Lay Anglicana, the unofficial voice of the laity throughout the Anglican Communion.
This is the place to share news and views from the pews.

Get involved ...

Candidates for Cantuar: Graham James

The Rt Revd Graham James was born in 1951 in Cornwall, where many members of his family had worked in the tin mining industry. He and his wife, Julie, have a son and a daughter (as well as a daughter who died in infancy).  His interests are amateur dramatics, cricket and rugby union.


After school in Northampton, he read history at the University of Lancaster and then did his theological training at Cuddesdon, Oxford. He was ordained in 1975, worked as a team vicar in Welwyn Garden City and then moved to Church House in London. He became chaplain to the (Anglo-Catholic) Robert Runcie when he was Archbishop of Canterbury and remained Archbishop’s Chaplain to the (Evangelical) George Carey for his first two years in office.

He was consecrated Bishop of St Germans in 1993, returning to Cornwall, and then transferred to Norwich in 2000.  He is an active member of the House of Lords and a Board Member of the Countryside Agency.

In 2011 he was invited to join the Select Committee on Communications, and became the Church of England’s spokesman on media issues.


He is the author of ‘Changing Rural Life: A Christian Response to Life and Work in the Countryside‘ and  is presumably the Graham James who wrote an introduction to Sally Gaze’s ‘Mission-shaped and Rural: Growing Churches in the Countryside’ (2006/2011).



Bishop Graham is a hard man to pin down without the benefit of personal contact. Cuddesdon, where he trained, was originally geared to the Catholic wing of the Church of England, but the wikipedia page says: ‘Nowadays, Cuddesdon students come from across the spectrum of the Church of England but it retains a liturgical approach to worship and a broad approach to theology’. It would be unkind to say that the ability to serve both archbishops, although from theologically opposite ends of the church, is reminiscent of The Vicar of Bray. And (if accurate) maybe this is exactly what the Church needs next – someone to be all things to all men?

There is a 16-minute interview dating from 2010 which you can listen to here. It includes the following exchange (the transcription is fair, but not literal, so if you regard the comments as significant it is worth listening to the original).

Q Do you think we will see a woman bishop in the Church of England in the next ten years?

A No. But my suspicion is that in ten to 20 years time we will, partly because the legislation will take that long to get into place. I want to see women bishops, but what I don’t want to see are people in different traditions within our church being unchurched. It is how we can live in the same church with two quite different opinions on this.

On the episcopal issue, he abstained in the debate to enable reconsideration of amendment 5.1.c, a position he shared with the Bishop of London, known to be against women bishops. He also voted in favour of the Anglican Covenant, as did his diocese.


Leap in the dark assessment

If you are looking for someone to try and keep the lid on the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, Graham James would seem to be a good bet.

14 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

I suspect that despite his background he is a conservative with a small c.

I’m not sure that I’d like to see him as ABC, but given his experience at Church House with 2 successive ABC’s, he will have the political nous to get on with things. I just wonder how many of his fellow bishops will be in full communion with him?

I’m concerned that he would drag his feet on the domestic issues within the Church, including gender and same-sex relationships. These two need sorting sooner rather than later, one way or the other.

An interesting prospect.

Lay Anglicana said...

I was unable to find any interviews with Bishop Graham which revealed ‘the man behind the mask’ – well, perhaps not mask, exactly, but the off-duty man. I therefore do feel I may have read him wrong. But, going from what is freely available on the internet, I like you have formed the opinion that he is a conservative and anxious that nothing should change. I honestly feel it is too late for that. Let us see. I am rather hoping that someone who knows him better might comment…?

08 August 2012 17:39
Caroline said...

I knew him 15 to 20 years ago when he was Bishop of St Germans. It is hard to imagine anyone being more supportive of women priests (this was around the time that the first women were ordained as full priests).

I was surprised that he didn’t support reconsideration of Amendment 5.1.c, but he said that he thought we ought to get on with it rather than spending further time arguing, so it isn’t really fair to describe him as sharing a position with the Bishop of London.

Unless he has changed a lot in the past 15 years I certainly can’t see him as someone who doesn’t want things to change.

I would be delighted – and relieved – if he were to be the next ABC. I believe he is one of few contenders who would be able to bring people together without trying to prevent change.

