Thinking Anglicans

more articles about the Crown Nominations Commission

Richard Harries writes in the Evening Standard Roll dice if you have to, but name an Archbishop.

…What is causing the hold-up? It is said that Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, who has been galloping up on the outside, is now the front-runner. Some might say that Welby, a former executive in the oil industry who has only just been appointed as a bishop, lacks experience. But when a vacancy occurred in Milan in the fourth century, the cry went up “Ambrose for Bishop”. Ambrose was Governor of Northern Italy at the time and then a layman. He was baptised, confirmed, ordained priest and consecrated Bishop in a matter of days. So there is good precedent.

There remain, of course, all the familiar fierce divisions over the issues of woman bishops and same-sex relationships, which complicate any simple assessment of the abilities of candidates. However, the overriding criterion for selection must surely be not one of these issues, important though they are, but which candidate is most likely to speak with credibility to a population so many of whom find the Christian faith a foreign tongue. He will need to find both the language and right tone to win a hearing. After the rampant hedonism and greed of the last decades there could now be a new seriousness in our national life, one in which people might be receptive to the very different view of life offered by the Christian faith. The overriding priority is for a candidate who can take this opportunity…

John Martin writes in The Living Church Clearing the Two-thirds Hurdle.

…It’s not entirely clear what would happen in the event of an insoluble deadlock. The most extreme scenario would be dissolution of the CNC and an appointment of new members. It may call upon the mediation skills of Cameron to sort something out. In 1987 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher provided the only known example of overturning a church nomination when she preferred Mark Santer to James Thompson as Bishop of Birmingham. This kind of intervention is unlikely. There are rumblings, however, that leaving such an important decision to a small group meeting in secret is arcane and an open election would be preferable. But that is an unlikely future prospect, not a present reality.

Meanwhile, being an acknowledged candidate for Canterbury has thrust the Bishop of Durham into the media spotlight. He is related to a former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Richard Austen “Rab” Butler, and as a Cambridge undergraduate signed up as a Christian Union member, which positions him among evangelicals. He left a £100,000 annual salary with Enterprise Oil to enter the ministry and his previous church posts include being co-director for the International Ministry Centre at Coventry Cathedral, succeeding the colourful “Vicar of Baghdad,” Andrew White.

In 1991 the Church of England skipped a generation which included options such as Richard Harries (Oxford) and the former test cricketer David Sheppard (Liverpool) and instead plucked a little-known bishop from the west of England to succeed Robert Runcie. George Carey had less than three years experience as a diocesan. Should Welby emerge as Archbishop of Canterbury he will have spent less than half that time as Bishop of Durham.

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Andrew Trueman
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Surely the biblical thing to do in a complete deadlock situation would be to follow the precedent set in Acts 1 – pray for God’s guidance and then cast lots. It worked for the apostles, why not for the Church of England?

Alan T Perry
Guest

I’m sure all this speculation is very interesting, but none of us has any input or influence on the process. There will be plenty of entrails to divine in due course. In the meantime, perhaps we should all relax and get on with the mission of the Church.

Father David
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Father David

John Martin writes “In 1987 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher provided the only known example of overturning a church nomination when she preferred Mark Santer to James Thompson as Bishop of Birmingham.” Surely there were other examples of Prime Ministerial intervention during the Thatcher years? Wasn’t Bishop Leonard of Truro the second name on the list to become Bishop of London? More significantly – wasn’t Carey number two on the list and was preferred by the Iron Lady to Habgood who was number one? I also recall that our only female P.M. proved to be decisive and prophetic in the choice… Read more »

Peter+
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Peter+

Lots of churches have interregnums for months and even years and do perfectly well, so an interregnum at the top may exasperate some, but surely its best to have the right candidate rather than rush things. (Andrew, not sure if you’re being tongue-in-cheek but the events of Acts chapter 2 changed decision-making processes somewhat). I’ve heard Baptist ministers are advised not to take a post with less than 90% of the church vote – having even quite a small minority who don’t want you there is a recipe for trouble – so if none of the ‘big guns’ can command… Read more »

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

I am delighted that Lord Harries of Pentregarth thinks it would be ignominious for the decision over the next Archbishop of Canterbury to be handed back to the Prime Minister, and I agree with him, but this ignores the fact that the CNC seems not to be capable of reaching a conclusion. On that basis (absent of drawing lots, which is not permitted under the slightly flimsy rules that the CNC works under) the only solution is to revert to the constitutional reality, which is that this is a Crown appointment.

Father Ron Smith
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For a simpleton like myself; it seems extraordinary that, if one nomination has been agreed, it is necessary to nominate a second – especially as the P.M. is duty-bound to accept the first nominee.

Could there not be a re-arrangement to avoid this seeming deadlock? Or would it require (another) Act of Parliament to facilitate such a simple action?

