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Evolution of the bishop's mitre

When I first came to the United Kingdom, and began to be involved in the Church of England Diocese of Southwark, I often compared how things are done here with how things were done in the Episcopal Church. I was quickly made aware that what the Colonials do was not applicable to what is done here. So I stopped suggesting ways of being church that I thought were pertinent to the Church here.

Recently the Diocese of Llandaff in Wales found itself without a Bishop. So, the Electoral College for a Bishop was convened. Six people from the Diocese found themselves sworn to secrecy along with various Welsh bishops and the Archbishop's Registrar and Registrar's Assistant. They would elect a new Bishop of Llandaff in the utmost secrecy.

The people from Llandaff had decided that the Very Rev'd Jeffrey John, a serial "loser" in Episcopal appointment, would be a dandy bishop. The difficulty is that John, who is Dean of St. Albans, is an openly-gay man, in a civil partnership with another priest, though a chaste one.

The Electoral College could not agree on a name to be chosen as Bishop of Llandaff, and dissolved itself. The Bishops of Wales will now get together and agree a new Bishop among themselves. They have declared that all previous candidates will not get a look-in.

Except...except...someone snitched. A leak from the Electoral College proved crucial, since it was said that Dean John was the subject of homophobic and abusive speech within the College. It seems that, although the newly-retired Archbishop of Wales said that lesbian and gay clergy could be ordained deacon, priest, and chosen as bishops, his writ did not extend to Llandaff.

Dean John has gone public with a letter to the Welsh bishops complaining about his treatment within the Electoral College. The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, the senior Bishop while a new Archbishop is being chosen, would rather get after the person who leaked information from the College deliberations than condemn the homophobic remarks made in the meeting.

Dean John was chosen Bishop of Reading in Oxford Diocese (a subordinate Bishop) in 2003, but then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams forced him to resign the appointment since John was in a gay relationship. He was also one of those under consideration for Bishop of Southwark when it fell vacant some years ago. A leak from that meeting by the Very Rev'd Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark, a leak made on Dean Slee's deathbed, showed that machinations from the Archbishops scuppered the choice of John put forward by the members of the meeting from the Diocese (the C of E method of choosing Diocesan bishops is similar to the one of the Church in Wales, at least in its initial phase).

Now it seems to me that the oxygen of publicity could assist in making the will of the Holy Spirit as regards Episcopal appointments manifest. The method of choosing bishops in Wales and England is secret, with nothing being officially said until the Queen's choice is announced by Downing Street or by the Bishops of Wales. It very much reminds me of the method of choosing scholars at Oxford and Cambridge to try out for the Security Services MI5 and MI6. Someone, usually a professor, invites them to his/her room for a sherry and suggests that they should consider a career as a spy.

Bishop's Mitre

The fiction that the Queen selects bishops is still maintained, even though no Supreme Governor of the Church of England has chosen a bishop on their own since perhaps Queen Anne's reign. So how should bishops be chosen?

The Church of England and Church in Wales both have synodical governance. That is, there is a legislature in each diocese and in the Churches as a whole. These synods approve budgets and accounts, set diocesan policy, and see that it's carried out by the diocesan authorities. In The Episcopal Church, each diocese holds a Convention once a year or so to do the same functions, and the Church as a whole has a General Convention once every three years.

When an American Bishop is to be chosen, the serving bishop calls for a special electoral convention to elect a bishop. A Nominating Committee is chosen and, after a suitable interval, several names of qualified candidates are announced. If enough of the electors wish, other candidates can be nominated from the floor of the convention.

Then a dog-and-pony show of the candidates tours the diocese so that Episcopalians in each area can meet the candidates and ask them questions. The Electing Convention then meets and votes in two Houses, the House of Clergy and House of Laity, for the candidates. When a candidate gets a majority in both houses, s/he is elected bishop.

It doesn't stop there. The Bishops with jurisdiction (Diocesan Bishops and the Presiding Bishop) are asked to give consent to the election. The Standing Committee of each Diocese (the Board of Directors equivalent) is also asked to give consent. A majority of each group must consent for the election to be valid. As Bishops are chosen for the entire Church, this process ensures that the entire Church believes that the candidate will make a good bishop.

All of these activities except for the Nominating Committee's deliberations are held in public. The dog-and-pony show is public. The convention is public. The consent process (at least the results of it) is public. If insults of whatever kind from whatever source are made, they are made and can be challenged in public.

Had the Church in Wales had a similar process, the insults aimed at Dean John would not have happened.

There are objections to opening up the Episcopal election process here in the C of E. One is that it would cut out the Queen and the Prime Minister from the process. Well, at the moment a Committee meets and selects two names to submit to the Prime Minister as candidates for Bishop. The PM selects the first one, and then communicates with the Queen, who appoints that person as bishop and then directs the Cathedral Chapter of that Diocese to elect him or her as bishop. There are penalties if a Chapter or a member of a Chapter does not vote for the Queen's candidate. Perhaps it's time to turn the tables and have the Diocesan Synod choose a Bishop and direct the Queen to appoint him or her.

National consent could be gained at one of the tri-yearly meetings of General Synod. Of course, this would also be a public activity.

Another objection is that it would reduce the C of E appointments process to a grubby election campaign, and that candidates who are good politickers would have an advantage over mere saintly candidates. Well, politicking goes on today; it's just sub rosa. The Archbishops keep a list of promising priests who they think are Episcopal timber. If you're on that list, the Archbishop's Appointments Committee can invite you in for "a glass of sherry and the suggestion that you might want to be considered as Bishop of East Gorgeous Diocese". I am certain that politics plays a large part in the composing of that list. Of course, it's all done in secret.

