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Choosing The Next Archbishop of Canterbury

This is not a post about candidates: Lay Anglicana has a mental short list but does not wish to jinx their chances by mentioning their names. This is a post about the ‘person specification’ of the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

The present archbishop, Rowan Williams, is very clear on the qualities needed: “the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros.” We can perhaps all agree that the constitution of an ox is needed to fulfil the present job specification, which we examined earlier and considered how it might be simplified in order to lighten the burden on the incumbent. If the job description cannot be fulfilled by one human being, then the appointee is being set up for failure, an appalling prospect both for the individual concerned but also for the Church of England. I suggest the first task for Archbishop Rowan’s successor is the rationalisation of his ‘To Do’ list.

As you will know, the Crown Nominations Commission, responsible for choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury, is asking for submissions from all and sundry (my paraphrase, but it is clear that the laity are included). Anyone who does not respond to this invitation loses, I suggest, the right to criticise subsequently. I urge you to submit your own thoughts to the CNC but, if you would rather, Lay Anglicana is proposing to put in a joint submission in the next few days (we only have until the end of the month).

I suggested in a previous post that the CNC should begin by asking candidates this question (Who is the Church of England for?) before proceeding any further with the interview. As well as their answers, the reactions of the candidates may reveal more than they intend. For me the answer is that the Church exists in order to encourage and enable people to worship God. At times the Church appears to believe (like many an ossified bureaucracy before it) that the Church exists in order to serve itself.

In no particular order – this can be sorted out at the drafting stage – I suggest the following qualities are needed:

  • NOT the skin of a rhinoceros. The problem with the present regime is that, feeling beleaguered , it has responded by battening down the hatches and trying to ride out the storm by ignoring it. Whatever happened to Indaba at Lambeth Palace? I suggest a series of ‘vicarage tea parties’ at which problems could be aired and discussed – ad infinitum. The right response from the occupant of Lambeth is a Clintonesque ‘I hear you and I feel your pain’, while repeating the provisions of the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral to himself daily, along with his morning prayers: the different wings of the Church of England, like the Anglican Communion, cannot be magically united – the aim must be peaceful (and if possible loving) co-existence.
  • NOT alternating Anglo-Catholic or Evangelical. We need a candidate who embraces both (they do exist).
  • NOT a bishop who is personally wedded to the Anglican Covenant. Since the Covenant has been defeated in diocesan synods, we need someone who has not spoken resolutely in favour of the Covenant.
  • NOT a bishop who is resolutely against the raising of women to the episcopate (which was overwhelmingly supported in diocesan synods)
Using these criteria against those on any short list should weed out quite a few. In addition, I think we are looking for:
  • A bishop who loves people
  • A bishop wanting to lead an inclusive Church
  • A bishop wanting to include the laity in this inclusive Church: making greater use of the laity and respecting the varied skills (apart from hewers of wood and drawers of water) which they can bring
  • A bishop open to constructive change
What have I missed – or got wrong?



18 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

It seems to me that the qualities required in brief:

a. Pastorally sensitive to all.
b. Politically sensitive to all.
c. Culturally sensitive to all.
d. Intellectually sensitive to all.
e. Listening sensitively to all.
f. Reacting sensitively to all.
g. Artistically sensitively to all.
h. Mentally robust.
i. Physically robust.
j. Scripturally robust.
k. Liturgically robust.
l. Theologically robust.
m. Inclusive.
n. Vulnerable, but able to deal with it.

Lay Anglicana said...

Yes, I think that sums it up pretty well, UK Viewer.
You don’t say whether you think such are to be found in the House of Bishops?!

UKViewer said...

I still think that James Jones of Liverpool, would meet the bill. As well as being Evangelical, he rejects the Covenant and is inclusive.

Judging him on what he has said and done since being Bishop of Liverpool, he is a worthy successor to David Shepherd there, and would be a worthy successor to Rowan Williams as ABC;

Lay Anglicana said...

