Thinking Anglicans

CNC fails to fill Oxford vacancy

The Crown Nominations Commission held its second meeting to consider the vacancy in the see of Oxford on Monday and Tuesday of this week (11 and 12 May) but failed to make a decision. The Archbishop of Canterbury has today issued this statement:

From the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Diocese of Oxford

Vacancy in the See of Oxford

An update from the Archbishop of Canterbury – Chair of the Crown Nominations Commission

You will be aware that the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) met on the 11th and 12th May to consider the nomination of the next Bishop of Oxford and to meet with possible candidates.

I am writing to advise that the Commission has been unable to discern the candidate whom God is calling at this stage to be the next Bishop of Oxford. Under the election rules under which we operate, in a secret ballot no candidate received the required number of votes for nomination.

Although the CNC has a number of meetings scheduled for later this year they are reserved for the consideration of other Dioceses. It is unfortunately impossible to add further demands on the time of the voluntary members of the CNC, who have their own jobs as well. The Oxford CNC will therefore reconvene on the 4th February 2016 with the second meeting on the 7th/8th March 2016. Bishop Colin will continue to provide oversight to the diocese as he has done over the past few months during the interregnum and I am very grateful to him for this.

Many of you will have had the CNC in your prayers and I thank you for them. I will continue to keep the diocese in my prayers over the next months. This will not be the news that you wanted to hear but please take this as a sign of the CNC’s commitment to finding the right person to be your next bishop.

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby

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Pluralist
Guest

Perhaps God isn’t calling one, rather than the folks not knowing which one God is calling. God must be fed up.

DBD
Guest

This is the second time this has happened in recent memory. What is going wrong? How do we fix it?

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

I assume this happens occasionally, but does anyone know how often it happens?
Is Bishop Colin now providing episcopal pastorship for two dioceses? His appointed one and Oxford?
Is Oxford a bone for both the liberal wing and the conservative wing of the CofE to fight over?

Susan Cooper
Guest
Susan Cooper

Actually it is the third time in a three years, and I don’t remember it happening at any other time over the last 15 years while I have been on GS). The first time was to do with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s appointment when the story that I heard was that the first name was agreed on but the second name caused a problem. Then it happened a year ago for Hereford and now for Oxford. Colin Fletcher is an Area bishop looking after part of the diocese and at the moment taking the overall oversight as well. There are… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Maybe, just maybe, God is waiting for Jeffrey John to become the sole nomination. This might help the Church of England to right some past wrongs.

linda woodhead
Guest
linda woodhead

Poor candidates.

linda woodhead
Guest
linda woodhead

It’s surely the result of the way the CofE thinks a properly representative sample = one spokesperson for every minority position however tiny the minority. Thus CNC now has at least 2 lay reps who are anti women (Daley, Giddings). This approach results in the continuous domination of the majority position in CofE by minorities who shout louder.

Turbulent priest
Guest
Turbulent priest

A very serious governance failure. There are multiple implications. 1. The diocese is simply too diverse for any candidate to get the necessary majority, because there is nobody who can be a “focus of unity” any more. Symptomatic of a much bigger problem for the whole Church of England. 2. Are there too many bishops generally? If Bishop Colin is able to carry out the role for an extended period then either his original post is unnecessary or this one is. (It is truly scandalous if he’s being expected to work double hours, and given how hard bishops work anyway,… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Hereford now Oxford, this didn’t used to happen before candidates for vacant diocese were subjected to a competitive interview process. In recent times two names were presented to the Prime Minister who chose either or – more often than not it was either I.e. the first choice preferred candidate. Going further back in time the Prime Minister after making soundings and receiving advice selected the candidate, as Macmillan did when he chose Ramsey, in what some regarded as undue haste, for Canterbury. Going even further back still Queen Victoria exercised enormous influence in the choice of bishops. Maybe it is… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

It is idle to speculate, but I agree with Susan Cooper, the failure to appoint seems to be becoming a trend, with Canterbury, Hereford and now Oxford. As a former central member of the CNC (albeit for only two years – but with having experience of two other appointments – total 6), I contacted the Chairman of the Canterbury CNC in 2012 when it became clear that that appointment had run into difficulties. Lord Luce courteously replied (with some immediacy), being careful to maintain confidentiality, and concluded by saying that after the new Archbishop was consecrated I might be a… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

Is the leading candidate Jeffrey John, or Anybody-But-Jeffrey-John?