The American process does occasionally hit a sour note. The former Bishop of South Carolina did not get the required consents first time around. The Diocesan Convention resubmitted the candidate's name, and he got consents the second time around. A couple of years later this Bishop took the Diocese out of the Episcopal Church (there is currently a lot of litigation going on and he may be forced to return all the churches and property to the Episcopal Church as a whole). In addition, several bishops have been elected and consents gained, and then turned out to be crap at bishopping. Sometimes this has led to negotiations on a severance deal just to get the bishop to resign.

But, of course, the C of E process also turns out people who are crap at bishopping. They do it in secret rather than in public. Many have remarked that the Bench of Bishops these days is, with only one or two exceptions, filled with time-serving bureaucrats who cannot hold a candle to such luminaries of the past as Archbishops William Temple and Michael Ramsey. No appointments process will be perfect.

Publicity could have a large role in making the selection of bishops a process of which both the people and the Church as a whole can be proud.
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It's been a while since I checked in, I'm afraid. Here's some random stuff that occurs to me at the moment.

  • For nineteen years, since I left San Francisco for the United Kingdom, I've done without The New Yorker. Every time I saw a news item about it, or read an online article from it, or saw a cartoon, I would be transported magically to Seventh Avenue and 42nd St. One learns to do without it, but it's not fun. Now that I'm a pensioner with a good enough income, I can afford to resubscribe. And thus it was that this morning I received my first issue of a two-year subscription to The New Yorker. I am over the moon. It's much different than it was in William Shawn's heyday, of course, and even more than in Harold Ross's time, but it's still distinctive, and I am revelling in it.

  • My foot troubles still persist. I have an ulcer on my right sole and it looked like a little bug had gotten into it. So I went on the antibiotics again (amoxicillin and flucloxicillin). The odd thing is that my blood sugar, which had been tending high in the past few weeks, immediately went back to normal and has stayed there. This happened after I started taking the antibiotics again. I shall talk to the quack about it when I see her next month.

  • My new iPhone 5 is working fairly splendidly. I have finally figured out how to get Gmail to register in the iPhone mailbox as well as sync my calendars. I'm terrified that I'll miss an appointment because my calendars weren't talking to one another. I've passed the iPhone 4 to HWMBO, who is very happy with it. I now have an iPhone 3 to take with me to the Antipodes. I must make sure that it's unlocked beforehand.

  • My iPad3 is also doing well. I do find that it eats battery life quite quickly, but everything else seems to be working fine and I am looking forward to travelling with it.

  • Speaking of which, in December I have to get serious about planning my trip more closely. I have to plan getting my medications to Singapore so that I don't have to carry seven weeks' worth of medications with me when I leave London. The only medications I will need to carry with me are enough to use on the flight and my insulin, for which I have a cold pack that works wonderfully well. In New Zealand, I will be going to Auckland, and then travelling by train to Wellington. Then flying to Sydney for a week, flying on to Melbourne for nine days, then Adelaide for four days. Then, back to Singapore where I may just take a resort trip to relax before returning to London. I'll never do this again, so I have to cram as much as I can handle into each day. Will crack the guidebooks next week.

  • The political and media classes here in the UK have been anticipating the release of the Levison report on regulating the media—it was released this lunchtime. The Tories are scared witless that their masters from News International (read: Rupert Murdoch) will be displeased if they follow Levison's recommendation that an independent regulator take over, with an underpinning in law. But if they do nothing, or leave the system basically as it is, they will be accused of being subservient to the media and also gutless. So David Cameron will be signing his texts to the media "LOL" (for "Lots of Love") for quite a while yet. Meanwhile no public figure (or even private figure) is safe from the depredations of the media. Watch this space.

  • The vote in General Synod against consecration of woman bishops has troubled not only myself but lots of other Anglicans. I always suspected that the lay members of Synod would have a very close vote, while it would sail through the Bishops and the clergy. The Church of England is now in a pickle. Parliamentarians, most of whom have little use for religion of any kind, have all gotten up on their hind legs and bleated about sexism in the Church. If they get exercised enough, they can legislate on their own to either remove the Church's exemption from equality legislation, or simply to permit woman bishops, as Parliament is sovereign in matters to do with legislation to do with the Church of England. Archbishop Rowan Williams now retires with not a major accomplishment to his name—he has failed to get women consecrated bishops, he has failed to bring the Anglican Covenant through the process in the Church of England, and he has failed to make the Americans, the Canadians, and the Scots (among others) toe the party line on homosexuality. In the process he has disrespected one of his best mates, Jeffrey John, twice ensuring that he was not made a bishop and fobbing him off with the consolation prize of the Deanship of St. Albans. The Archbishop has written lots of books and some poetry, though, on our dime. No wonder he didn't do much in ten years: instead of working for the Church he was writing books. Let's see if his successor does any better.

  • I was very sad that a young man whom I knew in Singapore passed away last week. He was [ profile] djyoshiki and I have some of his mixsets in my iTunes and iPod. Timmy, may you rest in peace and rise in glory.
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In the Church Times this morning I read an ad for a vicar's post in Hereford Diocese. The headline reads:

When Jesus returns, he will come first to Acton Beauchamp

Oh. I see. It's accompanied by a QR code which goes to the vacancy in question, where I discover that it's for:

Vicar Of Acton Beauchamp and Evesbatch with Stanford Bishop, Bishop's Frome with Castle Frome and Fromes Hill, Much Cowarne, Ocle Pychard

Now who wouldn't want to be that? I am especially curious about Ocle Pychard.
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This morning's Grauniad presented me with an article detailing the Church of England's official response to the Government's proposal to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales. It made for pretty sour reading.

