. Reform is needed.

Posted by jeremy at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 7:56pm GMT

The current CNC process is not as shot as some on this thread think it is. However, as has been noted, it remains a largely confidential process, despite the recent advent of inviting shortlisted candidates for interview. Inevitably, where there is outside support for a particular candidate (whether or not that person is actually a candidate!) the inevitable reaction is to blame the system when that "candidate" is not nominated. I have served on six CNCs: Bradford (deputising for a central member in 2002), Birmingham, Oxford, St Eds & Ips and Worcester as an elected central member and St Albans (2008) as a diocesan member. None of these commissions was in any way difficult. The archbishops did not attempt to influence the outcome. They are not stupid and recognise that they only have one vote each along with other members. On some commissions it was easier to know which candidates found more favour with them, but that was only human nature in action. On a number of occasions they challenged members to support statements that were made about candidates, especially statements that appeared to be anecdotal and therefore with little if any corroboration. The diocesan view tends to prevail these days, since the number of representatives was raised from four to six. That has frustrated archbishops who rightly come with a well formed view of the needs of the House of Bishops as a whole. Dioceses that wants bishops who have experience of mission and growing churches do not tend, these days, to nominate theologians of the stature of a +Sykes or a +Selby. In that sense the new appointment to St Eds & Ips is refreshing. Ultimately, the voting decision of individual CNC members is inevitably personal and subjective, but hopefully undergirded by prayer and reflection. A diocesan bishop is the Chief Pastor and is required to be a focus of unity in his or her diocese. That test should be applied objectively, but it is easy to see how it can be applied in such a way as to exclude certain candidates. Voting by diocesan synods would not necessarily change that.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 8:13pm GMT

I personally do believe that JJ is being discriminated against, but in fairness to those who say there is no proof I have to accept that to be true.

in an open process, it would be easier to see whether there was discrimination or not, and to judge whether the mistrust was well founded or not. I agree that something other than the system is responsible for the mistrust, but not having transparency makes it impossible to evaluate what the underlying problem is.

thank you. So are you saying that the process is so sound that there is no possibility of undue pressure or discrimination and that all appointments are invariably above board at all times?

The focus of unity is a misnomer. It really means nothing more than "should be traditional so that where there is disunity he can point to traditional teaching to dismiss it".
Anti women bishops have not been a focus for unity for women for decades but no-one was interested in that. The problem only arose when anti-women priests campaigners were finding themselves in the same boat and didn't like it.

Anti gay bishops have not been the focus of unity for lgbt people for decades, but it's only pro-gay bishops who are being declared as unable to be the focus of unity.

Maybe it's time to re-think what the concept is supposed to express. It would be better to say that, regardless of our or his/her theological convictions the bishop is by definition the focus of unity in a diocese. Maybe it's time to re-think what the concept is supposed to express. It would be better to say that, regardless of our or his/her theological convictions the bishop is by definition the focus of unity in a diocese.
He/she unites the diverse diocese by virtue of his/her office, not of his/her theology.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 24 November 2014 at 10:32pm GMT

Erika, what happens when a conservative parish refuses to have the bishop visit or speak, or vice versa with a liberal parish and a conservative bishop, what unity then?

If they make the process public then expect a lot more of what happened to North-- Opposing sides lobbying or petitioning against this candidate or that. It's a political storm waiting to unfold.

Posted by Chris H. at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 1:27am GMT

I recall Bishop Peter Selby being told off, years back now, for attending a eucharist in London illegally presided over by an overseas woman priest. The 'focus of unity' argument was one of the things he was hit with. He responded that being a focus of unity could simply be a fudge and compromise that offered no prophetic lead forward into new ways of being church together (my paraphrasing here). He believed episcopal leadership was a call, at least at times, to be a focus of dis-unity.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 9:44am GMT

Chris H,
yes, I believe that some very rigid or childish parishes would refuse to speak to their bishops just because he/she didn't happen to share their personal theological "must believe" selection.

That's not to say that this behaviour has to be encouraged.
There would be nothing wrong with official Anglicanism reaffirming strongly what bishops are actually about and that you don't get to choose the one you like best. Never have done.

This is a very recent development and it can be reversed instead of encouraged.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 1:05pm GMT

Thanks Erika and good to meet you in person in Oxford recently! No I am not saying the system is "so sound" and would like to see more discussion about the CNC on the General Synod, to which it is accountable. Can undue pressure be applied? Not in my experience. Each member can mandate one candidate and force consideration. That is rather different from persuading fellow members to support that person. Is there discrimination? Well, is the CofE institutionally homophobic? The sad answer to that seems to be yes. Is the CNC any more or less so? Each CNC has a different overall composition so I hesitate to generalise.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 1:08pm GMT

One might extend the conversation to the appointment of Deans where neither the congregation, nor the Chapter have any role except once again mediated through the CNC (and indeed the Bishop too).

