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Candidates for Cantuar: Nick Baines

Bishop Nicholas “Nick” Baines (born 13 November 1957 in Liverpool) has been the Bishop of Bradford since 21 May 2011. Bishop Nick was educated at Holt Comprehensive School, Liverpool, followed by a degree in German and French at the University of Bradford. He then worked as a linguist at GCHQ (the UK equivalent of NSA) for four years before reading theology at Trinity College, Bristol. In 1980, Bishop Nick married Linda, a health visitor and artist. They have three adult children: Richard (1981), Melanie (1984) and Andrew (1988), and a grandchild.

There is a very full, not to say fulsome, biography of Bishop Nick on the diocesan web page: he evidently has a most admiring Boswell.


The Crockford’s entry is as follows:

+BAINES, The Rt Revd Nicholas. b 57. Bradf Univ BA80. Trin Coll Bris BA87. d 87 p 88 c 03. C Kendal St Thos Carl87-91; C Leic H Trin w St Jo 91-92; V Rothley 92-00; RD Goscote 96-00; Adn Lambeth S’wark 00-03; Area Bp Croydon 03-11; Bp Bradf from 11.

A Communicator

Bishop Nick blogs (with a readership of 10,000 a week) and tweets (with 4,816 followers). He says:

“New media offer access to people (like me – a bishop) who might otherwise seem to belong to a remote and mysterious world.  They also enable us to engage outside our self-selected safe communities, be present in a space where a different sort of conversation can be had and allow connectivity between people, groups and ideas that in a previous generation might not have been possible, even if desirable.”

He is an experienced broadcaster, regularly appearing on Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2. One of his main priorities is how the Church communicates its message. He says:

“I’m passionate about Christian engagement in the big wide world – not on our own terms, but on the basis that we get stuck in wherever we can; committed to the world in all its pain and glory.  And it’s something about which I think we need to be a bit bolder – and thicker skinned.”

Here Bishop Nick turns the camera and acts as reporter/interviewer. Unlike some of his episcopal colleagues, he has a relaxed and easy manner, a professional broadcaster to his fingertips (3.47 minutes):


He has seven books in print, according to his page on AmazonHungry for Hope (1991, DLT), Speedbumps & Potholes (2004, St Andrew Press), Jesus & People Like Us (2004, St Andrew Press, later revised and republished in 2008 as Scandal of Grace), Marking Time (2005, St Andrew Press), Finding Faith (2008, St Andrew Press), and Why Wish You a Merry Christmas (Church House Publishing 2009). Speedbumps & Potholes and Finding Faith have been translated into German (Am Rande bemerkt and In hoechsten Toenen, respectively).

Other Church Interests

Bishop Nick is the English Co-chair of the Meissen Commission (Church of England relations with the Evangelical Church in Germany), represents the Archbishop of Canterbury at international faith conferences and is a member of the House of Bishops’ Europe Panel.

He was a Director of Ecclesiastical Insurance from 2002-2010.

Here is a further example of Bishop Nick’s skills on camera.


Bishop Nick voted in favour of the Anglican Covenant, as did the rest of his diocesan synod by a narrow majority. At the last General Synod, he also voted in favour of adjourning the debate to enable reconsideration of amendment 5.1.c, the position generally taken by those in favour of women bishops.

Leap in the dark assessment

Another possible contender for Archbishop of York in due course?

Post Script 5 February 2014. 'One more step along the road I go'? Bishop Nick has just been appointed Bishop of Leeds, the new amalgamated diocese of three Yorkshire dioceses.

24 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

I suspect that Bishop Nick is hoist by his own Petard. He is so well known and media savvy that he will probably be discounted by many.

I believe that his record as both a Suffragan and since his arrival at Bradford as a Diocesan speaks for itself. He ‘cares’ and it shows.

I think that he Churchmanship is probably Progressive Evangelical, which is prepared to compromise for the greater good.

I’m sure that his international connections and he has had contact with the Anglican Church in Africa and visited Zimbabwe in 2010 I think it was. I’m sure that he would be able to deal with the Anglican Communion on a straight from the shoulder basis and he has the media credentials to avoid the pitfalls or disasters that have happened to the CofE recently.

He was the Bishop who courted media controversy with his book Why Wish you a Merry Christmas in 2009, which led to him being described as a curmudgeon in the media due to his poor opinion of some of the Christmas Carols. He dealt with the media well about it and was defended on BBC by Stephen Cottrell.

He has faced huge issues with the proposal being put through to merge a number of Yorkshire dioceses including Bradford. He has held his position well, but must know that his days as a diocesan might well be numbered.

He would do for me at Canterbury, but wonder if his relatively new position as a Diocesan might be held against him.

03 September 2012 16:42
Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you Ernie – ‘progressive Evangelical’ is a new one on me but a useful label – as you gathered I was not at all clear how he should be classified! The hint is in the fact of his participation in the Meissen Commission, with the German side being Evangelical.