In short, the Church says that the connection between religious marriage and civil marriage will be broken by allowing same-sex marriages (as most religions will not perform them). It states that it believes that court action in the European Court of Human Rights will force the churches to witness same-sex marriages on church premises. It does not believe that the Government can change unilaterally the definition of "marriage" as being between one man and one woman, since that definition has persisted through time. It frets that, since a heterosexual marriage is not actually effected until the partners consummate it through intercourse, a same-sex one will not have the same definition as a heterosexual one and thus the heterosexual one will be made less of a marriage by legalising same-sex marriages.

And, finally, it unleashes the "D" word: disestablishment. It fears that allowing same-sex marriage, even if only civilly, will require the Church to be disestablished, with the attendant mess, bother, and upset that would cause.

All this is in aid of trying to get the Government to abandon the proposal for same-sex marriage and leave lesbian and gay couples in England and Wales with the second-class civil partnership.

Unfortunately, they are coming up with egg on their mitres over this. Pressure for disestablishment of the Church of England has grown over the last, say, 20 years. People from all walks of life, including many committed churchgoers, believe that establishment of the Church has stifled diversity in the hierarchy, attached the Church to the State with an umbilical cord of velvet, and ensured that the Government of the day has a veto over the selection of its bishops and cathedral deans and clergy. None of this is good. And if the Church is saying that the civil government of the country is forcing it to consider asking for disestablishment, then most people will say, Good! Bring it on! Go for it!

Many C of E clergy defend establishment because (in their view) it means that the Church of England is here to serve the entire nation in times of greatest need, such as with baptisms, marriages, and funerals (all of which the incumbent of the territorial parish of the parents, bride and groom, and the deceased are required by civil law to provide). I have always countered with this: what would prevent the Church from requiring its clergy to provide these occasional offices to anyone who approaches them if the Church were disestablished? Nothing, is the answer to that one. The Church gets no money from the Government, so being disestablished would not decrease its income (all things being equal). The Queen could still be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England—she is a patron of many charities, Colonel-in-Chief of regiments in the Armed Forces, and many other things that have nothing to do with her legal position as Monarch and Head of State. Bishops could then be elected by Diocesan Synods and confirmed by General Synod in the same way that bishops in the Episcopal Church are elected by Diocesan Convention and confirmed by the House of Bishops and the Standing Committee of the several dioceses.

The Church would be free to criticise the Government of the day without compromising its 26 bishops in the House of Lords, as they wouldn't be there as of right of office. And House of Lords reform would be made easier, as there would be no requirement to consider the positions of the bishops who now sit in it.

What is most comforting is that my friend, Dr. Louie Crew, the founder of Integrity/USA, started all this decades ago when he placed an ad in the national Episcopal Church newspaper looking for other lesbians and gay men of faith to gather together for comfort and support. Before Louie, the subject was not on the docket, no one was interested, and clergy discouraged gay men and lesbians from joining and taking an active part in the church. Afterwards, the closet was no longer as attractive a place to be. Gay and lesbian rights for full inclusion in the church began there. Look where we are now.

Canon Dr. Giles Fraser, the Priest-in-Charge of my neighbouring parish, wrote a response on the Grauniad's website which blisteringly attacked the Church and the bishops. He's a straight man on the side of the angels, and I'm proud that he's in the deanery of which I am the Lay Chair.

How will this all end? I suspect that the bishops have shot their wad on this one. There has been so much opprobrium heaped on their heads in the last half a day, so much scorn, contempt, and derision laid at their door that their intervention has done their cause (keeping the status quo) irreparable harm. They have shown us the bogeyman at the church door, and everyone is now laughing. The bogeyman is blinking and wondering what all the laughing is about.
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For a moment there I wondered what Miss Mastership thought about the whole thing…

The original article is taken from The Varsity, the Cambridge University scandal-sheet.
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The news that the Most Rev'd and Rt Hon Rowan Douglas Williams, PC, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury would be stepping down from that office to take up the post of Master of Magdalen College, Cambridge was a surprise only in the timing.

A very long post put behind a cut for the uninterested )

I will post later on my opinion on Archbishop Rowan's legacy to the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.
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The Most Rev'd and Rt Hon Rowan Williams, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, has announced that he will step down at the end of the year to take up the post of Master of Magdalen College, Cambridge.

The race now begins.
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One of the items (only one of them) that seems to be dividing Anglicans nowadays is the proposed Anglican Covenant. The website of the No Anglican Covenant organisation has all the resources you will need were you to be interested in this subject. If you do a search on "no anglican covenant", however, the first item that comes up is an ad (obviously paid for by someone) directing you to a website which sums up the arguments in favour of it. I wonder who paid for it.

In any case, the history behind the proposal of the covenant begins with the election and consecration of the Rt Rev'd Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, Various segments of the worldwide group of churches taking their heritage from the Church of England were upset that an openly-gay man should have been consecrated a Bishop of the Church of God, and threatened to leave that group, which is called the Anglican Communion.

In addition, the Diocese of New Westminster, in British Columbia, Canada, voted to permit the church blessing of same-sex unions. This just added to the upset among more conservative churches.

In 2008, Bishop Gene Robinson, uniquely among the world's active Anglican bishops, was not invited to the decennial Lambeth Conference, held in Canterbury by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He came to England anyway, and hovered around the edges of the conference, blogging about his experiences. Not inviting Bishop Gene generated more publicity than he would have gotten had he been formally invited to attend. Many of the more conservative provinces and bishops refused to attend anyway.

