Thinking Anglicans

trouble at Westminster?

Both the Sunday Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday carry stories about a row between the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Dean of Westminster.

Simon Walters and Jonathan Petre Mail on Sunday Speaker snubs Church to appoint first black Vicar of Westminster

The Queen was last night dragged into a bitter row over the appointment of a black woman as ­Chaplain to the House of Commons.

Commons Speaker John Bercow has refused to give the job to the candidate picked by the Dean of Westminster Abbey, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, who answers to the Queen.

He has chosen instead the Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a Jamaican-born vicar in one of the ­poorest parts of East London. Sources say he objected to appointing ‘another predictable ­middle-aged white man’.

Mr Bercow was so determined to win the power struggle that he has cut the ties between Parliament and the Abbey, where state ­funerals, weddings and coronations take place – effectively splitting the Chaplain’s ­historic role in two.

The Abbey authorities have responded by refusing to give Mrs Hudson-Wilkin the palatial grace-and-favour apartment in the Abbey cloisters where the current Commons Chaplain lives.

The man snubbed by Mr Bercow, 46-year-old Andrew Tremlett, currently a Canon at Bristol Cathedral, is to be made a Canon at Westminster Abbey as a ‘consolation prize’ by the Queen.

But he will have to make do with half the salary of the Commons Chaplain…

Jonathan Wynne-Jones Sunday Telegraph Clash over historic promotion for female cleric

…A spokesman for the Speaker said: “We can’t make any comment until an announcement is made.”

A spokesman for the dean said: “It is absurd to suggest there’s any kind of rift between the Dean of Westminster and the Speaker of the House of Commons.

“Relations between them have been and will always remain cordial and constructive.”

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Jeremy
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Jeremy

One might think that if you combine these two jobs — House of Commons chaplain with dean in a Royal Peculiar — you’re asking for this sort of trouble.

It is, after all, absurd to suggest that there’s ever been any sort of rift between the Commons and the Crown.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Not Dean.

The job being split (or not) is one of the residentiary canonries. The printing of a picture of the Dean with an incorrectly worded caption in the Mail is not helping understanding.

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“Rose appeared to fit the role perfectly, but the dean was looking for someone who would fulfil more of a ceremonial role. He didn’t think that she suited his needs at the Abbey.” – How desperately sad this is! In the circumstance, then, it would appear that the Inclusive House of Commons ought to employ Rose – the first female non-white Chaplain – on its own initiative, while the non-inclusive Dean of Westminster, after being questioned on his preference by H.M. The Queen, could be left to have his own liturgically-fitted white male cleric to help him run the Abbey.… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Simon, if we are being very precise about terms, I fully understand that there is only one Dean of Westminster Abbey. That is why I did not capitalize the word “dean” in my post. The Abbey may, however, for all I know, have more than one “dean.” In the wider world, there are people with titles such as assistant dean, deputy dean, vice-dean, and the like. And indeed The Mail describes the position at issue as “Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey.” If The Mail is correct, then in my view, the incumbent of the position may be loosely referred to as… Read more »

Richard W.
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Richard W.

All of the fuss over female clergy in the CofE makes me wonder how many men in the church and in the British Government as well really hate the fact that there is a Queen on the throne instead of a King and can’t wait until the old girl kicks off. Then they have can it all proper again with a man on the throne – as it should be. And the fight to keep women in their place marches on.

Pantycelyn
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Pantycelyn

Too black and too female. (How dare she !) What a disgrace.

Can anything good come out of Nazareth ?

Jesus certainly would nt be welcome at the abbey curently.

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

It makes me really really glad to be C oF E and really really keen to worship at the abbey -Not….

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

‘Grace Cathedral Names Jane Alison Shaw as its Eighth Dean’.

I cannot help but compare the reception of Jane Alison to that of ‘the Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a Jamaican-born vicar in one of the poorest parts of East London.’

No wonder church-going in UK is seriously on the decline. I’m losing heart after a lifetime.

