Thinking Anglicans

Update on Crown Nominations Commission

Updated yet again Saturday morning

The CofE Communications Office issued this Update on CNC this evening.

Update on CNC
28 September 2012

This week’s meeting of the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) has been accompanied by much speculation about possible candidates and the likely timing of an announcement of the name of who will succeed Dr Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury when he steps down to become Master of Magdalene College.

The CNC is an elected, prayerful body. Its meetings are necessarily confidential to enable members to fulfil their important responsibilities for discerning who should undertake this major national and international role. Previous official briefings have indicated that an announcement is expected during the autumn and that remains the case; the work of the Commission continues. There will be no comment on any speculation about candidates or about the CNC’s deliberations. Dr Williams remains in office until the end of December.



CNC background Q&As can be found here:

Membership of the CNC can be found here:’-election-for-cnc.aspx

Tomorrow’s edition of The Times carries a story by Ruth Gledhill headlined Church of England fails to agree successor for Archbishop of Canterbury and which begins:

The body responsible for choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury has failed to agree who should be the successor to Dr Rowan Williams.

Despite a three day session, aided by prayers invoked on Twitter with the hashtage #prayforthecnc, the 16-member committee has been unable to decide on who should take on the job that the present incumbent today implied was “impossible”.

A source told The Times that a decision on who should succeed Dr Rowan Williams was not expected soon. “A decision is not imminent,” he said…

John Bingham at the Telegraph has Secretive committee still ‘discerning’ next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lizzy Davies at the Guardian has Church of England end three days of talks with no new archbishop.

Andrew Goddard has written at Fulcrum a very clear account of the procedures which apply. See On (not) choosing a new Archbishop.

…The vote takes place by successive secret ballots with the bottom candidate being eliminated. Crucially, however, a candidate needs to get 2/3 of the vote to be able to be nominated. As a result, it is quite possible to reduce the list to two candidates and face an impasse. A simple majority (9-7 in this case) is not sufficient. A candidate to be agreed and forwarded to the Prime Minister requires 2/3 of the members to vote for them. Normally that means they need 10 votes but with 16 voting members it means they need the support of 11 candidates. In other words, if 6 members are unwilling to vote for a candidate, members will keep voting until a candidate has 11 votes. If that does not happen then deadlock has been reached and the CNC composition means there are fewer experienced mediators who have worked through such difficult situations in the past and may recognise the need to shift their vote to assist the process.

This 2/3 requirement means that candidates with strong support but also determined opposition may be unable to reach the requisite number of votes. That scenario is quite possible in relation to some of the names likely being considered given the composition of the CNC. With six candidates from the diocese of Canterbury, if they are united or almost united in their opposition to a particular candidate then they may be able to block him.

The further complication is that if this hurdle is overcome then there is another one still to be faced because the CNC is required to submit two names to the Prime Minister (even though he now will simply forward the first name). This means that voting starts again with the original shortlist (minus the elected candidate) in order to get a second name. This nomination also needs the support of 2/3 of voting members.

In summary, to reach a decision there must be two candidates able to secure the support of 11 or more members. Six members determined to block a particular candidate favoured by the other 10 can therefore bring the whole process to a halt…


  • Anthony Archer says:

    A disingenuous announcement. I suppose readers can make their own mind up about when ‘autumn’ is, but saying ‘the work of the Commission continues’ is a license to further speculation. The Commission is meant to have done it by now! Maybe there was no decision this week.

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    I though a Telegraph journalist was already saying he knew who the next man would be?

    If that is what is being said then I think this press release is aimed at precisely that sort of claim.

    It actually says nothing. It’s intended to spoil and confuse …….

  • Father David says:

    If this announcement is not just intended to throw copy hungry journalists off the scent and that, as Ruth Gledhill suggests, the CNC really has “failed” to agree on who they should recommend to be the next ABC – then is it not time to call upon “The Caretaker”? Step forward – Richard Chartres – the Bishop of London.
    This would then offer the opportunity for younger – less experienced candidates to mature further in episcoplal ministry before being considered to take on this highly onerous task.
    Mind, John XXIII was also considered to be a “caretaker” and just look at the whirlwind that he stirred up!

  • Anthony Archer says:

    Pope John Paul II made some changes to the conclave procedures, the most important of which was that after a certain number of rounds of voting (I need to check the details) the required majority falls from 66% to 50% (i.e. a simple majority – actually 50% + 1 of the voting cardinals). In CNC terms that would mean that a group who could muster nine votes (but not the required 11) could hold out in the early voting rounds. If the Canterbury six are united (but negatively so – i.e. we don’t want ++Sentamu) there is, as Andrew Goddard says, deadlock. This is all speculation, but it would seem that the voting is divided on all candidates. The answer is to lock the doors and pray more, aided only by bread and water. However, it sounds like they have broken up.

  • Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer says:

    Have you considered that the fault line could plausibly be “The Caretaker’s” 20-year refusal to ordain a single woman to the priesthood, David?

    At this stage in the game, and after this year’s Anglican Covenant and Women Bishops follies, many people must consider Chartres wholly unacceptable for Canterbury.

    Clarification – my remark re the Covenant & Women Bishops votes was not to link either of these to Chartres, but to point out the extent to which the votes on these issues indicate an unwillingness on the part of the Church’s “lower” orders – the clergy in particular – to fall in line with decisions by the hierarchy which they consider ill-advised.

  • Bill Dilworth says:

    I’d like to ask a question about the end of an Archbishop’s tenure rather than its beginning: does the Archbishop serve at the pleasure of the Queen, or once he’s in is he there til retirement or age 70?

  • David Keen says:

    Speculation and supposed leaks about the inner workings aren’t really any help to anyone, but if the CNC has got to the point where it can’t decide between two candidates, maybe God is telling them to appoint both? Everyone agrees it’s an impossible job for one person.

  • Simon says:

    Or maybe God is telling them to throw out the expectations and cast the net wider and appoint somebody that no-one has even considered.

  • Feria says:

    Bill: ‘does the Archbishop serve at the pleasure of the Queen’

    As the statute book stands, the Crown would have great difficulty removing an ABC from office. Any attempt to do so would be open to the accusation that it was “of like nature” to James II’s Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiasticall Causes, and was therefore “Illegall and Pernicious” by the Bill of Rights 1688. So to do it, the situation would have to be extreme enough to persuade Parliament to amend the Bill of Rights.

  • Feria says:

    David K: ‘if the CNC has got to the point where it can’t decide between two candidates, maybe God is telling them to appoint both?’

    One might also say that, if the CNC considers the top two candidates that closely matched, it (further) weakens the case for restricting the Prime Minister’s choice to just the first name.

  • peter kettle says:

    Postponing retirement after 70?? (ref Richard Chartres’ age). I think this is possible if there is a good reason, such as seeing something through (viz lambeth Conference). Anyway Richard Chartres’ allowed Bishop Michael Marshall to stay on as Vicar of Holy Trinity Sloane Street for some time after 70, as they were in mid-flow of a restoration project, so there is precedent – does anyone know of any others?

  • Peter Owen says:

    I posted an article about the retirement age for archbishops (and other clergy) earlier this year. Briefly an extension beyond 70 by one year is possible for archbishops and bishops, and two years for parish clergy.

    The details are here:

    As you say Michael Marshall was given an extension of a year or so, and the current Bishop of Manchester has been given a one-year extension.

  • And I believe that the current Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe has also been given a similar extension.

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