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Candidates for Cantuar: James Jones

Bishop James Jones is my hero. I first fell under his spell when I was reviewing his book ‘With My Whole Heart’ which, if you have not yet read, I can strongly recommend. And if you want to know why I think he would be a good Archbishop of Canterbury for the years immediately ahead, reading the review will I hope give you some idea.

But let us by all means begin at the beginning.

James Stuart Jones was born in 1948 and went to the Duke of York’s Royal Military School (his father was an army major) in Dover, followed by a degree in theology from Exeter University. He got his teaching qualification in Keele and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He then taught at Sevenoaks and worked as a producer at the Scripture Union. He did not become a priest until he was in his mid-thirties. He married Sarah Marrow in 1980, and they have three daughters.


Here is the Crockford’s entry:

+JONES, The Rt Revd James Stuart. b 48. Ex Univ BA70 PGCE71 Hull Univ Hon DD99 Lincs & Humberside Univ Hon DLitt01. Wycliffe Hall Ox 81. d 82 p 83 c 94. C Clifton Ch Ch w Em Bris 82-90; V S Croydon Em S’wark 90-94; Suff Bp Hull York 94-98; Bp Liv from 98; Bp HM Pris from 07. 

Bishop James ‘s work in the church is well-covered on the diocesan webpage.

He is a member of the House of Lords, Bishop for Prisons, Visitor to St Peter’s College in the University of Oxford, Co-President of Liverpool Hope University, WWF Ambassador and a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, Vice President of the Town and Country Planning Association, Trustee National Museums Liverpool. In 2009 he was appointed by the Home Secretary to Chair the Hillsborough Independent Panel


He broadcasts regularly, especially on ‘Thought for the Day’. He has written a number of books including ‘Jesus and the Earth’ (SPCK 2003) which looks at the relationship between Christianity and the environment.


Originally a conservative Evangelical, now see below.

So far, so good. In what we have seen so far, Bishop James has not particularly demonstrated any qualities not shown by our other candidates, although I would suggest that his background in teaching, writing and broadcasting indicate that he is an excellent communicator (which would make a nice change).

However, I would suggest there is only one thing you need to know about the man in order to decide whether you could and would follow him as the leader of the Church of England  (and, to the extent that the title is appropriate, the Anglican Communion). He has twice shown great moral courage in public.

The first was in the aftermath of the 2003 letter from nine bishops including James Jones to Archbishop Rowan Williams, opposing his decision not to block the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. However, Bishop James came to feel this was wrong and in 2008 he said publicly:

I deeply regret this episode in our common life. I still believe it was unwise to try to take us to a place that evidently did not command the broad support of the Church of England but I am sorry for the way I opposed it and I am sorry too for adding to the pain and distress of Dr John and his partner.”

Stuart James, of the E Church blog, reported in 2010 the extent to which Bishop James’s new attitude had ‘riled’ the Conservative Evangelicals.

The second was a speech made by the Bishop to his diocesan synod about the Anglican Covenant. Considerable pressure, you will remember, had been exerted on all bishops to ensure that everyone was brought into line and voted in favour of the Covenant. Bishop James got to his feet, went to the microphone, and told his Liverpool flock why he could not support the Covenant. You can read what Bishop James said in this blog by ‘KiwiAnglo’, also known as Father Ron Smith, an Anglican priest in New Zealand. Ripples in a pond, reaching across the world.

So, although you may think I am verging on the melodramatic, I have no hesitation in saying that Bishop James Jones has earned the right to claim the words of this hymn by Robert Lowell as his own.


Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.
Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.



There are some who will question the candidacy of Bishop James Jones by reason of his age. I have no desire to speed his retirement (Bishop James is the same age as I am) but would like to point out that the most popular and loved Pope of recent times was Pope John Paul XXIII, and his papacy lasted for less than five years. In 2012 we are looking, or should be looking, I suggest, for someone to lead us out of the wilderness. The personal qualities of the next Archbishop of Canterbury are, in my opinion, of over-riding importance.

14 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

Laura, you have my total agreement in this nomination. You are off course aware of his health issues, which might self-restrict his eligibility for the high pressure role of ABC.

But, he would make an impressive ABC if he were chosen. Particularly as he is able to speak to people in the vernacular and where they are.

Lay Anglicana said...

Yes, let’s be upfront about his health. Bishop James Jones had a heart attack in the last few years. It did not kill him. He had heart surgery. He now looks fitter than he did before. I would like a doctor’s opinion, but in other cases I have known people live a long time after heart surgery. The shock forces them to obey all the health rules (diet and exercise). So I am optimistic that it would not be a problem.