I have tweeted a reply to you. Sshhhh…..

24 April 2012 21:04
24 April 2012 20:58
24 April 2012 20:07
24 April 2012 18:40
Gillan Scott said...

Wow that’s a tall order! Will we find anyone who comes close to meeting this? I’d be happy if I met half of those criteria.

I know a few people who come close but unfortunately they’re not bishops.

God’s got someone in mind. I just hope those doing the selecting are paying close attention to him. God loves to surprise us sometimes.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thanks for commenting, Gillan.
Actually I can think of half a dozen bishops who fit the bill…
Just hope the CNC are prepared to burrow a bit!

24 April 2012 20:04
24 April 2012 18:51
Miss Eagle said...

A few questions:

Does the Archbishop of Canterbury have to be a citizen of the United Kingdom?

What would be the scenario and/or consequences if an AbC were to come from somewhere else on the globe? Would it affect relationships with the Crown and Parliament?

In a world which is categorized by globalization and the global village, could an international appointment be a breath of fresh air and bring to the role new sensibilities and approaches that would refresh the Anglican Communion?

UKViewer said...

Not sure of the constitutional position. But Arch Bishop Williams came from The Church in Wales, not part of the CofE.

The reality of someone from the Anglican Communion moving lock stock and barrel to the UK might be an issue for them.

I’ve advocated in the past that the choice should be from within the UK, but the Arch Bishops Anglican Communion responsibilities could be rotated around the presiding Bishops of the different provinces, more democratic – allowing the ABC to concentrate on our home church, while continuing to participate in Anglican Communion affairs as a Primate.

24 April 2012 21:24
Lay Anglicana said...

Welcome to Lay Anglicana, Miss Eagle, and thank-you for commenting.

You raise a very interesting question. I think the short answer is that the Archbishop of Canterbury does not have to be a citizen of the United Kingdom. You are right to pose the question in this form, but in fact the Church is the Church of England (ie it specifically does not include Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland), even though English is not a nationality and England is not a separate nation. There is devolved government in many fields in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but England has no similar national assembly.
Archbishop Rowan Williams in not in fact English, but Welsh, and was previously a bishop of the Church in Wales before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury in what I think I am correct in saying was his first non-academic Church appointment in England. If you are not confused yet, you ought to be!

What I personally think would be sensible is to appoint someone to a new post of ‘first among equals’ in the Anglican Communion, other than the Archbishop of Canterbury. Because of all the hoo-ha over the Anglican Covenant, this has taken up an inordinate amount of time for someone who is trying simultaneously to lead the Church of England (the established Church of the nation, a further complication), as well as being the Bishop of Canterbury diocese. My suggested candidate (but he might well not accept!) is Archbishop Fred Hilz of Canada.

24 April 2012 21:30
24 April 2012 21:06
Bonnydeo said...

I seem to have been following two different threads on this subject. But, it seems to me that the CNC would wish to receive views on what people want in an Archbishop of Canterbury, the kind of submission made by the Modern Church, for example. Many of the posts here have become over focused on personalities. As Laura said, this is about the position, not the candidates. I would really like Laura to draft something………it is always easier for someone else to do the work and then await critical response. Easier, and it does focus the mind!
Would you mind, Laura?

24 April 2012 22:41
Tim Chesterton said...

Laura, you said For me the answer is that the Church exists in order to encourage and enable people to worship God

I personally would add to that ‘and to follow his Son Jesus Christ’. And so (although many would think it would go without saying), I would add to your excellent list of characteristics this #1: ‘A Bishop who sees him or herself first of all as a follower of Jesus’.

Lay Anglicana said...

Well said! I’m afraid I had taken it as read, as you guessed, but it may be a good idea to put this in first to show our priorities.

25 April 2012 04:24
25 April 2012 03:40
Charley Farns-Barns said...

May I be a bit rude, even silly, for a moment? I mean, does it really matter?