In 2004, the Archbishop of Canterbury set up a panel to create a document to which all the Anglican Communion churches would be invited to assent. The first three sections of this four-sectioned document were relatively uncontroversial, detailing a peculiarly Anglican version of Christianity, how the various churches are bound together, and defining the Communion. However, the fourth section asserts that Anglicans must take into account the views of fellow Anglicans in other provinces before making innovations or changes in their own method of governance or doctrines. This would have prevented openly lesbian and gay clergy from being ordained or consecrated in the United States, and it would have prevented women from being ordained or consecrated in any of the provinces which now allow this. It is aimed at keeping the Communion together, but a more conservative group of churches has already separated itself from the Communion and refused to sign up. In the Episcopal Church in the United States, the committee that runs the church in between the triennial meetings of its legislative body, General Convention, has recommended that the Covenant not be adopted. The synods (church legislatures) of the church in New Zealand/Aotearoa have voted against it and their national synod is apt to follow suit.

So there is a very mixed picture, although six churches have indeed voted for it so far, they range from the Church of the Southern Cone (of South America) to the Anglican province of Mexico.

Currently, the Covenant is being voted on by the dioceses of the Church of England. There are 44 of these, and at least 23 must vote for it in order for it to continue to the next stage, adoption by General Synod.

The Covenant is in trouble here, however. So far, 17 dioceses have voted against adoption, 10 have voted in favour, and 17 are yet to vote. The Archbishop of Canterbury has put up a YouTube video of himself telling people why they should vote in favour, titling it "Why the Covenant Matters.

I am a member of Southwark Diocesan Synod, and we voted on the Covenant last Saturday. To no one's surprise, we voted against it by majorities among the clergy and laity, while the two bishops split, our Diocesan Bishop in favour and the suffragan Bishop of Kingston abstaining.

Now, why does this matter? What the Archbishop has done is made a rod for his own back by pushing the Covenant. It may be that he could not conceive of a situation where the Church of England would turn against him. Identifying himself with the Covenant has ensured that if 5 more dioceses vote against in the next two months, not only will the Covenant be dead for the next 5 years or so, but his own position will be fatally weakened.

Several newspapers have published rumours that the Archbishop would resign this year in order to return to academe, where his heart truly lies. He will be 62 this spring, and will have several years (perhaps 5) in which to occupy a chair at a university before he'll retire for good. My question is this: if the Covenant is rejected in the dioceses, will that make him loth to resign this year, as it will look like we are pushing him out? Or will he then soldier on for a few more years?

The appointment of the Archbishops of Canterbury revolves around the decennial Lambeth Conferences, normally held in years ending in "8". Each Archbishop needs a few years (up to 5) to prepare for the conference, and then a few years to decompress afterwards and establish his legacy. If the Archbishop were to go for 8 more years, as he is legally entitled to, he will be an exhausted, whipped Archbishop in the run-up to the Lambeth Conference of 2018, leaving his successor a longer-than-usual period before his own Lambeth Conference. A younger Archbishop will have to be chosen, then, in order to ensure that he will last through 2028.

This schedule also ensures that Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who is almost exactly a year older than Archbishop Williams, will not be able to succeed him comfortably. He will be 69 at the date of the next Lambeth Conference, and will be a bit too old to be effective at it.

The other consequence of a possible rejection is that the Church of England's Primate, Archbishop Williams, will not bring his own province into the Covenant and thus he will be outside of it while exercising authority within it. That's absurd.

So we await each successive Saturday; there are 5 dioceses scheduled to vote next week: Norwich, Liverpool, St Albans, Chester, and Ely. The 24th of March will see 6 dioceses voting: Lincoln, Oxford, Blackburn, Exeter, Guildford, and Peterborough. London votes on the 29th, Manchester on the 31st, and Southwell & Nottingham, Chichester, Newcastle, and finally York vote in April. There will be a lot of lobbying during this period. However, if 5 vote no, we will be in uncharted territory, and the Archbishop of Canterbury will be weakened in his office, which is not desirable. It's his own fault, though.
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…but the news about Canon Giles Fraser resigning from St. Paul's Cathedral because of the deliberations about using force against the Occupy London protesters has occasioned a higgledy-piggledy.

Higgledy piggledy
Canon Giles Fraser
Protected the people
who camped near St. Paul's

The funny thing is that
Camping in churches
Is for canons in stalls.

It also puts me in mind of the old limerick, slightly altered here, collected by Gershon Legman:

The venerable old Dean of St. Paul's
said, "Concerning them cracks in the walls,
Do you think it would do
If we filled them with glue?"
The Bishop of London said, "Balls!"
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As is my wont, I began reading the Church Times, that notorious organ of the Church by law Established, from the back, looking at the advertisements for parishes and dioceses, then the Gazette, which is where movements of clergy in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland Anglican churches are chronicled. I came across this entry:

CROSSLEY. The Revd Jeremy Cross­ley, Rector of St Margaret Lothbury and St Stephen Coleman Street with St Christopher-le-Stocks, St Bartho­lew-by-the-Exchange, St Olave Old Jewry, St Martin Pomeroy, St Mil­dred Poultry and St Mary Cole­church, Director of Post-Ordination Training, and Diocesan Director of Ordinands, to be also Priest-in-Charge of St Edmund the King and St Mary Woolnoth with St Nicholas Acons, All Hallows Lombard Street, St Benet Gracechurch, St Leonard Eastcheap, St Dionis Backchurch and St Mary Woolchurch, Haw, London (London).

The Rev'd Mr. Crossley must be a very busy man indeed, running between all those churches to take services. I do hope he has a few curates or priests with Permission To Officiate to help him, or even a Reader or ten. He is in my prayers.
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[ profile] trawnapanda drew my attention to an article in the Sunday Telegraph by Jonathan Wynne-Jones saying that Rowan Williams was planning to resign next year in order to take up an academic post.

My first reaction was "Oh, Queen Anne's dead." (what you say in the UK when someone relates old news to you). Last year Rowan publicly stated that he would not serve until 70, and the current trend is for most bishops, except for those who love the office more than life itself, to retire around the age of 65.

