Thinking Anglicans

Stephen Knott to be new Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments

It has been announced from Lambeth Palace that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have appointed Stephen Knott as the new Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments, who plays a key role in the nomination of bishops and cathedral deans. He will take up the role at the end of January 2022.

The Lambeth Palace press release is copied below, and there is further information at the Church Times.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have appointed Stephen Knott as the new Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments. He will take up the role at the end of January 2022.

Stephen, who is currently Deputy Chief of Staff to the Archbishop of Canterbury, will support and advise the Archbishops on senior appointments in the Church of England.

The Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments has a particular focus on managing the process for appointing bishops, deans and other senior roles. In this they work closely with the Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary.

The Secretary for Appointments will also work closely with the Ministry Development Team Director, Bishop Chris Goldsmith around senior appointments and processes, ensuring that recruitment, selection and discernment processes help increase diversity among senior leaders. The responsibility for senior leadership development programmes has moved to the Ministry Development Team from January this year.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell, said: “We are delighted that Stephen will be bringing his experience and wisdom to this role. His commitment to, and knowledge of, the Church of England stands him in sure stead to manage the processes for senior appointments, as the Church seeks to follow God’s call in the coming years. We will be keeping him in our prayers as he takes this exciting next step of service to God and the future of the Church of England.”

Stephen Knott said: “I’m absolutely delighted to have been selected as the Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments and look forward to working with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, along with people right across the Church of England and beyond, in overseeing the process for selecting senior appointments. For me, the highlight in taking on this responsibility will be meeting as many people as possible, building relationships and listening, in order to effectively fulfil the important challenges of this role. I’m hugely excited to get started.”

Stephen has been part of the Lambeth Palace staff team since 2013 and held numerous roles, including Assistant and then Deputy Chief of Staff from 2016 to 2021. Prior to this, Stephen spent over a decade working as a researcher in the House of Commons. He was an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve from 2011 to 2018. Stephen grew up in Northern Ireland and studied Geography at Queen’s University Belfast.

Stephen was selected as Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments by an independent panel.

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Simon Sarmiento
Admin
5 months ago

“Stephen was selected as Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments by an independent panel.”

What does “independent” mean here?

peter kettle
peter kettle
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
5 months ago

Was the post advertised?

Harry
Harry
Reply to  peter kettle
5 months ago

Yes

Harry
Harry
Reply to  peter kettle
5 months ago

Not sure why people are complaining about the process. The job was advertised and then there was a panel interview, presumably after a process of shortlisting and maybe preliminary interviews. Short of publishing all the application forms and live-streaming the interviews, I’m not sure how much more transparent it could be.

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
Reply to  Harry
5 months ago

I think it would be reasonable to list those on the interview panel. The current Bishop of Winchester was appointed as General Secretary of the Church Mission Society by a panel chaired by his godmother, Viscountess Brentford. Would it be possible to outline the elements of the assessment process? Psychometric testing (or is that passé?). A presentation on a given topic? What questions were asked at interview? The criteria applied in selecting candidates for interview? Requirements for referees? Would it also be possible to publish the number of applications , how many were already working for the Church of England,… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Reply to  Harry
5 months ago

Was it advertised in the public press, or on a public website?

Michael Mulhern
Michael Mulhern
5 months ago

I realise many people will welcome the fact that someone has been appointed with LGBTQ+ credentials – and that is to be warmly welcomed. But I am left asking what the job description was, how is he particularly qualified to administer the senior appointments system in the Church of England, and how is this going to be different from what went before? Are we going from the corporate world to the military/civil service world and missing the vital and distinctive vocational aspects required by the role? Will his role be to administer the system, or is he being given the… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Michael Mulhern
5 months ago

At least, Stephen will bring a new perspective on the theology of Same-Sex Marriage Relationships to the predominantly ‘binary’ views of the rest of the people concerned with appointments. Of course, whether he wil be encouraged (or even allowed) to share his own experience of such a relationship will probably be up to the Archbishops. the question is: are they interested?

Michael Mulhern
Michael Mulhern
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
5 months ago

So was Caroline Boddington hostile to non-heterosexual candidates? Most of us will say that Stephen Knott’s personal circumstances are, to some extent, irrelevant. More important is whether he represents a different approach to the task, what that means in practice, and whether we are likely to see a more diverse House of Bishops (as recommended in the O’Donovan Report) or will it just be more of the same?

Alison Menage
Alison Menage
5 months ago

Not exactly a transparent process then!?