20 August 2012 16:50
20 August 2012 16:44
Matthew Caminer said...

Interesting that you mention his health. I don’t know how old the photo is, but my gut reaction was “he doesn’t look at all well.” Regardless of whether or not he becomes ABofC I hope he prospers.

My only other comment is a kindly meant nudge not to suggest that he’s the right man because he is wise enough to agree with your views!!! Having said which, however, I think that age and health apart I too would support his candidacy if anyone asked a mere mortal like me!


This is a pre-heart surgery photo (I know because I used it on my blog when I first discovered what a fine/fair and courageous ¨Evangelical¨ human being and Bishop he is). He´s also now, and has been along the way, my first choice for ABC…he´ll be well received everywhere I think. He knows how to say ¨no¨ very honorably and he gets-on with reality, trust and equality very well.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you for telling us this, Leonardo. I had great difficulty – and have had with all the bishops – in getting hold of a good copyright-free photograph. This one came from the diocesan website, and I am presuming they would not object to my using it. Actually the background was very dark, so I photoshopped it and the resulting pallour may be my fault, not James Jones’!

20 August 2012 20:18
20 August 2012 20:11
20 August 2012 17:08
Kate ardern said...

Mmm. interesting review although it might have useful to take some soundings from Bishop James’ diocese which might have tempered some of the positivity of this review. He is not universally popular in Liverpool either with clergy or laity. Whilst he is undoubtably an excellent communicator and has a passionate and laudable interest in sustainable development, his underlying health status & his previously very openly obvious arch episcopal ambitions may count against him. Wouldn’t be my first choice.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you for this, Kate. I did say at the beginning I was only going to include impressions gleaned from what is out there in cyberspace. ‘Not universally popular’, while I don’t know the details, is not in itself a bar, I would say. Not many charismatic leaders are universally popular…hard to think of any in the UK, whereas those who have made major changes in Britain, say Winston and Mrs T, had great difficulties. I have seen reports somewhere that he was thought to be ‘mentally measuring up for curtains’ at the Archbishop’s Palace in York and I know this is supposed to be a dreadful failing in Church of England circles. I am not sure about this – if you choose someone who says he doesn’t want the job, why would you be surprised if he turns out to be no good at it? Ambition for the top job in order to sort out the Church of England might be quite a good thing. IMHO and all that…

20 August 2012 20:12
20 August 2012 19:43
Matthew Caminer said...

I’m with you on that Laura

20 August 2012 20:20
Matthew Caminer said...

p.s. Not sure if you can do this on the blog, Laura, but any chance of reorganising these reviews so they are all together and we can read and compare, and catch up on any we missed?

Lay Anglicana said...

Sorry, Matthew, but it is you that is spoiling the symmetry of the replies! The system is that if you want to respond to a particular point made by someone, you hit the ‘reply’ button on their comment. That way, you get a block of comments and responses, such as the one which begins with your comment on the photograph of 17.08, Leonardo’s comment on that of 20.11 and my comment of 20.18. When you say ‘I’m with you on that’ at 20.20, there is no way anyone reading the comments knows which of my remarks you agree with. Sorry about this, hope what I have written makes sense to you?

Joyce said...

That was helpful, Laura, explaining that to reply to a particular post one had to click ‘reply’ under it. I’ve not been sure of whether to do that or to go to the end. I’ve done both and now understand there is a reason for the presence of so many ‘reply’ buttons.

22 August 2012 14:38
20 August 2012 20:32
Lay Anglicana said...

Matthew, I’ve just realised what you meant: a list of all the assessments of the candidates for ABC? For the next blog post, I will try and do that.

20 August 2012 21:55
20 August 2012 20:24
MisterDavid said...

Not wishing to be ungrateful, but I’d appreciate some more critical evaluation here – this does come across as a bit ‘cheerleadery’!

What are his main strengths AND weaknesses? What ‘style’ of bishop is he? Which historical Archbishops could he be compared to?


But thank you for these sketches. Much appreciated.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you Mr David for commenting. Your headgear does rather make me think of a pirate’s mitre – do you have designs on Cantuar yourself, I wonder? 🙂

I apologise for the shortcomings of the cold collations I have been offering on our episcopal candidates for the Great Mikado of them all.

I agree with you that they do have shortcomings, but by their very nature this was bound to happen. I said that I had never met any of the candidates, and it is not usual to write this sort of apparently biographical piece without first interviewing the candidate. All my journalistic training is against it. Plus I am only drawing on material which can be readily reached on Google (even if I did have to go to the 10th page for the Bishop of Leicester in search of interesting material).

To be very honest, I had rather hoped that those who knew the candidates better might emerge, as it were, from the woodwork. I hoped, in other words, to prime the pump.

Come on then, gush!

21 August 2012 19:15
21 August 2012 16:40

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