This is a strange story, or may turn out to be, of synchronicity and cyberspace. On Wednesday, we had a bantering conversation on Facebook, as you do, when I suggested that a squirrel in a photograph was actually saying: Good heavens! It looks as though they’ve decided to make Richard Branson Archbishop of Canterbury on the grounds of his management skills…
Of course, I was joking, but the more I thought about the idea, the more appealing it seemed to be. If the House of Lords is divided into the Lords Spiritual and the Lords Temporal, why should we not have Archbishops Temporal and Spiritual? Well, alright, perhaps we can’t have an Archbishop Temporal, but isn’t this just what the Church of England needs, call the job what you will?
The ‘Archbishop Temporal’ would be responsible for overall strategy and management, including the financial aspects. The Archbishop Spiritual would carry out any important church services that come up (the next royal baptism?), talk to clergy and laity about spiritual matters (including presumably the Queen), and oversee developments in the liturgy.
Let us look again at the job description of the next Archbishop of Canterbury:
1. The Archbishop is the Bishop of the Canterbury Diocese. He has delegated much of his responsibility for the diocese to the Bishop of Dover, who leads a senior staff team of the Dean, three Archdeacons and the Diocesan Secretary. The Archbishop continues to take a keen interest in the affairs of the diocese, attend staff and other meetings, the annual residential staff meeting, and the Archbishop’s Council of the diocese when possible.
2. The Archbishop of Canterbury is also a Metropolitan, having metropolitical jurisdiction throughout the 30 dioceses of the Province of Canterbury. As such, he can conduct formal visitations of those dioceses when necessary. Establishing close links with bishops in his Province is an important part of his work and he visits three dioceses each year. It is a Metropolitan’s responsibility to act as chief consecrator at the consecration of new bishops, grant various permissions, licences and faculties, appoint to parishes where the patron has failed to do so within the prescribed time limits, act as Visitor of various institutions and release, where appropriate, those who have taken religious vows. He and the Archbishop of York are joint Presidents of the General Synod. The Archbishop of Canterbury is Chairman and the Archbishop of York Vice-Chairman of the House of Bishops and the Crown Nominations Commission.Two Provincial Episcopal Visitors report to the Archbishop in relation to the 163 parishes in the southern province which have petitioned for extended episcopal care under the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod.
3. As leader of the ‘Church by Law Established’ the Archbishop, in his capacity as Primate of All England, is ‘chaplain to the nation’, classically exemplified at a coronation. More routinely he has regular audiences with the Queen and the Prime Minister, and is frequently in touch with senior Ministers of State and with the Leaders of Opposition Parties. In addition, both Archbishops and 24 other senior bishops have seats in the House of Lords.
4. The Archbishop is the Focus of Unity for the Anglican Communion. He is convener and host of the Lambeth Conference, President of the Anglican Consultative Council, and Chair of the Primates’ meeting. In these roles he travels extensively throughout the Anglican Communion, visiting provinces and dioceses, and supporting and encouraging the witness of the Church in very diverse contexts. As primus inter pares among the bishops, he has a special concern for those in episcopal ministry.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is, along with the Bishop of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch, widely regarded as an international spiritual leader, representing the Christian Church. On overseas visits, a meeting with the Head of State is almost always a part of the programme, as are meetings with other significant political persons.
5. The Archbishop has a national and international ecumenical role; nationally he is one of the Presidents of Churches Together in England, who provide strategic guidance to ecumenical endeavours.
6. The Archbishop takes the lead in relationships with members of other faith communities both in this country and overseas, reflecting the increasing significance of those communities for the context in which the Church’s mission and ministry take place.
Although several of these items are strictly spiritual, it seems likely that a ‘temporal’ element could be found in 1,2 and 4, and perhaps in others, which would take some of the enormous pressures off the next incumbent.
Tomorrow, I was to have put up a post suggesting the above, in a light-hearted, Saturday morning sort of way.
Imagine my surprise when I see a tweet this evening (thank-you, Chris, for the tip-off) from the Telegraph editor, Tony Gallagher.
In last major interview, Rowan tells
@benedictbrogan the job is too big for one man & he didn’t do enough to stop spilt over homosexuality…Anglican church plans historic change for ‘presidential’ figure to take some of Archbishop of Canterbury role, Rowan W tells @Telegraph
Good! I am delighted. So pleased to know that the powers that be are thinking along the same lines as Lay Anglicana!
Of course we must wait to read the fine print….
The interview with Benedict Brogan is now available online. It has some fascinating insights, which need further examination, but on this question, Archbishop Rowan is reported as follows:
The end of his reign is a good time to consider the future of the office he holds. The workload of priest, bishop, administrator, spiritual leader is enormous — has it become too much for one man? He discloses that the Church is considering spreading the load to a “more presidential figure” alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury. This would be a landmark moment for the Anglican communion. Can he imagine a time when the Archbishop of Canterbury is no longer its head? “It would be a very different communion, because the history is just bound up with that place, that office. So there may be more of a sense of a primacy of honour, and less a sense that the Archbishop is expected to sort everything.”