David Gibson
Guest
David Gibson

My immediate reaction would be to ask whether Jeffrey John was a candidate (cf Exeter and St Edmundsbury). Interestingly, however, – and I’ve heard this reported by more than one person close to an ‘impeccable source’ right at the very top – there was an ‘excellent woman’ candidate whom the CNC appeared not to want.

I say ‘Interesting’ given the big noise the Archbishop of Canterbury made at February’s General Synod about leaks and how he, John Sentamu and Ms Boddington, would be going after those who breached the CNC’s absolute confidentiality. Physician heal thyself!

Richard Franklin
Guest
Richard Franklin

When I read this I thought, “This must be some kind of a joke, yea?” I knew my church was incompetent, but come on! Mind you I’ve always thought we had too many bishops. This is one way to keep the numbers down! I feel particularly sorry for Colin and the other suffragans – Oxford is a big, big diocese.

Father David
Guest
Father David

As Philip Giddings is on the CNC’s Selection panel for the Oxford Diocesan vacancy. Alas, I very much doubt that Jeffrey John will get his vote. After all it was he who helped to scupper his appointment to Reading within the Oxford diocese. Unfortunately as JJ was unjustly and disgracefully deprived of the suffragan’s post it is unfortunate that in all probability he won’t be appointed as the Diocesan Bishop. This remains an unresolved scandal within the Church of England.

Philip Hobday
Guest
Philip Hobday

Not being able to appoint at the first round is of course far from unusual, whether in church or ‘secular’ recruitment contexts. But what this DOES reveal is that the time taken to make appointments needs a serious review. I am very much in favour of nomination by panel rather than open election. But it is a serious worry that dioceses are being left without leadership for so long. And it’s unacceptably unfair on those who have to bear the burden in the interim.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“As Philip Giddings is on the CNC’s Selection panel for the Oxford Diocesan vacancy. Alas, I very much doubt that Jeffrey John will get his vote”

Does that mean that a vote has to be unanimous or is some form of majority sufficient?

Flora Alexander
Guest
Flora Alexander

I live in Oxford, and I don’t know how the appointing body is set up. I’m wondering why it isn’t designed so that a simple majority would be sufficient.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Flora: the rules are set up in such a way that the national representatives can’t just outvote the local ones. There needs to be broad consensus over the appointment, not just a transient majority of 1.

Julia Redfern
Guest
Julia Redfern

I hope God’s call will be more audible regarding the next Bishops of Kensington and Dorking! These are personal interests, but does anyone know the CNC dates for those?

Peter K+
Guest
Peter K+

I’m guessing the diversity of the diocese and role is causing the ‘problem’ (if it can be called that) – a large, diverse diocese, national & international prominence, Town & gown, Oxford movement but with big evangelical churches etc etc.

Julia, the Bishops of Kensington & Dorking are suffragan appointments so don’t operate through the CNC. The CNC is for diocesan appointments and the timetable can be seen here: https://churchofengland.org/clergy-office-holders/asa/senappt/dbnom/cnc.aspx

Father David
Guest
Father David

Julia, as I understand it the CNC’s only concern is with the appointment of Diocesan Bishops. As far as the Suffragan Bishops of Kensington and Dorking are concerned it would be best to consult the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Guildford respectively; for Diocesans in consultation with others are largely responsible for choosing their own Suffragan Bishops.

Gareth Hughes
Guest

In the bad old days, two names would go forward and the prime minister would choose one. It meant the church could present two contrasting candidates, and let someone else decide. I don’t suggest we return to that, but the change has had the odd effect that the CNC seems to find it difficult to take responsibility, and episcopal appointments seem more rather than less political. The process is confidential, so perhaps the delay was a wise decision. Yet it seems likely that the diocesan majority wants an outspoken liberal to be our next bishop, and the archbishops and others… Read more »

James A
Guest
James A

If David Gibson’s information is correct (I’ve also heard a whisper to similar effect) and we deduce that the source of the leak is Welby himself, I doubt whether the ‘excellent woman’ is Lucy Winkett, Viv Faull or Jane Hedges. They’re too liberal for the new-look corporate identity strategy of the current Board of Directors of C of E plc. I’m also intrigued that the Archbishop is allowing this vacancy to run in to 2016, when he has previously demanded that the CNC timetable be changed. Of course, this delay is what (according to my inside sources) he threatened the… Read more »

Julia Redfern
Guest
Julia Redfern

Peter K+ and Father David – thank you very much. (I only realised relatively recently how complicated ‘bishops-things’ are. Being in London probably didn’t help). I shall try the consulting.