The line about stepping down nearly 10 years early makes the assumption that bishops serve, unless they die or get very ill, until the age of 70 without exception. This is wrong and Wynne-Jones is being needlessly detailed about it. Bp. Tom Butler and Bp. Richard Harries retired on their respective 70th birthdays (as bishops of Southwark and Oxford, respectively) but they are the exceptions rather than the rules.

The machinations behind this are probably all speculation or on deep background. In my opinion, Richard Chartres has been a pretty ineffectual bishop of London and is in his mid-60's, so he's not in the frame as any eventual successor. I could just barely believe that he's been urging Rowan to resign early. However, as Rowan's already said he wouldn't serve until 70, he's pushing on an open door. Besides, Rowan's natural place (and, it might be argued, the place in which he should have stayed) is in the groves of academe, and in order to make an impact in an academic institution, he'd have to get a post at least 8 years before he'd have to retire from that position, and that would be next year.

As for successors, Archbishop of York John Sentamu is a year older than Rowan, and has been a great lover of the publicity stunt, but his temperament is not what one would want in an Archbishop of Canterbury.

One thing that Wynne-Jones got right is that the tenure of an ABC revolves wholly around the Lambeth Conference. In recent times only Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher stayed around for two Lambeths (he had to be told by his secretary in 1961 that the time had come for him to make a graceful, if tardy, exit). Every Archbishop since has been appointed long enough before a Lambeth Conference to do effective planning, and resigned at a time before the next one that would allow his successor to do the same.

So Ramsey from 61-74, Coggan 74-80, Runcie 80-91, Carey 91-2002 all "surrounded" a Lambeth Conference, if you will.

Thus, if Williams resigns in 2012 after the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, his successor will be enthroned in 2013 and that will give him a 5-year run to the next Lambeth Conference in 2018.

My only comment on an eventual successor is that I believed that if Rowan stayed on until he was 65 (in 2015), Bp. Nick Baines, late of Croydon and now of Bradford, would be the natural successor. If Rowan does retire in 2012, the timing is wrong for that. My only hope would be that if Rowan resigned next year and Sentamu got it, Nick might just be able to squeeze into York and wait for Sentamu to resign in 2019.

The rest of the Bench of Bishops is a bunch of lesser men, and no one stands out as a natural successor except Baines, in my view. Sentamu would be the beneficiary of Buggin's Turn, but neither Runcie nor Carey nor Williams were Abp. of York before Canterbury, so the natural succession of Diocese/Abp of York/Abp of Canterbury has been broken for decades.
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From today's Church Times comes this story about the Bishop of St. Albans, here in England.

HE LISTS gardening as one of his hobbies, but the green-fingered prowess of the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, so impressed on­lookers recently that he was given the chance to turn it into a full-time job.

Dr Smith told his diocesan synod last weekend that, while visiting an aunt’s house, he decided to sort out her somewhat messy garden. He spent the morning gardening, and, while he was working, noticed a woman walking past a couple of times and watching his progress. Then, he said, the same woman’s head popped up over the wall and said: “Excuse me, but I’m looking for a gardener.”

He said: “So I suddenly feel my prospects are looking up, but I said to her: ‘Thank you, it’s very kind of you, but actually this isn’t my full-time job. I have a full-time job.’

“She says: ‘Are you sure you can’t fit it in?’

“I said: ‘No, no, I’m sorry.’

“And she said: ‘What do you do?’

“I looked up, and said: ‘Well, I’m the Bishop of St Albans.’

“And she looked at me in total disbelief, and said: ‘Huh, well, I’m the Queen of Sheba.’”

The anecdote was greeted with laughter by synod members.

Dr Smith said: “You just can’t make it up, can you? Well, you don’t need to, when things like that happen.”

A diocesan spokesman said that Dr Smith was a keen and ac­complished gardener, and had trans­formed part of the garden at his home since he arrived in St Albans in 2009. “He does say that you can tell a lot about someone’s ministry by the state of their garden.”

Ministry through gardening. Perhaps he should have taken up that kind lady's offer.
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Bishop Yellow Belly is trying to get Miss Young Person to church for Pentecost. She isn't enamoured of the idea, and tells him so. (If you're not up on the latest hijinks in the appointment of Bishops in the Church of England, read my blog post on the subject.)
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There has been a lot of comment lately in the British press and media about secrecy. Injunctions against even reporting the fact that there is an injunction relating to the peccadillos of sporting or political (or even media) figures have been taken out, flouted, and rescinded in the face of the world's scrutiny in Facebook and Twitter. The press has been full of stories bemoaning the loss of freedom of the press (which only applies to those who own one, as the adage says). The morality of a media figure, who is paid to expose the faults, failings, and future plans of politicians and public figures, taking out a so-called superinjunction to prevent the media reporting his name and the fact that he had an affair and thought that he had fathered a child from this affair has been questioned and ridiculed. The media figure (Andrew Marr, a BBC journalist and reporter who took over the prime Sunday morning interview slot from Sir David Frost when the latter decided to hang up his fangs) rescinded the superinjunction due to the pressure.

Yesterday, Andrew Brown writing in The Guardian newspaper revealed that the Very Rev'd Colin Slee, late Dean of Southwark, had written a memorandum before he died recounting some of the machinations behind the appointment of a new Bishop of Southwark. A disclaimer: Southwark is my diocese, the Cathedral is in the Deanery of which I am Lay Chair, and I work together in Diocesan Synod and Bishop's Council with all the people from Southwark who were involved in this meeting.