03 September 2012 16:47
Erika Baker said...

It depends on how you define Communicator.
Bishop Nick broadcasts a lot and he writes a very interesting blog. But his responses to those who do not agree with him can be extremely curt and almost cryptic. I only know him from his blog but it suggests that he does not tolerate those he considers to be fools gladly. You get the feeling that he prefers to talk TO people than WITH them. Of course, as a practical guy he is much more likely to be out there doing what he preaches rather than discussing it at length, so this unwillingness to get drawn into long conversations on his blog could be a strength as well as a weakness – it’s hard to tell at a distance.

I hugely admire his focus on poverty and social justice – he is one of the few who consistently speaks out against government policy where it destroys our social cohesion and he shows no fear there.

In his blog he rarely writes about the major issues of the day and it is not always clear what he thinks about them. I only realised that he was pro-Covenant after the vote. And I still have no real idea where he stands on lgbt issues. He’s certainly not a keen supporter, but he is pastorally sensitive whatever his theological views may be.

Instead, he focuses on those day to day important things the Church of England does in the parishes and in the wider community.

Consequently, he is hugely exasperated with what he believes to be constant misrepresentation of church affairs by the media and has a strong tendency to blame the messenger.

He is also deeply involved in interfaith dialogue and I love his more international and less parochial outlook on faith.

He writes and preaches fluently in German and his focus is always from slightly off-centre, slightly unexpected and therefore very challenging. Much of how he thinks and writes reminds me of my Lutheran Protestant upbringing and his thinking brings together various strands of life into a fascinating three dimensional picture, informed by a lot of life experience that makes him stand out from bishops whose lives revolved around nothing but church from a very early age.
He makes you think!

Would he be a good ABC?
His determination to bring the other side of the CoE to people’s attention could be just what is needed to move the focus away from our disabling debates.
But he could possibly be too abrupt and impatient to really solve them.

I don’t see him as a great unifying figure, he is too individualistic for that and he appears to be not quite diplomatic enough.

And yet… of all the ones who have been suggested so far, he is the one who I believe would be able to withstand the pressure. He has denied wanting the job often and publicly enough to be definitely in the running and I think that his practical streak and his determination to change the perception of the CoE and of faith could be just what is needed.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you very much, Erika.
To start at the end, it is interesting that you feel he might make an ABC.

My reservations about him are based on the points you make in the first half of your comment. And, although we have not previously discussed this, we seem to be in agreement that, while Bishop Nick is undoubtedly good at promulgating his views – whether orally or in writing – there is less indication that he is interested in the communication being two-way.
My personal experience is in the context of the Meissen Commission. I wrote a considered comment, which I took some trouble over. He did not respond at all. On other occasions I have tweeted him a couple of times in response to something he said – again, no response. I’ve now got the message!

Erika Baker said...

I agree, he does not appear to be good at engaging people. But you and I are both spending a lot of time trying to communicate with strangers about their views. Now, we have made very good experiences with that but from a Bishop’s point of view it could look quite different. Alan Wilson is an amazing exception, he is a communicator to the core.

Nick may well be that but it may show more in his day to day work, in the way he interacts with people.

I’m thinking of so many of my real life friends who are outstanding at their job and have amazing communications and people skills, but just cannot do it via social media. They become clumsy and appear abrupt.

I have no means of knowing which category Nick comes into. And he could, of course, genuinely not find it important to engage with strangers via Twitter.

If he genuinely engages where it matters he would be very good – after all, we did not think it necessary that Rowan Williams should have a blog and tweet.

If he doesn’t, if he is as aloof as he comes across on his blog and elsewhere, he would not be a good ABC.

I just think he fits a lot of the parameters. He’s evangelical, and the next ABC after Rowan ought to come from the evangelical spectrum, he doesn’t hold extreme views so everyone will have something to be pleased with and something to grumble about. And he would bring a refreshing new slant to the role.
And if he did become ABC and turn out to be as aloof and slightly arrogant as he sometimes appears to be, I would end up regretting I wrote this! 

03 September 2012 19:50
03 September 2012 17:32
03 September 2012 16:53
Matthew Caminer said...

Not sure that “Bishop Nick voted in favour of the Anglican Covenant, as did the rest of his diocesan synod by a narrow majority. At the last General Synod, he also voted in favour of adjourning the debate to enable reconsideration of amendment 5.1.c, the position generally taken by those in favour of women bishops.” represents a description of his churchmanship, though I am assuming he would be characterised as… what? sort of Liberal Evangelical?

Lay Anglicana said...