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

Why is the process confidential? How does this fit in with the notions of transparency and accountability? Yes, keep the names of the candidates confidential (although presumably in the new era of 150 talented future leaders there will be no necessity to do so?) But, the names on the appointment panel and the processes they employ to reach a decision should be a matter of public record.

Father David
Guest
Father David

Obviously the present system, recently introduced, of interviewing candidates isn’t functioning as efficiently as it ought to be, otherwise Justin Welby would not have to keep issuing letters from Lambeth stating that the CNC has failed, yet again, to make a Diocesan episcopal appointment. I wonder if these delays have any connection with the proposed “talent pool”? Maybe, the powers that be are thinking that under the current system of interviewing certain invited candidates, several appointments have not been able to be made but once a “talent pool” has been established then surely all the selected and talented possible episcopal… Read more »

Fr William
Guest

Am I just a tired old cynic? It’s very interesting that the news about the non-Bishop of Oxford – and say what you like, but it displays woeful ineptitude in people and/or process – is so quickly followed by another big story: Church Commissioners and Task Groups. Does it matter that much who the Bishop of Oxford is? If so, why? I just can’t see it.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“Yet it seems likely that the diocesan majority wants an outspoken liberal to be our next bishop, and the archbishops and others sat on it. Unity is thus preserved…”

If that is so, then we come back to the problem that the Archbishop of Canterbury is operating under a serious conflict of interest.

Is Oxford really going without a new bishop for an entire year, in order to keep the Anglican Communion happy?

Whose interests are being put first?

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Erika: a 2/3 majority of the CNC is required. The briefing notes for the Vacancy in See Committee state, inter alia: “Before any vote is taken, the person presiding must be satisfied that the Commission’s discussions have paid due regard to the views of the diocesan members and to the requirements of the mission of the Church of England as a whole. “The Commission identifies their preferred name for submission to the Prime Minister and a second name in case the first is unable to accept the nomination. “Both of the names submitted must have received the support of two-thirds… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Andrew Lightbown: the process and the names of the panel are not confidential at all, nor even, nowadays, the dates on which the panel is meeting. The names of the central members of the CNC are on the record of the General Synod. The names of the local representatives are publicly announced and publicised as soon as the Vacancy in See committee has met and chosen its representatives. The dates of meetings of the CNC are published on the CofE website, as is the process — the Briefing Notes for members of the diocesan Vacancy in See committee are also… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

@Julia Redfern Interviews to advise the Bishop of London on appointments to Edmonton and Kensington took place this last week. There still remain other parts of the process (DBS check, consultations with Archbishop, the various stages with Downing Street and Queen) – all of which mean that you don’t get an announcement straight away. With regard to Oxford, it’s a very specific sort of post. The Diocese operates an Area system which is pretty devolved, so the Bishop of Oxford’s calling is to the City and University and to national involvement, in the way that many other diocesan posts are… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Thank you, Simon.

Richard
Guest
Richard

Pace Linda Woodhead, Prudence Dailey receives the sacramental ministry of women. That she also thinks those who don’t should continue to have a place in the CofE doesn’t make her “anti women”, surely?

DBD
Guest

Obviously the system is in urgent need of reformation. Unlike David, I would not involve Elizabeth Windsor; surely the answer is direct election!

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

Does anyone know how the forthcoming elections for Diocesan and General Synod will affect the Oxford Diocesan reps? Can they be changed as the Diocesan Synod is re-formed?

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

I wonder if Linda Woodhead meant to refer to Jane Paterson rather than Prudence Dailey. Jane is one of the central CNC members.

