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Candidates for Cantuar: Richard Branson

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.”

16 comments on this post:

Emma Sivyer said...

Works pretty well for most Dioceses – surely that is the relationship between the Diocesan Sectetary & Diocesan Bishop…?

Lay Anglicana said...

Hello Emma – thanks for commenting here. We will wait to see tomorrow exactly what the CofE has in mind. I expect the problem with the existing arrangement, though, is that most people who want to see the bishop want to see the bishop, not the diocesan secretary. And for some things at present the bishop has to deal with whatever it is, just as a matter of etiquette and expectations. If there was someone of the same stature as the Archbishop of Canterbury, people would learn to deal with him (almost inevitably not a woman at this point).

Chris Fewings said...

Why on earth shouldn’t it be a woman? (Excuse my naivety.)

10 September 2012 09:39
07 September 2012 21:55
07 September 2012 21:51
Kate ardern said...

Wow! Our little exchange has come on! Actually if this person is in effect the CoE’s CEO why not a woman say a senior lay canon??

07 September 2012 22:06
Kate ardern said...

Ps I’d rather like that job!

Lay Anglicana said...

I’ll vote for you, Kate! Oh no, that’s right, only The Episcopal Church votes on these sorts of things…

07 September 2012 22:10
07 September 2012 22:06
Alan T Perry said...

Would Richard Branson re-brand the Church of England as Virgin Church?

(I’d love to see him running a PFI maternity hospital: Virgin Birth Centre 🙂

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you Alan!
What I’m now wondering is what those who scan the media and Google on his behalf will make of all of this…:)

08 September 2012 06:35
08 September 2012 00:14
Brian R Pateman said...

While I agree that here is a real need for some major changes and for more support for the next Archbishop of Canterbury at least that person should have a spiritual focus and not simply the bottom line.

A person with true spiritual diplomacy and a non-confrontational attitude is what is required. The Virgin attitude of “We didn’t get our own way so we’ll take legal action” seems to me to be inappropriate.

Branson in any position would make me re-consider my membership of the Church. I’d rather have a woman Archbishop!

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you for this, Brian. There has been some clarification here (though I don’t quite understand why the report by yahoo of the interview adds things that were not in the Telegraph report…).
Apparently the ABC is mainly thinking of someone to run the Anglican Communion. There is actually a much simpler answer if that is the problem – DON’t run the Anglican Communion. No one before ++Rowan attempted to do this, and those that I speak to in the Anglican Communion are highly indignant that what was meant to be a purely honorary role has morphed into the uber-gruppen-fuehrer that it has recently become.

By the way, I would also much rather have a woman Archbishop, but something makes me think when you say this it is like saying you would rather have a pig in a poke? 🙂
Never mind, it won’t happen, not for a while anyway.

Matthew Caminer said...

Actually, as someone who has spent a career in industry, I think that if it HAD to be the CEO of a multinational company, I could think of many worse individuals than Richard Branson. I know this is kind of a spoof posting, but it does make a point, in particular about the portfolio of experience and skills that we expect of senior clerics. I am not sure how many would thrive at equivalent positions of seniority in industry, not because they lack the “bottom line” drive or are motivated purely by “getting their own way”, but because of the sheer breadth of the toolkit they are expected to bring with them. Ditto trying to run the church at diocesan level and deliberately keeping the laity at arms length because you have to ‘Revd’ in order to ‘understand. On reflection, a wild generalisation, but I won’t waste my words and your time trying to explain it: I guess you can see where I am going with that.

08 September 2012 17:58
08 September 2012 08:35
08 September 2012 06:41
UKViewer said...

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the things that Dr Williams spoke of in his interview. Particularly the admission of mistakes and his suggestion of a Presidential figure to work alongside him. But, it seems to me that he was talking specifically about the Anglican Communion in this context.

As you know, we have argued for a different approach and separation of the roles of the ABC who is pulled to much in different directions, so perhaps that was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I suspect that we are approaching a selective approach to this. Whoever the other person is, he or she will be a Bishop, because the Bishops in the Anglican Communion, wouldn’t expect any less. But, many of those in GAFCON wouldn’t deal with a female Bishop on their theological grounds.

I can’t actually see Richard Branson in this sort of role, while he might have the business skills, I don’t believe that he has the political acumen to perform in this sphere. As Brian points out, he is ready to resort to legal action when a decision goes against him. That’s the last thing we need as ABC (Partner).

My suggestion would be someone like, Frank Field. An experienced politician, an good Anglican and someone who has demonstrated his caring credentials so well, that Tony Blair couldn’t work with him in Government.

An alternative, would be of course The Bishop of Liverpool, to work as an associate Arch Bishop to the next ABC, with specific responsibility for the Anglican Communion. That would get my vote.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thanks, E. As you will realise, I chose Richard Branson as the extreme epitome of his type, and to capture your attention (that at least worked, didn’t it). I wasn’t altogether serious about his candidacy!
I think Frank Field is an excellent suggestion if they are looking for someone who understands the Church, and doesn’t mind playing second fiddle.
But if, as it now appears, the idea is simply to hive off the Anglican Communion, I simply don’t think this will wash with the Anglican Communion. Have they even been consulted? Personally, I think it is highly insulting to take a role, which you have been invited to fill on a purely honorary basis ex officio and say you are going to sub-contract it.

08 September 2012 08:53
08 September 2012 07:46
Pam Smith said...

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has called this story ‘mischievous’:

“The opening paragraph of this article is mischievous,” said Canon Kenneth Kearon. “There are no such plans. The Archbishop of Canterbury simply said in the interview that he could see that in the future there might be some reflection on how the administrative load associated with the Anglican Communion might be better shared.
“The Anglican Communion has several decision-making bodies, one of which is meeting in a few months’ time. Nothing like what this newspaper has suggested is on the agenda.”

I have to say I was quite puzzled as to how the whole Anglican communion were going to come to one mind about the development of the role of Archbishop of Canterbury let alone come to grips with the practicalities of appointing such a person.

I’m afraid this idea seems to be born out of the same instinct to centralise power that brought forth the Anglican Communion. If you don’t want an Anglican Communion, I’m quite surprised you want a President whose sole role would be to develop mechanisms for standardisation and centralisation across the ‘brand’.

Chris Fewings said...

I think most of us do want an Anglican Communion. We just don’t want an Anglican Empire.

10 September 2012 09:44
08 September 2012 08:59
Matthew Caminer said...

I do think that in the same way that I understand that there is a Bishop of Lambeth who fields a lot of the stuff tnhat goes into the ABC’s office at Lambeth Palace, there must be all sorts of mechanisms for delegation, intervention, representation and the like already built into the structure of which the ABC is at the head.

08 September 2012 18:05

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