Colin Coward
Guest

This story rather pleasingly encapsulates many of the dynamics and divisions the Church of England is unable to get it’s coporate head around, all of them critical to the health and future of the church. It isn’t just about women and black people, the crown and the church, it’s also about about sexuality, the place of gay people in the church (visible or invisible) and power, where authority lies and who exercises it, how it is exercised, whether appointments and processes in the C of E are transparent (they are not). I’m wondering/hoping/praying that with this story and the Archbishops’… Read more »

abbey mouse
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abbey mouse

Some clarification: The reports are misleading. The post of sub-dean does not go with this bundle automatically. The present canon/chaplain has been at the Abbey for twelve years and has run the place during an interregnum. It will go to one of the more senior canons, therefore. So let’s forget the ‘dean’ stuff in this matter. Further, the press fails to point out that the Speaker appears to have overturned the agreed appointment process – to which he was party and to which he nominated a personal representative – because he did not like the result. It looks like the… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

They could even get really inclusive and appoint a non-Anglican…

Achilles
Guest
Achilles

While a black woman is no more or less intrinsically suited than a white male (or a dual-nationality gay person for that matter- I think the recent furore in a political context around Diane Abbot and her views justifying the private education of her offspring should remind us we should not generalise from any set of sex or race criteria) this all sounds dolefully predictable.

I really have to ask myself – what *use* is the CoE?

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

According to the Parliament website, the post was only combined with that of Rector of St Margaret’s Church in 1972.

Fr James
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Fr James

Quite right abbey mouse. This is another example of PC-madness and just another opportunity for criticising the Church, both for the press, and many people on this board, it seems…

Lister Tonge
Guest
Lister Tonge

True, Simon. But the Speaker’s Chaplain had sometimes been an Abbey Canon and/or Rector of St Margaret’s before that date.

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

Only, Simon? So the combined post has been going 38 years – a reasonable length of time to work out if the joint appointment works. The fact that they advertised it as such, and with the clear involvement of the Speaker suggests that everyone thought it still did. The Chaplain’s post was advertised as being 13 hours a week – plus additional hours for special occasions. It suggests that from one side or another – and we simply can’t know (at the moment at least) – either the Speaker decided to act independently or he and the Dean simply could… Read more »

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

Given that the Chaplain to the Speaker’s job was advertised as being for 13 hours a week is the Speaker now going to upgrade it to being a full-time position? I think we should be told.

chenier1
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chenier1

“It looks like the Speaker acting out of political correctness”

Ah yes; John Bercow, protégé of that well-known patron of political correctness, Norman Tebbit…

Wilf
Guest
Wilf

I must say, having looked at the details of the post, that it looked like two distinct full-time jobs. To have combined the heavy burdens of work in parliament with being Rector of St Margaret’s and a Canon of Westminster in the way suggested by the job description would have been impossible.

By the way, Rose is already a Chaplain to the Queen so already part of the establishment of the Royal Household.

Tobias Haller
Guest

Goodness gracious. Reminds me of the linkage of the Wardenship of Hiram’s Hospital and the Precentor’s Chair at Barchester, and all of the fuss appertaining thereunto. Trollope is quietly smiling.

Fred
Guest
Fred

Not all white middle-aged males are bad news. Andrew Tremlett’s departure will be a big loss for Bristol.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

My point was only that St Margaret’s Church was reconnected to the Abbey at that point. The link between the Abbey and the Speaker is much older, but has not been continuous.

According to this further report, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/7857329/Row-over-historic-appointment-over-female-cleric-as-vicar-of-Westminster.html

she will retain her current parish.

Fred Schwartz
Guest
Fred Schwartz

Let’s assume that this is all one huge misunderstanding. Doesn’t anyone over there in politics (church or otherwise) look at the big picture and work towards a common goal? At a minimum these are a bunch of bumbling old fools — hate to say what they are if this is planned.

Jeremy Forbes
Guest
Jeremy Forbes

Irrespective of the technicalities to do with the appointments process and procedures, here was a wonderful opportunity lost to appoint a senior black clergy person to the Abbey. This Abbey is situated in a City where 25% of the population is of Black and Ethnic Minority background. To say nothing of the very large number of parishes with majority BEM congregations. Sadly, senior clergy have never had to live and work in contemporary Britain where BEMs are our neighbours and colleagues. Hence, their reluctance to appoint a black person.Today I am ashamed to be black and Anglican.

Roger Stokes
Guest
Roger Stokes

Is Mr Bercow qualified to be a patron in the Church of England? Some might consider the timing of this controversy unfortunate given what is going to dominate the York meeting of General Synod in a couple of weeks. Is somebody appointed because of political correctness or because of their qualities and ability to fulfil the role concerned?

Jay Vos
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Jay Vos

What Tobias Haller wrote above! Barchester-like shenanigans were my thoughts exactly. You gotta laugh sometimes.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“This is another example of PC-madness and just another opportunity for criticising the Church”

Substitute the word “Temple” for “Church”, and this sounds like something you would have heard from a Sanhedrin correspondent (re the activities of a Certain Galilean) in c. 33 AD.

chenier1
Guest
chenier1

“Is Mr Bercow qualified to be a patron in the Church of England?”