Philip Hobday
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Philip Hobday

There must be two nominees (a preferred candidate and a reserve) so that, should the preferred candidate be unable or unwilling to serve, another person can go forward without the Commission having to reconvene and start all over again. For instance, a preferred candidate might wish to withdraw in light of the medical exam. The Prime Minister is NOT duty-bound to accept the preferred candidate. It is a convention rather than a rule that he do so (though failure to observe it might well lead to a constitutional crisis and demand within the church for a more radical overhaul of… Read more »

Feria
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Feria

Dear Father Ron, I am not a lawyer, but as far as I can tell, the CNC process is not enshrined in law at all. It appears that, as far as statute law (specifically, section 3 of the Appointment of Bishops Act 1533) is concerned, the selection of Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops is a responsibility of the Prime Minister, as holder of the Royal Prerogative power to issue letters missive. The Commission came into existence not through legislation, but because Jim Callaghan agreed always to solicit the advice of such a body (in the form of two names in order… Read more »

Feria
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Feria

Dear Philip,

Technically, even if the Dean and Chapter absolutely refuse to elect the person named in the Queen’s letters missive, they can only delay that person’s appointment by twelve days – after that, the Crown can appoint directly by letters patent (it’s in section 3 of the Appointment of Bishops Act 1533).

Of course, you’re right that, lawful though such a course of action would be, it would carry with it certain practical risks, namely that people within the church who disagreed with the decision might resort to calling for disestablishment.

Philip Hobday
Guest
Philip Hobday

Feria – apologies, I had forgotten about the residual power of direct appointment by letters patent where the Canons do not elect. Not that this is going to happen, but what about refusing the confirmation of election? If I read rightly, section IV of the Act requires that archiepiscopal elections be confirmed by a commission of eight bishops (including where possible the other archbishop), but doesn’t say anything about what happens if they refuse to.

Feria
Guest
Feria

Philip,

In the copy of the 1533 Act on legislation.gov.uk, it’s not eight bishops but four (or three if one of them is an Archbishop). And the precedent of the consecration of Matthew Parker means that retired bishops qualify just as well as serving bishops.

Feria
Guest
Feria

Further to my previous answer… You’ll recall that section 6 of the 1533 Act was repealed in 1967. I can’t get hold of the full text of section 6, but from the way it’s described in the Act that repealed it, and from the Wikipedia article on the 1533 Act, I think section 6 probably made it a criminal offence for the Dean, Chapter, or existing Bishops to refuse to play ball.

Father David
Guest
Father David

If the Church Times current “press” report is to be believed and “the Canterbury six [representatives from the diocese]” on the CNC are “making life very difficult” by blocking the nomination of the Bishop of London as the next Cantuar – then that’s bad news for the Church of England and bad news for the Anglican Communion. Bishop Chartres is, by far, the best qualified to take on the onerous ministry as Archbishop of Canterbury. It is regretable that one particular diocese has so much power and holds so much sway in so vital an appointment. Canterbury is just one… Read more »

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

There is little doubt that the structural problem with the CNC, magnified with a Canterbury vacancy, is the disproportionate influence of the diocesan representatives, six out of 16 total Commission members with votes. Add to that the fact that the Bishop of Dover, who effectively runs the diocese, is one of the six, is clearly the shop steward and is electing his boss in the process. Regardless of who the candidates are who have been interviewed and are on the shortlist, the Canterbury six can block any name. General Synod was warned about this when it voted to increase the… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Having read the Sunday Telegraph article – I’m despondent that the future direction of the Church of England has been entrusted to a mere 16 people – many of whom have such liberal views on who should succeed Rowan. If it isn’t to be Richard Chartres – described this morning on the Sunday programme as “the best Archbishop of Canterbury we never had” – then it seems increasingly likely that the lot may well fall upon the relatively episcopally inexperienced Justin Welby. In his favour – the Bishop of Durham at least knows where to wear his pectoral cross –… Read more »

Fr Jim Rosenthal
Guest

Welcome to the Church of England, this is a prime example of how how attempts at decision making are made in the Queen of the Communion Province.
I think they should make the dean of canterbuy the next ABC (affectionate abbreviation)- the cathedral is truly the instrument of unity.

Father Jim Rosenthal

david rowett
Guest

“I also like his approach to the Parish Share – rather than telling the parishes from the central Diocesan Office what they ought to pay – asking the parishes what they feel the are able to pay. Would that such a revolutionary policy be adopted by all the other dioceses within the Church of England.” Don’t go there. It’s great in theory and its theology is impeccable, but… To all intents and purposes that’s been how this deanery’s operated for the last decade, and all it has done is create a limited vision of ‘how little can we get away… Read more »