Thinking Anglicans

Questions about leaks from the Crown Nominations Commission

The following questions were put to the Archbishop of Canterbury during Questions at General Synod on Monday evening by Dr Jo Spreadbury (St Albans).

Has the Commission considered why one name consistently appears in the media as having been under consideration by it and whether, when such reports appear, the Commission might in the interests of fairness release the names of all those who were in fact on the shortlist for the appointment concerned?

The Archbishop, speaking as Chair of the Crown Nominations Commission, replied:

Those who take part in Crown Nominations Commissions or who are involved in the process for selecting suffragan bishops are bound by requirements of confidentiality, something that we repeat at each CNC at the beginning of the process. There are strong arguments both for transparency and for confidentiality. It is a question which is discussed from time to time, and the Archbishop of York and I keep it under review, as he has already said.

It is, however, precisely because selection processes are meant to be confidential – in the interests of all concerned – that it is so damaging when reports appear in the press purporting to give inside information and naming an individual. The harm is done whether these are true, false or wholly speculative. It is unkind, hurtful and unjust to the person concerned and simply should not happen.

Supplementary question:

Given the damaging reports that you refer to, what steps will be taken to revise the CNC process, both to call to account members who breach the declaration of confidentiality they make, and to prevent undue influence in the process, even say by the Archbishop of Canterbury, even say in the interests of the Anglican Communion.

The Archbishop replied:

We will continue to keep the way that we operate under close review, and to ensure that it is carried out in line with the Equality Act, wherever that applies.

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Dan BD
Guest

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

Commentator
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Commentator

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?

Leonardo Ricardo
Guest

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).

David Keen
Guest
David Keen

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… Read more »

Anne
Guest
Anne

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.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

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… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

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

kennedy
Guest
kennedy

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.

http://glasgow.anglican.org/index.php/news/entry/shortlist_of_candidate_for_bishop_published/

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

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… Read more »

RosalindR
Guest
RosalindR

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… Read more »

Disgraced
Guest
Disgraced

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… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

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.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

‘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.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David,
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.

Father David
Guest
Father David

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.

Tom Marshall
Guest
Tom Marshall

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… Read more »

Commentator
Guest
Commentator

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… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

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… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

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.

jeremy
Guest
jeremy

‘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.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

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… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Commentator, 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. David, 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. Anthony, thank you. So are you saying that the process is so sound that there… Read more »

Chris H.
Guest
Chris H.

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.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

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.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

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.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

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… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

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).

Simon Kershaw
Admin

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… Read more »

Simon R
Guest
Simon R

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… Read more »

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

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

Father Ron Smith
Guest

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… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

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… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

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… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

++ 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.

Historian
Guest
Historian

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!

Henry Dee
Guest
Henry Dee

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.