Posted by Richard Ashby at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 2:22pm GMT

Deans are not nominated by the CNC. Those which are royal appointments involve an independent Chair (appointed by the archbishop), the bishop, a person chosen by the honorary canons and a lay person from the Bishop's Council, together with a dean of a similar-ish cathedral. The two appointments secretaries (Abps' and PM's) are non-voting members.

Parish church cathedrals add the two lay parochial representatives and a representative of the patron if that isn't the bishop. The Abps' appointments secretary is a non-voting member, but not the PM's.

There is no central panel of CNC members or such like.

The decision not to involve the Chapter directly was very deliberately made, I think.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 5:27pm GMT

Anthony Archer's comments are helpful and shine a spotlight on the real problem here. "Dioceses that want bishops who have experience of mission and growing churches do not tend, these days, to nominate theologians of the stature of a +Sykes or a +Selby". Exactly. But the whole point is that good mission and good church growth arises out of good, imaginative theology (not the other way around). Which is why we are seeing so much inept and desperate 'initiative overload' in dioceses. It make us look like well-meaning deck chair attendants on the Titanic who are colluding with the need to keep diocesan 'mission specialists' in a job.

Posted by Simon R at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 5:32pm GMT

Re. Deans - the Archbishops' appointments officer and the PM's officer set up the further particulars even so.

Posted by Charles Read at Tuesday, 25 November 2014 at 9:15pm GMT

Is it not now a good time to 'change the rules' in the Church of England on the manner in which its bishops are called and chosen?

Most other provinces of the Anglican Communion have a much more locally-accountable process - that involves the laity and clergy of the local diocesan synod in proposing and voting on a suitable candidate.

This ensures that the local Church has a vested interest in who they feel God might be calling to lead them in their diocese. Not exactly papal-style or magisterial, I know. But is it not a wee bit more biblical and democratic?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 26 November 2014 at 8:19am GMT

Having just slogged through changing the law to permit women to enter the episcopate the thought of changing the way bishops are appointed might be thought to be rather daunting, even if it was considered necessary. The appointment of bishops remains a matter for the Crown, although the convention now applies that Downing Street accepts the first name (whether for a diocesan or suffragan see), as it now does for the Crown (historic) deaneries. Raising the number of diocesan representatives on the CNC from four to six has considerably increased the voice of the diocese. A radically different method (as Father Ron suggests) would have its own drawbacks. There would have to be a process for arriving at a shortlist of candidates for the synod to vote on. The Scottish Episcopal Church has a Preparatory Committee to do this and no doubt the politics of that can be acute. The electors then need to be placed in a position that they can make an informed choice. Should they consider the needs of the wider Church of England and House of Bishops or simply ignore those? Anglicanism presupposes that they should in some way be taken into account. I am not for defending the current CNC system at all costs, but am certain that there is no obviously 'better' method. The process is likely to evolve rather than be radically changed.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 26 November 2014 at 8:55pm GMT

Sunny Jim Callaghan has a lot to answer for in agreeing to give the Church a greater say in choosing its chief pastors. In the good old days when Mac the Knife was in charge at Number 10 - Geoffrey Fisher wanted Donald "Call to the Nation" Coggan to immediately succeed him. However, Super Mac wasn't going to be dictated to by the former Headmaster of Repton and so with great haste nominated Blessed Michael Ramsey as Archbishop of Canterbury who, in my and many other people's opinions was the greatest 20th century Primate of All England. Would he have reached the top, I wonder, under the present system which appears to favour managers rather than theologians and spiritual giants?

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 27 November 2014 at 7:27am GMT

++ Michael is high on my list too but what are we comparing with what? Each make their gift in their own time. He was a leader who changed and grew - he was to say he entered the sixties 'a complacent Tractarian'. He was deeply holy. But he was surely fortunate that his time as archbishop came just, only just, before the age of mass media as we know it. He would have been shredded.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 27 November 2014 at 9:03am GMT

Father Ron: electing bishops 'a wee bit more biblical and democratic?' Democratic maybe but biblical? Surely the Holy Spirit can work though any system; it's the prayer surrounding it that's crucial. Having followed the unedifying selection process in Sydney a few months ago I'd be very reluctant to change our system!

Posted by Historian at Thursday, 27 November 2014 at 9:30am GMT

One name I think deserves a mitre for his brave work is Canon Andrew White, now that he's been ordered out of Baghdad by the AoC. Apparently its even more dangerous for him (which is unbelievable)as ISIS has now put out a price for his head. Any diocese to get such a man would be honoured.

Posted by Henry Dee at Thursday, 27 November 2014 at 8:00pm GMT
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