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Candidates for Cantuar: Richard Chartres

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.

13 comments on this post:

Revsimmy said...

With +Richard, as with at least one of the other candidates you have already profiled, there is of course the issue of age. Given that ++Rowan is retiring ostensibly to give his successor time to get his feet well under the table by Lambeth 2018 it would seem strange to appoint someone who is due to retire the year before that. The CNC could, I suppose appoint a “caretaker” for a couple of years to allow a younger candidate to gain the necessary experience as diocesan beforehand, but this seems unlikely to me at this stage. I wonder what others think?

Lay Anglicana said...

I, too, would be interested in the views of others. From what I have seen, there is no obvious candidate. Whoever is chosen will involve a degree of compromise, at least partly on purely practical questions such as their age, and length of service in their present diocese.

24 August 2012 20:18
24 August 2012 16:41
UKViewer said...

Bishop Richard has an illustrious CV, being part of the Great and Good. Particularly the in-crowd of the establishment.

His impediment is his obstructive attitude towards the Ministry of Women, although he is content to Ordain them Deacon, he balks at Priesting them.

He is quite imperious and traditional in his approach, so pastorally difficult, but fortunately, has some excellent suffragan’s – who support his ministry ably across the diocese.

I’ve no problem whatsoever which his High Church leanings, and traditional approach to liturgy, which 100 years ago, would have been appropriate for an ABC. I’m not sure that he would be my ideal candidate for ABC, because I believe that so many female’s both clergy and laity would become estranged from his ministry.

He would of course, please those within the Anglican Communion who wish for a traditional approach – but I believe that we are selecting firstly the Diocesan for Canterbury (my diocese), The Arch Bishop who is the senior Clergyman in the Church of England, and First among equals in the Anglican Communion. So, the selection process needs to be on that basis, not just to reassure or to pander to the Anglican Communion.

Sadly, Bishop Richard doesn’t fit my vision of the next ABC.

Lay Anglicana said...

I think you can set your mind at rest, UK Viewer, somehow I think it is very unlikely to happen.
There are some who would argue with you as to whether we are primarily selecting the diocesan bishop of Canterbury and only secondarily the head of the Church of England. Realistically, I think those priorities need to be reversed, though I was very interested by a previous conversation with you in which you mentioned how much of his time the present ABC spends on and in the Canterbury diocese. Anglican Communion of course comes third. And this is why I am all in favour of rotating the headship of the Anglican Communion in some way, or at least not regarding it as an important part of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s role (after the debacle of the Covenant, most would like any aspect of governance of the Anglican Communion to be played down. I still think the Commonwealth – and the Queen – are great role models).

24 August 2012 20:15
24 August 2012 16:48
Phil Groom said...

Usually very erudite in his sermons, which lend themselves towards deeply soporific fervour in my experience; and you’re right about the women priests issue, unfortunately…

Lay Anglicana said...

I think we could do with someone a little less erudite than ++Rowan, certainly we do not want anyone trying to out-scholar ++Rowan. A man ‘understanded of the people’ is devoutly to be wished!

24 August 2012 20:16
24 August 2012 17:04
Kate ardern said...

Interesting charcter +Richard – highly intelligent, gravitas by the bucketful & a very shrewd political operator as evidenced by his swift and decisive action to resolve the rapidly escalating crisis at St Paul’s over Occupy London. That showed a measure of resolve and ruthlessness that an ABC sometimes needs. However I would agree with the assessment that his seemingly cosy establishment relations including a longstanding friendship with the Prince of Wales make him seem more of a 19th C or early 20th ABC ( Lang springs to mind) rather one for 21st C. His attitude to women priests is rather complex in that he has certainly promoted women once they are priests – a friend of mine has been not only supported but promoted by him & another who knows him well is quite clear that he is not as opposed to women in the priesthood as portrayed – I must confess this surprised me. So a complex individual with many gifts but overall the leap in dark assessment is the right one – about a century too late.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you for this, and I am glad that you more or less confirm my assessment of him (from a position of actual knowledge!). It’s funny you should mention Cosmo Lang, I was wondering to myself whether the abdication crisis would have been avoided had Richard Chartres been the Archbishop of Canterbury at that point. I’m not sure, though, it would have been disastrous for the monarchy if ‘David’ had come to the throne so perhaps Lang was best. On the other hand, Chartres might have been able to ease him out sooner, and more gently.

I’m also fascinated to know that behind the scenes he has been promoting women once they are priests. I wonder how he works this out for himself? As you say, a complex but highly gifted man.

24 August 2012 20:07
24 August 2012 19:58
Richard Haggis said...

When Canterbury was last up for grabs, he let a former chaplain “leak” the news that although ordaining women would not be appropriate in the diocese of London, things would be quite different in Canterbury. He is a master of the weasel word, loves pomp and talking in a deep voice (very few deep thoughts, alas), and being made a fuss of, and, they say, couldn’t be got out in the evening for a parish confirmation, but somehow managed to squeeze City livery company dinners into his diary. An enthusiastic supporter of popular causes. Not a man I respect but, as you say, at 65, not in the running either.

Lay Anglicana said...

Surely no one is wholly bad, Richard, not even bishops in the Church of England? 🙂
Reading your comment -as well as others- has made me reconsider my post. We are not (and the CNC are not) considering any of the candidates in a vacuum, but in relation to each other for a specific post. You and Kate both suggest – if I understand you – that although +Richard is personally against the ordination/consecration of women, he would not oppose it if he believed it to be the will of the people (or ‘a popular cause’): instead he would probably stand aside and allow it to happen. Maybe a master of real politik – if that is what he is – would be a good idea at this juncture. And a 5-year rather than a 10-year term might be no bad thing either, as RevSimmy pointed out. I think the way things are going, the Anglican Communion might well prefer to hold their next reunion in somewhere other than Lambeth (Ottawa anyone?).

25 August 2012 13:52
24 August 2012 22:39
Charley Farns-Barns said...

Well, deep thoughts here Dame Laura, deep thoughts. And a joy of this blog is there’s often a new word to look up too. “Illustratation” is new one, so good that I had to look it up just in case it wasn’t a typo.

Don’t edit it out, will you! Regards, Charlie F-B.

Lay Anglicana said...

What else can I do but edit it out? The speed of the hand deceives the eye, I’m afraid, and I am running around like a scalded cat at the moment, so I offer my multitudinous apologies…

Phil Groom said...

But it was such a fetching word for a most illustrious Bishop 🙂

25 August 2012 20:35
25 August 2012 19:29
25 August 2012 18:53

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