He is politically astute, which I reluctantly accept is necessary in the role.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you for commenting, Caroline, and welcome to Lay Anglicana. It is good to have a contribution from someone who actually knows Bishop Graham.
To be fair, I didn’t say that he shared a position with the Bishop of London, simply that he shared his decision to abstain. I expect he is politically astute – after serving two Archbishops of Canterbury one would certainly hope so. However, the Church’s stand on the media in recent years has been pretty dire and I wonder to what degree, if any, he is responsible for this?
Although I didn’t say so in my post, one of the reasons I inferred that Bishop Graham is resistant to change is the state of the website of Norwich Diocese. It compares very poorly with Coventry, which I looked at yesterday, and gives the impression that all is virtually moribund. There is a small picture of some wheat on the front page, with the caption ‘Committed to Growth’. This looks as if it might be an advertisement, but if you click it you are taken to a page which contains a (very brief) mission statement for the diocese. An important part of the growth, we gather, is to be a growth in income. I was not very impressed.

08 August 2012 19:42
08 August 2012 18:36
08 August 2012 17:28
Alan said...

mmmmm. You know when I think about it, it seems to me that even the most gifted statesmen can only bring about compromise and comity to the degree all of the parties are willing to work towards these ends. Here in the US our President Obama ran a great campaign about bridging the political divide in this country, but with the opposition utterly unwilling to work with him, he has accomplished all too little of what he was elected to do. How can one compromise with people who pride themselves on never compromising?

Lay Anglicana said...

Spot on, Alan! I am afraid we have reached the point in the Anglican Communion, certainly, and the Church of England to a degree, where positions have become entrenched. This is when one rather wishes people’s principles *were* a little more pliable!

UKViewer said...

I think that people are hoping that others principles are pliable, while their’s remain stiff and uncompromising.

There is so little grace in some of the debates, that I sometimes wonder why I remain in a church which is factional and divisive. Perhaps because I received a call to be where I am, I stay because I believe that call to be genuine. But sometimes I just become frustrated that we are so wound up in internal issues, that the bigger mission loses itself in the noise.

And, of course, these issues are not an issue within our parish, we just want to live out our faith, in our community, making it a safe space and place for people to belong. Our issues are ones of ageing churches, to little money to keep them going, shortage of clergy and laity willing to be called. Our need is to reach out to our dispersed rural communities and be the presence for them, but it’s increasingly difficult. Five Churches, becomes nine very soon, with no additional resources available.

The wartime slogan ‘make do and mend’ springs to mind.

Lay Anglicana said...

And we are a benefice of four, which from next autumn becomes ten. Also rural. Both present problems, in which we are far from alone. From all that I can see of Bishop Graham, he is very much aware of these problems. Whether he has any solution to suggest remains open to question.

UKViewer said...

I was impressed with the Church in Wales report and also the item in last weeks Church Times from the Bishop of Sodor and Mann. They have turned all of their deaneries into mission communities within a wider area. There initiatives have seen an increase in interest and crucially attendance since it started. The are taking mission and outreach seriously and making the best use that they can with their very limited resources.

09 August 2012 06:18
Lay Anglicana said...

I think one of the advantages Wales has over the Church of England is that it has only Wales to manage. If our Church could stop feeling solely responsible for the Anglican Communion and move to the Commonwealth as a structural model, it too would be able to attempt to manage only England. Initiatives could be taken which were tailor-made for England, rather than consideration having to be given as to how they will go down in the Southern Cone or Nigeria.

09 August 2012 07:11
08 August 2012 19:31
08 August 2012 18:08
08 August 2012 17:42
08 August 2012 17:34
Simon Martin said...

Slight correction, Laura.
Graham James contributed a chapter to “Changing Rural Life” – and he did not edit the full volume.
And I can confirm he wrote the forward to Sally’s book – he is the bishop of her diocese.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thanks Simon! I appreciate the correction – it is quite strange trying to write this piece without having a feel for the man himself and the public information that I could find is surprisingly limited.

08 August 2012 19:29
08 August 2012 18:01
Matthew Caminer said...

(same response on Facebook) Interesting stuff… being married to a recent Cuddesdon graduate, I would say that it is certainly not ‘all things to all people’, which smacks of chameleon-like weakness and vacillating compromise; but they seem to encourage vigorous debate in which individuals’ assumptions can be challenged by their peer group, frequently resulting in seismic shifts in their opinions and assumptions. I never heard of it coming to blows, but not far off sometimes, but what a catharsis usually afterwards! Wow! I think that bodes well for future generations of ABCs if not necessarily the next one, based s it would be on people who do have a personal position, but based on genuine full-spectrum awareness and empathy.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you Matthew – this is music to my ears. Vigorous debate is to be encouraged by all means! I wonder who wrote the rather mealy-mouthed Wikipedia description?

08 August 2012 19:32
08 August 2012 18:14

Leave a Reply

We rely on donations to keep this website running.