Well, he’s the Speaker of the House of Commons, and it’s his own Chaplain; you would have thought that if the Speaker of the House of Commons wasn’t entitled to a Chaplain someone would have noticed by now. I know the Church can be a little slow, but it’s had since 1660 to grapple with it…

Bill Dilworth
Guest

Why on earth would someone assume that she was pointed out of mere political correctness? She seems fully qualified for the job, while the Dean’s rebuff seems to be based solely on her “unsuitability” for hoity-toity funerals and coronations.

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

I know Europeans in general are dismissive of ‘affirmative action’ (so they tell me here in France) but it changed the face of America for the better. In the years of my growing up there were no women judges or black doctors, university professors, or TEC bishops, no Indian governors and the idea of a black president was much further away than a trip to the moon (by white male astronauts, natch). Just to say that I am all in favour of affirmative action when it is called for, as very likely in this case.

abbey mouse
Guest
abbey mouse

Get real, folks! These ‘Barchester’ jibes, etc. fail to get the point. She failed to be appointed by a properly constituted appointments board only one of whom was the Dean (who has experience as a parish priest in South London so let’s forget the ivory tower put-down, too). Two of the panel were ex-MPs. The Dean has ‘blocked’ nothing. It is the Speaker who has done the blocking. He has overturned a decision he didn’t like after having every opportunity to be involved in the process and having ‘his man’ on the panel. What other employment process would be allowed… Read more »

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

What Tobias Haller wrote above! Barchester-like shenanigans were my thoughts exactly. You gotta laugh sometimes.

Posted by: Jay Vos on Sunday, 27 June 2010 at 11:57pm BST

Yes.

Laughter’s gentle sacrament turns tender hearts to love

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

What we have here is a mixture of Barchester and power politics. The Barchester perspective has some validity, but the political one is more interesting. The Abbey might indeed have cause to complain if the Speaker had agreed on a process and then had pulled the rug out from under the process because he didn’t like the result. Such gamesmanship is, however, practically speaking, something that people who have posts in their gift get to engage in. This the Abbey, of all places, must know. Whether such gamesmanship is wise is, of course, another question. Here the Speaker presumably has… Read more »

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

‘Regret that the Speaker has chosen to use the Abbey as his messenger to the Church of England on the issue of women bishops.’

What has this to do with bishops – of any gender ?

Are you implying that women ministers must go to ground throughout the next several years, while some are worked-up about bishops who happen to be women ?

The Rev. Randall Keeney
Guest
The Rev. Randall Keeney

Isn’t it time to rethink the “established” church? You folks are making us look better with each passing day.

Old Father William
Guest
Old Father William

I’m so glad that, in the USA, we have separation of Church and State. I think it’s healthy. People are sometimes surprised that, as a clergyman, I am deeply opposed to reinstating prayer in public (state-run)schools, but the question is: whose prayer would it be, and what would it be praying for?

chenier1
Guest
chenier1

Well, following abbeymouse’s exhortation to get real I’ve tried to do so, but I’m having some difficulties in placing Kennington, Wimbledon and Streatham in the same class as Hackney; there are mixed areas and I’m sure the Very Rev Dr John Hall faced challenges, but the mere fact that they were south of the river does not, in itself, demonstrate that he has hands-on experience of inner-city deprivation. Furthermore, whilst I am sure Canon Andrew Tremlett has many fine qualities, his biography demonstrates the lack of such experience as well: ‘…born in Devon and grew up in Plymouth, where his… Read more »

jnwall
Guest
jnwall

I’ve always heard that England and the USA were joined by an ocean and separated by a common language.

This episode, with its insights into the workings of internal CofE politics, the role of the Queen, the relationship between the House of Commons and Westminster Abbey, is a vivid reminder that the Church of England and the Episcopal Church are in a similar relationship.

David da Silva Cornell
Guest
David da Silva Cornell

“How she’ll manage to be at HoC prayers every day and keep the antisocial hours of the job whilst running a parish remains to be seen. But she’ll look great in Geneva Gown, white gloves, tricorn hat and buckled shoes.” This seems quite the petty jab, considering that had the Abbey and the Speaker agreed on her as their common choice, she’d have become Rector of St Margaret’s Church and run *that* parish. So if her white male predecessor “manage[d] to be at HoC prayers every day and keep the antisocial hours of the job whilst running a parish,” it’s… Read more »

Fr James
Guest
Fr James

Chenier1’s post above is another example of that unfortunate attitude in the Church of England that some ministries are just better than others.