The process for appointment to a vacant bishopric in the Church of England is open in parts, but the main event, the actual selection of two names to be forwarded to the Prime Minister, one of which will be passed to the Queen for announcement as the next bishop, is shrouded in secrecy. At the time of the meeting, when Stephen Bates reported on the leak of the Very Rev'd Jeffrey John's name from the selection meeting, I blogged about the whole thing, and said that I expected more revelations. Well, they have now come, in spades.

One of the members of the Crown Appointments Commission, until his death from pancreatic cancer in November, was Colin Slee, elected to represent the Deans of Cathedrals on that commission. After the selection meeting took place, he was so upset that he wrote a memo about it, reportedly after he was diagnosed and knew that his condition was terminal. His daughter and widow are convinced that the stress of this meeting contributed to his rapid decline, and thus they, in conjunction with The Guardian, released the memo.

It paints an interesting picture of the meeting, held at the Royal Foundation of St. Katherine at Limehouse (in fact, I went to a meeting there last Saturday and we met in the same room in which the selection committee met). The two names that were proposed by the representatives of Southwark Diocese were Jeffrey John, currently Dean of St. Albans, and the Rev'd Nicholas Holtam, then Vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square, now Bishop-Designate of Salisbury. Jeffrey John is openly gay, and partnered, but chaste, and Holtam is married to a woman who contracted a marriage when quite young, then divorced, and then met and married him. At the time, this debarred Holtam from selection as a Bishop, although the rules have since been clarified.

Jeffrey John had been appointed Bishop of Reading in Oxford Diocese in 2003, but resigned that appointment before he was consecrated because of opposition from Evangelicals in that Diocese and elsewhere. He had at the time been Canon Theologian of Southwark, and a good friend of both Archbishop Rowan Williams and Dean Colin Slee. There was a huge amount of angst around his resignation, and many people were upset, not least John, his partner, Colin Slee, and the Rt Rev'd Tom Butler, then Bishop of Southwark.

The selection committee met in July, 2010, on the evening of a Diocesan Synod. I recall some of the members of the committee coming into Diocesan Synod late, and noting the strained smiles on their faces. Now I know why.

If you read Brown's article, you will get all the sordid details of the bullying of the members of the selection committee by the Archbishops, including a visit by the Archbishop of York and several other members of the committee to the men's room, after which the voting patterns changed. I wonder what they were up to in there.

But all of this is background to my main thesis: the process for selection of Bishops of the Church of England should be changed, and soon. The current process (where representatives of General Synod, representatives selected by the Diocese in question, and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, meet in secret, sworn to secrecy, and choose two names for the Prime Minister) only works if the secrecy part works. The machinations accompanying the appointment can thus be as pleasant as can be, or acrimonious and threatening, as no one who was not at the meeting will know about it. There is no requirement for give-and-take if pressure and lobbying from various factions is conducted in secrecy. I find it odd that the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is so puzzled and troubled by the apparent secrecy of Freemasonry, takes advantage of secrecy to bully and threaten people to vote his way when a bishop is selected.

My proposal is to provide the oxygen of publicity to the process. Let bishops be openly elected by Diocesan Synods, with confirmation by the other Dioceses of the Church of England, then the name submitted to the Queen for the formalities to be preserved.

The process would start, after the declaration of a Bishop that s/he (I am ever hopeful…) is about to retire, with the Vacancy in See committee drawing up a job description with advice from members of the Diocese, and then appointing a Nominations Committee to solicit candidates. A number of candidates would be proposed to a special meeting of Diocesan Synod, and after a dog-and-pony show, Diocesan Synod would elect the new Bishop. Once the election was held, Dioceses would be asked to confirm (or not) the election, and Bishops with jurisdiction would also be asked for their consent. A majority of Dioceses and Bishops would have to consent before the Bishop-elect could be consecrated.

Now I have been told again and again that the mechanisms by which the Episcopal Church governs itself are not in any way applicable to the Church of England. Usually, this comes in a very condescending manner, "Oh, dear, that would never work here." Well, when I ask why it would never work here, I get no answer at all. The simple declaration that it would not work seems to be enough. There is a sneering tone that even Bishops take when commenting on how the Episcopal Church conducts its affairs, and I am starting to get quite annoyed about it. Bishop Tom was a great sneerer-in-chief when I would speak in meeting and at Diocesan Synod about items like stewardship in US Episcopal Churches. It's really stupid and short-sighted not to rationally and impartially consider different ways of doing things in the Church.

When people do stoop to commenting on the election of bishops, the main objection seems to be that making the process political lowers the quality of bishops, since only those with political skills get elected. Well, my reaction is: Bushwah! The process now used here is as intensely political as it is in the Episcopal Church; the only difference is that the politics is limited to around 15 people, rather than an entire Church or a Diocese. The quality of Bishops can be as good here with elections as it is now, with selection committees. Elections in the US have produced poor Bishops in several cases. However, selection committees here have produced poor bishops in several cases as well, and seems to militate against outstanding bishops in many ways. Jeffrey John would be an outstanding bishop, but will never be selected while the current system is in place. And while I would hesitate to name those I consider to be poor at bishoping, those familiar with the Church of England will have their own favourite names for that category.

So dear Colin, who was an outstanding personality and a charismatic Dean, and someone who was not afraid in the least of controversy, continues to be controversial from the grave. I do not expect any comment from either Archbishop on these revelations. They will be profoundly embarrassing to everyone who cares, even a little bit, about the future of the Church in England. I hope, but do not expect, that this sordid story will at last move the Church to examine the process of selecting bishops and make changes to bring the light of day and democratic procedures to what is, in a Catholic but Reformed church, a most important post.

