Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Concerning the next Archbishop of Canterbury

I was intending to post something on this last week, when the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) was actually meeting. however, preparations for the arrival of the new students (who seem to be a lovely bunch so far, by the way) rather over-ran all that.

And in my delay in writing, we have now found out that the CNC has given us a delay in appointing. See here for lots of useful links to the various news reports at Thinking Anglicans.

Now obviously (and correctly) the CNC members are sworn to secrecy, so all the speculation is merely speculation. But, just for fun, I'll add my own thoughts and speculation.

I said right a the beginning, when the news broke that Rowan was resigning, that my choice for the next Archbishop would be Richard Chartres, currently Bishop of London.

I'm certainly in the Anyone But York camp, for a variety of reasons - not least because the Daily Mail like him. I felt, and still do, that Richard Chartres would be a good caretaker candidate, sufficient of a statesman to see the Church through a few tricky years, while the next generation of bishops are learning the ropes a bit more. He also has a reasonably good public profile, which counts for something in the "chaplain to the nation" side of the job. Justin Welby of Durham, a leading candidate with many, has only been a bishop for a about a year, and there's a crop of others who perhaps need a bit more proving (Christopher Cocksworth, Stephen Cottrell, and a few others).

Now the fact that the CNC has not been able to make a decision has been interpreted in various ways. It might be that John Sentamu has been taken off the short-list (or "snubbed" depending on whether you like him or not), or it might be that he's one of the three names still in it. It might be that Justin Welby has been agreed upon, but that the deadlock is over the second name to put to the Prime Minister.

It's worth pointing out that just because one name has been agreed, it doesn't mean that he is the first choice. two names must be agreed (by two-thirds of the 16 CNC members - i.e. 11 votes), and then those two names are ranked by a simple majority vote. So my theory, which is probably completely wrong, we'll never know, is that one name has been agreed, but this is the presumed second choice candidate. Quite possibly this is Justin Welby.

On this theory, Justin Welby is considered appointable, but not first choice because of his lack of experience. It's like the CNC saying, "We think he'll be a good choice next time round, but we don't think he's quite ready yet. But if he will be a good choice in the future, he wouldn't be a bad choice now." The deadlock would be over who is to be the shorter-term answer to the Canterbury problem. Perhaps John Sentamu has some support in this, but is disliked by enough CNC members not to get the 11 votes. Perhaps Richard Chartres is in the same position (apparently he has told friends he's out of the running - but how would he know?).

One thing which complicates matters, under this theory, is the tradition of alternating between more catholic and more evangelical Archbishops. Rowan then Chartres would be two catholics in a row, but Sentamu then Welby would be two evangelicals in a row. personally I think the job is too important to be bothered with this kind of turn taking. We need the best man for the job, regardless of which wing of the Church he comes from. - there are much bigger concerns than such internal politics. And let's face it, whoever gets the job will be disliked by pretty large sections of the Church for some reason or other.

A final point to note is that speculation about Richard Chartres being thought unsuitable is based largely on his failure to ordain women to the priesthood. But The Act of Synod of 1993 states :

1. There will be no discrimination against candidates either for ordination or for appointment to senior office in the Church of England on the grounds of their views about the ordination of women to the priesthood.

If Richard Chartres is excluded because of his views, this would be against the rules of the Church. Would any clerical member of the CNC be open to a complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure for allowing this to happen? Possibly, except that we'll presumably never see records of the discussions. And if a formal body like the CNC can't keep the rules on this matter relating to the ordination of women, what prospect the Church keeping to a Code of Practice when it comes to women bishops?

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