Laurence
Guest
Laurence

“So if her white male predecessor “manage[d] to be at HoC prayers every day and keep the antisocial hours of the job whilst running a parish,” it’s not quite clear why the Abbey Mouse apparently believes she’ll have greater difficulty doing exactly the same thing, simply with a different parish” One practical point is that St. Margaret’s Church is right opposite the Palace of Westminster whereas Rose-Hudson-Wilkin’s parish is some distance away at Dalston. This will prevent her from popping back and forth between the two with any ease. Am I alone in thinking that this appointment has been handled… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

No, Pantycelyn, I was not implying that. And if you think this has nothing to do with women bishops, think again. The Speaker is obviously trying to accustom the country to a woman in a prominent clerical role. The Speaker is also giving the Church of England a hint about parliamentary feeling on the subject of woman clerics. So the complaints about “political correctness” have a grain of truth — the Speaker’s position in this matter is very political. I would have thought that was obvious. Do you really think it’s a coincidence that this issue went public less than… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

St Margaret’s Church is NOT a parish church of the CofE. From this page http://www.westminster-abbey.org/st-margarets/history-of-st-margarets-church St Margaret’s Unique Status In July 1189, the Abbot and Convent of Westminster received a grant from Pope Clement III which confirmed that St Margaret’s Church was outside the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London. In 1222, the Abbey and its property was declared not only to be outside the diocese of London but also exempt from the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. When Elizabeth I re-founded the Abbey as a collegiate church in 1560 she maintained its exemption from episcopal authority and made… Read more »

Doug
Guest
Doug

Jeremy 1:02 AM – Yes, I do think it was a coincidence. The connection is tenuous.

Laurence 11:43 PM – As far as I can see, the inference of racism derives from this quotation in the Telegraph: “The dean was looking for someone who would fulfill more of a ceremonial role. He didn’t think that she suited his needs at the Abbey.” Now it doesn’t say that he didn’t want a black woman (nobody says that kind of thing anymore, thank God!), but it certainly sounds like it.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Doug — Perhaps the connection appears tenuous from the C of E perspective.

I doubt very much that it appears tenuous from the Commons perspective.

We’ll see what questions are asked….

abbey mouse
Guest
abbey mouse

Thanks, Lawrence and Simon. St M’s is not a parish in any way and it’s next door. The problem is how she’ll get to and fro every day and be available for antisocial hours if she lives on the other side of London and has a real parish to look after. Nothing to do with her race/gender. Why rush to that presumption on the back of inaccurate press reports? It is the overturning of an attempt at a decent process (the same as everywhere else, these days), is my only concern. And the humorous quip about the ‘gear’ she’ll wear… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest

Laurence, I don’t know if the dean objected to her race. It could have been her gender, or maybe her accent. Whatever it was, it was superficial, unrelated to her qualifications, and makes both the Abbey and the CofE look ridiculous.

David da Silva Cornell
Guest
David da Silva Cornell

Re “One practical point is that St. Margaret’s Church is right opposite the Palace of Westminster whereas Rose-Hudson-Wilkin’s parish is some distance away at Dalston. This will prevent her from popping back and forth between the two with any ease.” and “St Margaret’s Church is NOT a parish church of the CofE.” and “The problem is how she’ll get to and fro every day and be available for antisocial hours if she lives on the other side of London and has a real parish to look after.”: What a godsend, then, that she will not also have the incumbent’s Abbey… Read more »

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

It is amazing how many people ‘know’ that Rose must have been the right person to appoint from the well-over 100 who applied. Anyway, perhaps the matter will settle down and the two jobs can be got on with.

Posted by: abbey mouse on Tuesday, 29 June 2010 at 2:00pm BS

Bowing to your oh so Superior knowledge

Laurence
Guest
Laurence

“Laurence, I don’t know if the dean objected to her race. It could have been her gender, or maybe her accent. Whatever it was, it was superficial, unrelated to her qualifications, and makes both the Abbey and the CofE look ridiculous” Again – how do you know this? Only those with access to the application forms, CVs, and records of candidate performance at interview and how the evidence from each of those sources matched against the job’s skill criteria can make any judgment as to the suitability or otherwise of any of the candidates and whether the recruitment process was… Read more »