Here where I live, we’ve got REAL problems, a troublesome and turbulent priest (the second in a row) where so many of our congregation have left, retreated and gone elsewhere, and where the workers and fund raisers have gone to other causes. And now on top of that the deanery is going to re-organise us into much bigger benefices. (Corr! We’ll have fun, won’t we!) So will the capabilities of the next ABC make any difference to us? Well, in truth probably yes in a distant sort of way, but I bet many like me down in the parish leave litter feel much as I do, i.e. it won’t matter much.

Secondly your list of characteristics can be seen in the “Church Times” adverts for just about every parish priest. (I even know a few retired clerics who would fit – old age and experience has improved them no end!) But anyone who fits ALL those requirements would be bloody marvellous, indeed, impossibly so. And then he/she wouldn’t be piddling about as ABC, not even mucking about as the President of the United States but would be Master of the Universe. So hasn’t Dame Laura and UKviewer just described the Son of God himself?

Now, I’m not trying to be rude, but I think the CNC probably has all the above on board already and since NONE of the candidates will fit ALL of those items in your wish-lists I expect the CNC are wondering where they can accept shortfalls and what they can get away with. So for me, the contribution we can make is to prioritise the wish-lists and indicate what we would drop/delay/do without if pushed. And we should sharpen up the woolly wording. (Sorry, I’m being rude again.) Look at UKviewer’s first seven attributes – they all end with the words “to all”. Do we really want the ABC to be “politically sensitive “to all”? Even the extremists, the homophobes, the stoners of adulterers and witches? And so on, and so on.

Of course I want the winner to be a good Christian but I hope at that elevated position he’ll/she’ll be cunning enough to see through and deal with slimy politicians and be able to fend off grubby posturing media types. In other words we need a additional set of attributes beyond the parish priest set we’ve already outlined and more for a wheeler-dealer working on the world stage.

Regards to all, Charley F-B.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you for keeping us on our toes Charley. This is going to be hard to draft – or maybe you’d like to have a go? 🙂

25 April 2012 20:16
25 April 2012 18:39
Charley Farns-Barns said...

Oh, alright then.

Can we include all that UKviewer asks for but address it in a practical way by insisting that the successful candidate must have experience as a parish priest and then as a bishop where he/she performed such that he/she was beloved of most and respected by his/her enemies? And perhaps we should ask that there must be evidence that when the candidate realised he/she had made a gross error that a formal apology had been offered. This sort of background should provide a person that all can respect and who should be able to work with all reasonable parties. (The unreasonable will never be satisfied.)

Beyond this, there’ll need to be abilities to handle the modern media, speaking (sensibly) off the cuff, etc. Understanding the dynamics of and between state and religion inc Islam, Judaism, etc will also be needed.

You can add more – I’m off to bed now! Good night and see you all in the morning, Charley Farns-Barns.

25 April 2012 20:55

[…] at the Lay Anglicana blog, Laura Sykes has been putting together a ‘wish list’ for the sort of person who should be appointed as the new Archbishop of Canterbury. In her view, […]

01 May 2012 13:03
Daniel French said...

Like the ending of th sermon on the mount which says that Jeus spoke with authority unlike the scribes and Pharisees. I think we need an archbishop who has that kind of Christ-like authority. That authority may come from his intellect or his spirituality but what if it came from his willingness to live in a poor man’s shoes? What if that archbishop came as a man not perfect in health but having suffered greatly? What if that man came from the most persecuted church in the world … Baghdad?

Lay Anglicana said...

Canon Andrew White towers over all the other candidates physically, morally and perhaps spritually. I agree that someone with his charisma and his service has possibly the best of all claims to leadership of the Church of England. I deliberately waited a while before replying to you, however, wondering whether what I am going to say next was unduly jaundiced. I fear what would await him in Church House. There, I’ve said it. This cosy coterie of self-serving oligarchs (that is the politest way I can think of describing them)…[perhaps I had better not complete the sentence, but you get the drift!]

05 May 2012 09:19
04 May 2012 22:38

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