Thanks Matthew. I think it is possible – just – to infer that Bishop Nick is some sort of Evangelical more liberal than Conservative, if that makes sense. But he does not pronounce his views in public in a way which would label him firmly, which is why I left the material under this heading begging to be amplified. Both Erika and Ernie have kindly done so. He may simply be ‘Open Evangelical’, ie his support of the Covenant suggests (but is not proof) that he is not pro-LGBT, whereas his presumed support of women bishops indicates that he is not Conservative Evangelical.

03 September 2012 17:26
03 September 2012 16:59
Matthew Caminer said...

(sorry, kind of crossed with Erika’s posting, which makes all clear!)

03 September 2012 17:01
Bryony Taylor said...

I’m lucky enough to have Nick Baines as my bishop. I think he has a job to do in Yorkshire before heading for Cantuar – I’m kind of biased though – we don’t want to lose him yet in Bradford! I agree with your assessment – I think he’d be a perfect candidate for York one day. In my dealings with him I detect a real interest in the world over & above the church (see his blog posts – he talks far more about matters external to the church than internal) so I think Cantuar is too much of an ‘internal’ job for him.

Lay Anglicana said...

Fascinating – thank-you very much, Bryony.

03 September 2012 18:02
Erika Baker said...

I agree, the timing isn’t good for him with the diocesan restructuing programme still in full swing.

But I would say that is focus towards life outside the church is precisely what the CoE and the Anglican Communion need most and what makes him the most suitable candidate from my point of view.

03 September 2012 18:03
03 September 2012 17:59
Kate ardern said...

I do like +Nick’s intelligent, considered and thoughtful blogs. His use of social media is quite exceptional amongst the house of bishops. He always comes across a man of great energy, practicality, reflection and sense. He’s a very down to earth Scouser with a proper Scouse sene of humour & passion for social justice. He speaks with great authority but never sounds pompous or remote and I think he is someone non- churchgoers could identify with. Whilst he might well be inpatient with those who don’t agree with him, I think his natural good sense political nous & shrewdness would come to the fore and he is clearly well able to deal with tricky situations. His experience outside the church and his considerable knowledge of international matters would be a huge advantage as ABC. I fear his relative lack of years as a diocesan may count against him but he would be a very imaginative choice & is certainly one of my preferred candidates – not least because he and I exchange tweets on the state of Liverpool FC!

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you for commenting Kate. I think you have found the way to this bishop’s heart – not through his stomach, but Liverpool FC!
I agree with you that his international background and knowledge of international affairs would make him a good ABC so far as leadership of the Anglican Communion is concerned.

03 September 2012 20:04
03 September 2012 19:54
David Emmott said...

Like Kate I’m a naturalised scouser, but originally from the Bradford area. And I’ve worked as a priest in the Southwark diocese where +Nick was Bp of Croydon. So three things in common with him; I warmed to him in that video and it struck me that he is just the right person for Bradford and that they need him for a few more years yet. At Canterbury he would be a good partner for ++Vincent Nichols – they speak with the same posh-scouse accent! – and maybe a liberal evangelical is what the Anglican Communion needs right now, able to talk to the extremists in their own language without selling out to their bigotry. But I’d be sorry for Bradford (and for him and his family) if he had to go.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you very much for this, David. I think it is quite a tribute to +Nick that those who know him best can see what he would bring to the role of Cantuar but for the sake of his present diocese hope he will stay a while in Bradford (re-organisation permitting, presumably?). People say the same thing about +Justin Welby in Durham.

It is, strictly speaking, the ‘turn’ of the Evangelicals, isn’t it, to provide one of their number to be Archbishop of Canterbury. Of course, the Anglo-Catholics feel a bit sad that ++Rowan refused to be partisan while he was in the job.

04 September 2012 10:20
04 September 2012 08:58
Pam Smith said...

I’m not sure we can read that much into Bishops voting for the Covenant other than collegial solidarity with the ABC. Which might not be a good reason for voting for the Covenant, but doesn’t necessarily mean that they are strongly committed to it themselves.

I think + Nick was one of the first Bishops to engage with blogging, and probably saw it/sees it more as a way of making his views known than engaging directly with readers. I think it’s potentially risky for Bishops to enagage with social media and I appreciate all of those who do.

I think it may be quite important for the new ABC to be open to new concepts of communication as we can probably expect many more developments over the next few years. this isn’t to say we need a blogging ARchbishop, but we certainly need someone who will take advice on communications and find ways of putting their ideas across beyond giving lectures and writing books.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you Pam. I am sure you are right that it would be a huge advantage to have an ABC who thinks communication outwards beyond traditional church circles is important. In fact, as you say, it will become increasingly important. Many of the unfavourable stories that have appeared in the media about the Church in recent years might have been softened if the reporters had understood the Church better and been better briefed. It is not enough to staff the communications department with good people, either, the co-operation of the ABC will be vital.

On the question of Bishop Nick, I agree with you that he sets an excellent example as a communicator. I understand why he might not wish to engage with his readers, but think it would be better if he made that plain at the outset.

