Although I have not hesitated in previous summaries to call our archiepiscopal candidates ‘Fred Smith’, as it were, I do feel rather impertinent in so labelling The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Richard Chartres KCVO DD FSA, seen in the above illustration presiding over one of the many organisations of which he is patron, The Story of Christmas.
For Richard John Carew Chartres, born in July 1947, has all the magisterial presence one could possibly ask for in a candidate for the Archbishopric of Canterbury. He gave a memorable sermon at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, which endeared him to the hearts of many, both here and all over the world. It was brilliant in its simplicity.
He was born in Ware, Hertfordshire. He was educated at the then Hertford Grammar School and Trinity College Cambridge, where he read history before studying theology at Cuddesdon and Lincoln theological colleges. He has a Lambeth Bachelor of Divinity degree and four honorary doctorates (you can read all the details in the extensive Wikipedia entry, which prints out at four pages).
He is married to Caroline, author of several books including ’Married to the Ministry’ (1998) and ‘Why I am Still an Anglican’ (2007) and they have four children.
He was ordained as a priest in his late twenties (1974). After serving as chaplain to Robert Runcie when he was Bishop of St Alban’s, he was Professor of Divinity at Gresham College in London from 1987 to 1992. He was then consecrated Bishop of Stepney and, in 1995, Bishop of London (properly Londinium, hence ‘Londin’). His Crockford’s entry reads as follows:
+CHARTRES, The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard John Carew. b 47. KCVO09 PC96. Trin Coll Cam BA68 MA73 BD83 Hon DLitt98 Hon DD99 FSA99 Hon FGCM97. Cuddesdon Coll 69 Linc Th Coll 72. d 73 p 74 c 92. C Bedford St Andr St Alb 73-75; Bp’s Dom Chapl 75-80; Abp’s Chapl Cant 80-84; P-in-c Westmr St Steph w St Jo Lon 84-85; V 86-92; Dir of Ords 85-92; Prof Div Gresham Coll 86-92; Six Preacher Cant Cathl 91-97; Area Bp Stepney Lon 92-95; Bp Lon from 95; Dean of HM Chpls Royal and Prelate of OBE from 95
He has seven books currently in print listed on his page on Amazon. The most recent of these is The Art of Worship: Paintings, Prayers, and Readings for Meditation (National Gallery London) which he wrote with Nick Holtam, now bishop of Salisbury.
Bishop Richard is the patron of the Burgon Society, ‘founded to promote the study of academical dress’ and has an interesting collection of vestments. However, although he undoubtedly ‘walks with kings’ (he is a Privy Counsellor), it cannot be said he has altogether ‘lost the common touch’. At the time of the ‘Occupy London’ protest outside St Paul’s, Alan Rusbridger of The Guardian reported approvingly:
The Rt Rev Richard John Carew Chartres exuded an aura of benign ecclesiastical calm having performed the most dramatic reverse ferret in modern church history.
He has a wide range of outside interests. He is an Honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple, a Liveryman of the Merchant Taylors’ Company and Honorary Freeman of the Weavers Company. He is patron of Prospex, a charity that works with young people in North London, and a patron of the Georgian Group. He is the Founder and Chairman of the Trustees of the St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. He is a member of the advisory council of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. He is patron of the Westminster Theological Centre and of St Paul’s Theological Centre. Since its launch in 2006, Bishop Richard has led the Church’s ‘Shrinking the Footprint’ campaign aimed at cutting 80% of the Church’s carbon emissions by 2050. In 2008 the ‘Independent on Sunday’ named him as number 75 of the top 100 environmentalists in Britain.
Bishop Richard is a six-candle High Church Anglican. No problem with that, of course, so was Archbishop Robert Runcie and many of his predecessors. Unfortunately, he would probably make a better Cantuar for the nineteenth century than for the twenty-first: it is perhaps no coincidence that he is also President of the Trollope Society. So what’s the problem? He does not support the ordination of women as priests (and therefore he of course is not in favour of women as bishops either). Diocesan synods have overwhelmingly voted in favour of women bishops, and the likelihood now seems to be that (one way or another) they will be introduced in the next few years. He would be in an impossible position as Archbishop of Canterbury at a time when there was such pressure. I believe he has not ordained any women in his diocese, although he has allowed his suffragans to do so.
Leap in the dark assessment
Probably the best Archbishop of Canterbury we will never have.