Father David
Guest
Father David

“surely the answer is direct election” I would agree with DBD that the current system for selecting Diocesan bishops, which has hardly been in place for very long, is in urgent need of reformation but quake at the thought of direct elections. Having just experienced the trauma of a General Election we have so recently seen how these can simply become beauty contests! If we were to go down DBD’s route, who would comprise the electorate? Would the chosen system for election be First Past the Post or P. R? If the latter would it be Single Transferable Vote or… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

“Does anyone know how the forthcoming elections for Diocesan and General Synod will affect the Oxford Diocesan reps? Can they be changed as the Diocesan Synod is re-formed?” The membership of the Oxford CNC will remain as it is until the job is done regardless of whether any of its members, central or diocesan, leave their respective synods in the meantime. We once got stuck on voting for the second name and I said I was prepared to stay all day and night, whereupon ++Rowan said he was due at a school in the afternoon. It galvanised minds and hearts… Read more »

David Exham
Guest
David Exham

Benson was Master of Wellington College in Berkshire not Wellington School.

DBD
Guest

That something might be difficult to figure out is no reason not to pursue it. I would suggest as a starting point shortlisting by a committee of the Diocesan Synod, advised by non-voting central church folk; then popular election by all laity on electoral rolls (or similar chaplaincy equivalents) and licensed clergy (by houses, using something like STV).

Could then stop when down to two appointable candidates and draw straws!

Tim Chesterton
Guest

In our part of the Anglican world, bishops are elected by a majority vote in all three houses of our diocesan synod. Seems to work fine; I can’t see why Father David thinks it’s such a terrifying prospect. As I understand it, in the Anglican world as a whole, it’s the English method of episcopal appointments that’s unusual, not the election method.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Whoops – my bad. I should have said ‘a majority vote in each of the TWO houses of clergy and laity’.

Just for clarification, I’m in the Diocese of Edmonton (Alberta, Canada), which follows the canons of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land for episcopal elections.

Father David
Guest
Father David

DBD. Your proposal is highly unlikely to be implemented. Those on the Church Electoral Rolls don’t even have a vote as to who is to represent them on the various Diocesan Synods – this responsibility is left to those members both clergy and lay on the Deanery Synods – so, I doubt if they will ever be given a vote as to who will be the Diocesan Bishop. Your proposal is as unlikely to be introduced as it is as unlikely that First Past the Post will be replaced by a system of Proportional Representation before the 2020 General Election.

Julia Redfern
Guest
Julia Redfern

Thank you Bishop Pete. Excellent to have the straightforward answer. Hope you won’t mind my saying that I think it would be wonderful to have a Double Consecration for the new bishops of Edmonton and Kensington, with Archbishop Justin, Bishop Richard and all other London bishops participating to the fullest extent possible.

DBD
Guest

Just ideas, not proposals. And we all know we won’t be moving on this within 5 years, but that doesn’t mean we can’t think long term 🙂

Father David
Guest
Father David

Why not a triple consecration with the Bishop of Islington & Church Plants being consecrated along with Edmonton and Kensington as well?

Laurence Cunnington
Guest
Laurence Cunnington

“…it’s a very specific sort of post.” “It’s worth waiting to get the right person” Pete Broadbent

And not a single one of the large group of women who have been unable to be considered for such a post for years was either able or willing to do it? I find this completely unbelievable.

Edward Prebble
Guest
Edward Prebble

Fr David asks: Would the chosen system for election be First Past the Post or P. R? If the latter would it be Single Transferable Vote or some other system of Proportional Representation? Sounds like a bit of a mine-field to me Well in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia (and I think it’s the same in most places where direct election by Diocesan Synods operates) we use the system of exhaustive ballots. In other words, if no candidate gets a majority in both houses (or all three houses for an assistant bishop) then we have another… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

I think it is safe to assume that the wider politics of the CofE are being played out in the counsels of the Oxford and other recent CNCs. We don’t know how shortlisted candidates (i.e. those called for interview) are chosen. Members who are set against any one or more candidates might be willing to allow them to be called for interview having made the calculation that they would not command a two-thirds majority when the commission comes to vote. I think that is no way to treat the process. However, the other side of that coin is that those… Read more »

Laurence Cunnington
Guest
Laurence Cunnington

“the idea that the Bishop of Oxford is thereby expected to play a larger role in the National Church is a somewhat recent invention” Anthony Archer

A role of such importance that it doesn’t seem to make any difference whether anyone does it all for extended periods of time!