Froghole
Froghole
5 months ago

I have no doubt that the new appointment will be a good one. However, is it needed? The episcopate is approaching the nadir of its modern reputation. This, surely, suggests that something is profoundly wrong with the current appointments system. The old Anglican system involved the prime minister’s patronage secretary taking ‘soundings’. As the prime minister generally had better things to do than appoint bishops, this gave the patronage secretary great power. Jim Callaghan (who was not a Christian in any meaningful sense) certainly thought he had better things to do (such as negotiating with trade unionists or shoring up… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Froghole
5 months ago

From our perspective in the South Pacific (ACANZP), we can endorse the policy of locally-chosen bishops. As you say, we can then at least blame ourselves for any problems that might ensue. But wil the dear old C.of E. ever get to be so democratic? (Even Pope Francis is out to democratise the Church with ‘synodality’.)

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Froghole
5 months ago

“I have no doubt that the new appointment will be a good one.”
 
I am worried that people are supportive because Stephen is gay. Personally I would rather focus on this being an appointment from within the system rather than a breath of fresh air from outside. Stephen may be a good guy, but I would have preferred someone from outside the Church of England.

Michael Hopkins
Michael Hopkins
Reply to  Froghole
5 months ago

On a point of historical fact, Jim Callaghan was a lifelong Baptist, and taught in a Baptist Sunday School – where he met his wife. As a Nonconformist he might not have been very interested in the Church of England (some are, some aren’t), but it is unfair and inaccurate to say he wasn’t a Christian. I know this is not the main point under discussion, but I wanted to correct the record.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Michael Hopkins
5 months ago

Yes. I think there were periods in Callaghan’s life when he wasn’t v practicing. But I remember a newspaper article in retirement when he said he had returned to regularly praying

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Michael Hopkins
5 months ago

Thank you. His authorised biographer, the ubiquitous Kenneth O. (Lord) Morgan, has this to say: “Callaghan soon rebelled against the religious imperatives of nonconformity. He lost his religious views altogether when he moved to Maidstone [in 1929] and was not a churchgoer later on. It caused some mirth when Lord Longford attributed the virtues of the 1964 Labour government to the fact that its three main members, Wilson, Callaghan and Brown, were all practising Christians.” (‘Callaghan: a Life’ (1997), at 15). Now I have no doubt that his childhood spent attending a very large Sunday school at Brixham made a… Read more »

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Froghole
5 months ago

If GS elections are anything to go by I suspect election of bishops would land us with a bench entirely comprising conservative evangelicals, which would accelerate the demise of the established church by a good twenty years. Church of England elections do seem to be particularly vulnerable to capture by well organised and / or motivated extremists.

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Fr Andrew
5 months ago

At least as far as the laity is concerned the problem is the extremely restricted electorate. The ordinary member elects PCC members who in turn elect Deanery Synod members who in turn elect General Synod.

At least when PCCs were initiated the majority of citizens, being baptised, could vote for them. Common Worship baptism “promises”, and the institutional mendacity which presents them as the only option, mean it is even less democratic than ever. Voting rights depend mainly on who ones parents were.

If bishops are elected it should be by popular vote.

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
5 months ago

How about we cut this guy some slack and let him get stuck into the role and flourish? Knocking someone before they have even started the role is hardly gracious or thoughtful.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
5 months ago

If my memory is correct it has been usual in press releases about bishop’s appointments, and other senior church appointments, to include a short description of the candidate’s marriage status and children.

So is it unusual that this press release, whilst finding space to mention his historical Navy reservist activities, found no space to mention his marriage, probably the most newsworthy and precedent setting thing about him until now?

Jeremy
Jeremy
5 months ago

There seems to be a subtext here with which not all of us are acquainted. Would anyone care to enlighten?

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Jeremy
5 months ago

There are two possible debates on this thread which I think you may be referring to. Firstly there is a debate about the appropriate process for selecting bishops in the Church of England, a process which Stephen Knott will be closely involved in managing. The other debate has been triggered by a sentence in the Church Times report. “in July last year, he married Major General Alastair Bruce of Crionaich, Governor of Edinburgh Castle, in St John’s Episcopal Church, Edinburgh, with the Bishop of Edinburgh officiating.” At the time this was quite a high profile event, within both church and… Read more »

Jeremy
Jeremy
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 months ago

Thank you, Simon Dawson. It was the second point that I was wondering about. And you have clued the rest of us in with information that was quite public. Appropriate and appreciated.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
5 months ago

So poor Mr Knott is going to have to find bishops and deans who will trot out the party line that marriage can only be between a cis gendered man and a cis gendered woman. The ability to compartmentalise must have been an essential characteristic demanded by the ‘independent’ interview panel. I have this image of Mr Knott and Major General Bruce in bed together each with a mug of Horlicks flicking through the CVs sent in by ambitious clerics. Fabulous.

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
Reply to  Fr Dean
5 months ago

Lord Salisbury said that Church of England clergy are divided into groups: those who are suited to be bishops but don’t want to be and those who want to be but aren’t suited.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Simon Bravery
5 months ago

I fear I am the exception that proves Lord Salisbury’s rule Simon. Neither the ambition nor the required skill set for being a bishop.