One post scriptum: this story will also profoundly affect the Diocese of Southwark and Bishop Christopher. Were I the Bishop, I would be very embarrassed and unnerved by hearing the news that the selection committee from the Diocese, with which I needed to work closely, thought that I was the third- or fourth-rate candidate, and had been bullied into selecting me. The Diocese will also be very upset by this news, but both Bishop Christopher and the Diocese ought to grapple with these facts in order to ensure that the Diocese continues to grow (we are growing!) and thrive.
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When asked why he had appointed William Temple Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942, even though Temple was a Socialist, Winston Churchill said "Because he was the only half-crown article in a sixpenny-ha'penny market."

Sometimes I wonder whether that particular market has ever gone decimal.
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The Bishop of Blackburn's Christmas sermon concerned the economic situation at this time and how people can fight back against the downturn and the cuts in services. I've looked on the Diocese's website and that of the Cathedral, and neither has posted the text of Bishop Reade's sermon, unfortunately.

I am very sympathetic to Bishop Reade's message. Some background may assist non-UK people in understanding exactly what is going on.

In England and Wales, most funding for local government (that is, on the town, city, and county levels) comes from central government grants, not from local taxes. So the cuts in grants must be made up by either local tax rises or by local savings. The central government has capped the amount that the local tax (referred to as "council tax" here. It is a household tax based upon the value of the property in which you live, not limited to owners.) can rise, and it has the power to roll back rises that it feels are too high. So the localities are caught between that metaphorical rock and the hard place.

There is no doubt that many local councils have featherbedded many jobs. The chief executives (think "city manager" in US terms) are often paid 6-figure sums (said to be needed to attract the best candidates) and yet the services that the councils provide have been slashed and slashed again. The bins in front of St. Matthew's Court (16 dwellings in the apartment block) were not emptied last week and the post-Christmas trash is now overflowing the area. I expect they will not be emptied this week, as Monday and Tuesday are Bank Holidays here to make up for the fact that Christmas was on Saturday and Boxing Day on Sunday. The mess will be monumental.

Services for children are also the responsibility of local councils. These services are labour-intensive and thus ripe for "economies"—slashing the number of personnel. This will end up being devastating for children who are in danger in their homes and will result in injuries and (sadly) in deaths. These will make the front pages of the tabloids and will force the Government to think again, but too late.

Housing is also a local council responsibility. The weather here has been perishingly cold for the past month (it hasn't gone above 4 degrees C [around 39 degrees F] and has often been below 0 C) and there are a number of homeless people on the streets. Emergency shelter is easier around Christmas, but after New Year's some of the providers disappear from the scene and people are left to freeze on the streets. The local council has the legal responsibility to house people, but has few open houses and even less funding to do it.

On the funding side, the banks have been preparing record bonuses for their employees and executives, waving their wads of cash in the Government and the populace's faces and bleating that if they do not pay high bonuses, they will not be able to attract and retain the best bankers. Of course, the best bankers are the ones who got us into the mess we're in now.

London is a world centre of finance and banking. You simply have to walk in the square mile of the City of London on a weekend to discover that it is deserted at times when no money is being made. The Government is scared witless that international banks will abandon London if they are forced to pare down bonuses and salaries.

I believe that the banks are playing a game of chicken with the Government. If bonuses are taxed away at 90%, even so the bankers who are here will be loth to move to, say, Dubai (where their champagne lunches will be few) or to Singapore (where there is little to do after-hours and where the weather is hotter than most of them will enjoy and where it's a long haul flight to anywhere to ski) or to Shanghai (where no one understands their language and where doing business is problematic because of the system of government).

The social gospel (a.k.a. South Bank Religion, exemplified by Bp. John Robinson, Bp. Mervyn Stockwood, Dean Colin Slee) has withered to a great extent. The causes of this are rooted in the long period of Labour Government, where money was extolled, valued, and promoted. The poor were told that they had only to try harder and they would be carried along to prosperity on the tide of business upturns. Gordon Brown, as Chancellor, proclaimed the "end of the boom and bust economy". If only.

Thus the Church as well as the State were ill-prepared for the next bust. The poor have become poorer, while the rich have escaped the worst of the cuts. What to do?

Protest in the streets will not be productive in the long run. The recent student protests have put Parliament into "siege mode", where they feel that they are being coerced into reversing their course. That never works with government.

The Church has a duty to inform its worshipers and the general public about the moral and ethical aspects to the current financial crisis. Without this background, protests will soon descend into a simple striking out at the police who are monitoring the demonstration, rather then intelligently planning for mass action to show the depth of public anger about the financial situation today. The current government is not responsible for the financial crisis, of course. Most of the devastating incidents happened before it took power. What it is responsible for is how we climb out of it, and how we ensure that services are provided to people who need them.

Will the Bishop's message penetrate to where it is most needed? Southwark's own Bishop-elect, Christopher Chessun, is the Bishops' Spokesman for Urban Life, and perhaps he might take up the challenge of persuading the bankers to behave more responsibly as well as encouraging people to vote, and vote in an informed manner. In the end, only votes matter to politicians in Western democracies.
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I resisted the urge to put "I Told You So, Part 1" as the subject of this blog post.

Downing Street has just announced, and Bishop Nick has confirmed on his blog, that he has been nominated by the Queen to serve as Bishop of Bradford, in Yorkshire. The story is also on the Diocese of Bradford's website.

You may recall that a while back I predicted that Bishop Nick would be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, predicating that on his translation to a Diocese within the next few years. This is the first part of that prediction, which has now come true.