I’m not really trying to read anything much into the votes on the Covenant where they were in favour of the Covenant. Collegial solidarity with the ABC is the polite explanation – the rather ruder way of saying something similar is that few turkeys vote for Christmas. However, some of the bishops that are in this list – despite all the pressures to fall into line – actually voted against the Covenant. That is interesting. And I think we are entitled to read quite a lot into such a vote. It is therefore necessary to note which way each Bishop voted.

Pam Smith said...

Oh I do think it’s important to note which way Bishops voted – just not necessarily to assume that any bishop who voted for it is committed to bringing it back to the table.

In fact I think support for the Covenant may tell us more about the workings of the House of Bishops than the minds of individual bishops – as does the decision to introduce another clause to the draft measure for women to be ordained bishops. There seems to be an idea of collective responsibility which makes it very uncomfortable for individual bishops to strike out in the direction they feel is best. This has left us with a situation re women bishops where someone like + Nick, who as far as I can gather does not support the Clause, feeling they have to defend the decision once it’s made.

06 September 2012 17:50
06 September 2012 17:00
06 September 2012 15:57
Erika Baker said...

Pam, but there is a difference between collectively supporting a decision once it’s been made and actively voting for in a process that will then lead to a decision.
To that extent, the Clause and the Covenant are different issues and the conclusion people draw will be different.

06 September 2012 19:05
Pam Smith said...

I’m not sure I understand the distinction you’re making Erika.

My point is that the way the House of Bishops operates makes it hard to gauge what someone thinks as an individual simply because they are following the party line.

Whoever becomes Archbishop, they will then be in a position to influence the party line much more directly before it’s set.

I don’t think that either defending a decision once made (as + Nick has done on his blog, despite not having voted that way) OR voting the same way as the ABC really indicates how someone would act or think once they were the ABC, although we may have our suspicions.

For example, from what I know of one of the candidates already profiled from people in his Diocese, I suspect he is very much more pro Covenant and very much less supportive of the ordained ministry of women that Laura has deduced.

However, I don’t KNOW that would be the case should he become ABC. He would have to take a much broader view than he does at the moment as a Diocesan.

Lay Anglicana said...

Now I am going to have to read through all the posts again and try and work out which bishop we are talking about!
Seriously, although you are quite justified in saying that I have deduced positions in these posts, I have tried very hard not to – hence writing how they voted rather than what I infer about their views. Nevertheless it is tempting and I may have strayed into stating my deductions, which was not the intention.

Actually, I have enjoyed the exercise as much for finding out more about our bishops in general than thinking about whether they are likely to be chosen as ABC. I hope others may find the same. (Editorial secret – I thought the period leading up to the appointment of the new Cantuar was the best time to catch people’s attention to read these episcopal biographic notes! Ssshhhh…)

Pam Smith said...

Laura, no criticism was intended – you’ve been very clear about your methodology and aims and the discussion has been fascinating and illuminating.

Sorry to be mysterious but I’m not sure it’s quite fair to post what I’ve heard in private, either to the person who told me or to the Bishop concerned, because I don’t know him well enough to gauge what it would mean in terms of possible future performance as an Archbishop.

07 September 2012 13:19
06 September 2012 21:45
06 September 2012 19:57
Erika Baker said...

I think I was trying to make a broader point. Supporting a decision after it has been made is accepting collective responsibility and can be applauded or at least understood.

But at the time of the Covenant vote there was as yet no party line. There was the view of the ABC and it was possible to support him for reasons of loyalty to the office or to him personally.
But in a democratic system – and to that extent, any body that allows its voting members a free vote is a democratic system, the party line is established by means of the vote.
So the party line in the CoE is now a defeated Covenant.

Supporting the HoB proposed Clause 5.1 is accepting a valid decision and rallying around it.
Voting for the Covenant was a step in the process of creating the decision everyone would then have to rally around.

To me, that is a material difference.

But I would agree that until someone is actually in a position of responsibility, it is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty how they will react. Rowan Williams’ tenure being a prime case in point.
Which is what makes our speculations so entertaining 🙂

Pam Smith said...

Thank you Erika – my thought processes are still a bit creaky sometimes following my op, so the fact I don’t quite get the distinction isn’t a way of saying it isn’t there.

I’ve never thought much about the House of Bishops until the Covenant and Clause 5.1 and I am really quite concerned about how it has operated in both these cases. In the case of the Covenant, quite a few bishops seem to have been persuaded to put personal loyalty above their responsibility for the future of the C of E, and in the case of Clause 5,1, if I believe what I’ve seen on Thinking Anglicans, the vote was railroaded and far from decisive, yet the Clause was still included.

Both these outcomes seem unsatisfactory in process terms and have both led us to unhelpful outcomes.

07 September 2012 13:25
06 September 2012 20:10

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