Alastair Ogilvie
Alastair Ogilvie
Reply to  Fr Dean
5 months ago

Fr Dean It is not for a priest to decide whether or not they have the required skills, but for others to make such an assessment. Hence such declaration makes you eligible on part of Lord Salisbury’s rule !

Anton
Anton
Reply to  Simon Bravery
5 months ago

Same for politicians.

Christina Beardsley
Christina Beardsley
Reply to  Fr Dean
5 months ago

The Church of England’s position on marriage does not restrict it to cisgender participants: a trans person with legal gender recognition may marry someone of the opposite gender to themselves in their parish church unless there be other legal impediment.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Christina Beardsley
5 months ago

Christina, thank you for that clarification, my sincere apologies for being ill informed.

Father Ron Smith
5 months ago

Simon, I believe your’s is the most important contribution to this thread. The FACT that the two Archbishops are actually welcoming Stephen’s new status must be some sort of sign of an opening up towards their acknowledgement of the integrity of Same-Sex committed relationships being accepted as a reality in the higher echelons of the C. of E.’s government. Perhaps this might encourage more bishops to become more open on the subject that Stephen is publicly recognised as having personally experienced, but which the C.of E. is still arguing about. Sadly – as has been point our on this thread… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
5 months ago

Not just “legal and binding” (i.e. secular) Father Ron. The elephant in the room is that the couple went through a fully authorised, public, same-sex, Anglican Christian marriage liturgy.

Alastair
Alastair
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 months ago

I have no wish to doubt the legality of this or Stephen Knott’s background or skills for his appointment. However there remain two questions:
1 why was no mention made on CofE release of his marital status?
2 why did he and his partner not choose to have a CofE marriage ceremony?

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Alastair
5 months ago

1. Because the CofE remains institutionally homophobic
2. Because the CofE lobbied for it to be illegal.

Philip Martin-Summers
Philip Martin-Summers
Reply to  Jo B
5 months ago

It is not homophobic to disagree with same sex marriage.

peter kettle
peter kettle
Reply to  Alastair
5 months ago

simple answer to your second question – it’s not available

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Alastair
5 months ago

In response to the question “why did he and his partner not choose to have a CofE marriage ceremony?”. The answer might also be “because his husband is Scottish”.

Alistair served in the Scots Guards, and his current day job is governor of Edinburgh Castle.

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
5 months ago

Spot on. With a number of vacancies at the moment, it will be very interesting to see how many are filled by bishops who take a conservative line on same sex marriage. I suspect it will be very few.

S C M H
S C M H
5 months ago

What an excellent appointment. Stephen Knott is an intelligent, thoughtful man who will bring a new, fresh approach to this role. What a refreshing choice. I wish him every good thing.

Dave
Dave
5 months ago

It is asked “why was no mention made on CofE release of his marital status”
and “someone has been appointed with LGBTQ+ credentials – and that is to be warmly welcomed. ” In what other line of work would the succesful applicant’s sexuality and marital status be being discussed in this way? I find it outdated and inappropriate.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Dave
5 months ago

Dave, In many ways you are right. Such comments would be considered outdated and inappropriate in many other lines of work. But we are discussing things within the context of the Church of England which has not yet caught up with the modern world, and so to comment on such matters is regrettably still necessary. Firstly, there is a boiler plate pattern for the press release announcement of senior appointments in the church. As well the basic details of the position appointed to, the release will give some details about the person appointed, such as hobbies, football team supported (yes… Read more »

Philip Martin-Summers
Philip Martin-Summers
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 months ago

I think you will have to look for a long time to find the Equal Marriage Act on the statute book.

The Same Sex Marriage Act does not create equal marriage with the laws governing its creation and dissolution being quite different.

Anton
Anton
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 months ago

You say that the Church of England has not yet caught up with the modern world. I thought the church was meant to lead the world uphill, not follow it downhill?

Joy Emmanuel
Joy Emmanuel
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 months ago

I agree.

Simon Sarmiento
Admin
5 months ago

There is a letter about this appointment in today’s Church Times https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2022/14-january/comment/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor Sir, — I was astonished to discover that the new Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments has already been selected merely two months after the announcement of the vacancy, and that the new post-holder has emerged from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s own staff. I do not recall seeing this post advertised in the Church Times or elsewhere. It appears to have been made available only internally and briefly. The contrast between this and the open and transparent recruitment process for the new Anglican Communion Office Secretary General, which was advertised… Read more »

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
5 months ago

How quaint that a *recently elected member of the General Synod Appointments Committee* should expect “the procedure to be followed should be clear and known” or indeed have any role or involvement at all, even a rubber stamp.
‘Know thy place’?

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