This Gillray cartoon of ‘The Church Militant’ seemed an appropriate illustration for a sorbet between courses of bishops, lest we exhaust our appetite for more before we finish the list. The rankings on 7th August, when I began this exercise, were: Christopher Cocksworth, Graham James, John Sentamu, Justin Welby, Tim Stevens, Richard Chartres, John Packer, Stephen Croft, Nick Baines and John Inge
Today’s rankings from Oddschecker (I apologise for the vulgarity of this method of selection, but it seems the fairest) is as follows:
Christopher Cocksworth 7th August
Graham James 8th August
John Sentamu 10th August
Justin Welby 13th August
James Jones 20th August
Tim Stevens 18th August
Richard Chartres, 24th August
Stephen Croft 28th August
John Packer 30th August
Nick Baines 3rd September
John Inge 7th September
Tom Wright 10th September
Stephen Cottrell 17th September
Timothy Thornton 25th September
David Urquhart 1st October
Dr Graham Kings 9th October
Dr Barry Morgan
Dr Alastair Redfern 13th October
Peter Bryan Price
+James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, who did not make it at all into the original short list, is now in fifth place, immediately behind +Justin Welby.
On a more general note, one or two things have struck me (apart from the difficulty of the task ahead, which we already knew about). I think there is no obvious candidate. Apart from their personal qualities, which we must hope weigh uppermost in the minds of the Crown Nominations Commission, there are perhaps three practical considerations which the comments so far suggest we expect to be taken into account. These are:
- The age of the candidate: he needs to be still under 70 at the next Lambeth Conference due to be held in 2018;
- The seniority of the candidate: though some might think +Nick Holtam or +Tim Dakin a good choice, they are currently in their first posts as bishop.
- The length of service in their present posts: +Justin Welby might be a good candidate for other reasons, but has only recently arrived in Durham.
I do pray very sincerely that these practical considerations are not allowed to come in the way of choosing the best man for the job. As has been pointed out several times, we are at a crucial juncture in the Church of England, and for that matter in the Anglican Communion, with a built-up head of steam demanding change. There can be no question of ‘Buggins’ turn‘. It will require someone with very special abilities to fulfil the role of Archbishop of Canterbury. Cometh the hour, cometh the man?