To repeat what I said about him, in summary, I believe that the deficiencies of one bishop/archbishop/incumbent of a parish are then compensated for in the appointment of his or her successor. One major deficiency of the current Archbishop of Canterbury is that he is a piss-poor communicator. ++Rowan was appointed as a compensation for the shortcomings of the previous Archbishop, who was thought to be somewhat deficient in the thought department. The next Archbishop of Canterbury will have to be someone who is not only intelligent and pastoral, but also a great communicator. Bishop Nick GETS Twitter and the blogosphere better than any other occupant of a seat on the Bench of Bishops in England. He is a good blogger, a good writer, a Tweeter of note, a broadcaster on the populist BBC Radio 2's God-slot, and (to my mind) a good bishop. He is also relatively broad-Church leaning toward Evangelical, which is where Buggins's Turn would place the next Archbishop.

As for the Diocese of Southwark, this will place our new Bishop, Christopher Chessun, in the position of appointing two Suffragan Bishops and the Dean of Southwark in the first few months of his tenure. I expect that the third suffragan, Bishop Richard Cheetham of Kingston, will be translated sometime in the new year, which will give Bishop Christopher a clean slate of new suffragans to work with. I also expect that some of the six Archdeacons will retire or take new posts or be en-mitred within the next two years or so.

So, watch this space, folks.
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As it happens, Christopher is my Area Bishop, so as Lay Chair I have had closer dealings with him than most laypeople in Southwark have.

I am still collecting my thoughts about the appointment, which, I must admit, left me kind of gobsmacked. Not because Christopher is unfit to be Bishop of Southwark, because he is eminently fit. It is out of the ordinary for a suffragan bishop to be appointed Bishop of the Diocese in which he was suffragan, at least in the Church of England. Other clergy in the diocese have remarked that they thought he might get Truro (before that was filled). So appointing him to Southwark was an unexpected pleasure.

I must say, at the conference where Bishop Tom introduced Christopher (then Archdeacon of Northolt in the Diocese of London) as Bishop of Woolwich that nice Stephen Brown, from the Grauniad, asked a pointed question about Christopher's sexuality (as he is unmarried). The answer was politely non-committal, but the gist of it was that Christopher was living within the Church's norms for unmarried people.

At the time I put out feelers to the network of openly-gay priests I knew to see what they thought about the whole business, and the verdict I got back is that he is not gay, as far as they were aware, and certainly not gay-unfriendly. The gay clergy here in Southwark who have had dealings with him in re the civil partnership thang (Tom left it up to his suffragans to enquire whether priests who wished to commit civil partnerships were aware of the Church's teaching on the subject of gay sex) who have discussed it openly or with me say that he was very sympathetic and not at all judgmental.

A couple of things occur to me at the moment. First, Christopher is a priest's bishop. He is a pastor to the priests in his area, which is a good thing. One mustn't neglect the laity, though, as we are the largest order in the Church, and there is always the danger that a priest's bishop will not spend enough time with the lay people in his care.

Second, the appointment of an insider to the See of Southwark will radically change the dynamic in the diocese. I suspect you will see a mass exodus from the Diocese's top ranks as people who have served with Christopher either as equals or as fellow members of the Bishop's Staff Meeting will start looking around for "pastures new". This will probably take a year or two, but I predict that by 2014 Christopher will have a staff largely of his own appointment. This is especially true of the suffragan bishops: Bishop Richard (Cheetham, Kingston) has done well in the interregnum and I would expect that he is floating up toward the top of the list for a vacant diocese somewhere. Bishop Nick (Baines, Croydon) is an extremely good communicator and I expect that he will also get a diocese within the next few years and subsequently be a top candidate for Canterbury when the incumbent slinks off into academe again. One Archdeacon has been talking of retirement for a while, and several others are probably on the Episcopal "A" list and will get mitres in due course. Hopefully Archdeacon Christine Hardman, who is one of the best clergy among them, will still be working when female bishops are approved here as she would make an excellent Bishop. Barring that, a Deanery (Colin Slee is 65, I believe...) would be a great place for her to exercise her priestly ministry. Americans: if you are looking for an excellent Suffragan bishop nominee from England please take a look at Archdeacon Christine.

In fact, Christopher's elevation has also made him "papabile" for Canterbury. He is the right age (54 last August), so if Rowan retires at 65 Christopher will be 59 and will have the administration of a complex diocese on his CV. I'm reaching now, as only one Bishop of Southwark has been promoted to an Archbishopric (Cyril Garbett, to York). But one never knows.

Third, Christopher is not a man who is going to rattle cages anywhere. Tom came into the Diocese 11 years ago like a whirlwind. I am given to understand that George Carey sent him here, like a Rottweiler, to "root out the gays" and that Tom was initially quite a bully in meetings with lesbian and gay clergy. However, his opinion subsequently changed, through contact with the excellent gay and lesbian clergy we have in this Diocese, most of whom were ordained after Mervyn Stockwood retired and thus are not Mervyn's "creations". He became, most famously in his Thought for the Day in which he extolled the work that his lesbian and gay clergy were doing here, one of the great boosters of equality of opportunity for lesbian and gay clergy in the C of E.

Christopher, however, is not a Rottweiler. He is very well acquainted with the ministry of the lesbian and gay clergy and lay people of the Diocese and will not go after them in any way, shape, or form. On the other hand, I do not expect him to be celebrating or preaching for LGCM or Changing Attitude, the way the Primate of Canada did for Integrity/Toronto a few days ago.

I do not expect Christopher to turn up on the "Thought for the Day" rota, although stranger things have happened. Once he is elevated to the Lords, I expect he will be duty Bishop quite often (he lives fairly close to Westminster, after all) and I expect he will be a point man on the Church in the Inner City, which he knows so well.

Fourth, and last, the danger of appointing an insider as Diocesan Bishop is that structures, attitudes, and opinions that need examination and a new, fresh outlook will not be subjected to rigourous examination. There are a couple of things that Tom did in his last few years that need thinking about. The "renewal" of the Board for Church in Society into three different committees happened 3 or 4 years ago, and has not yet really taken root. There were indeed problems with the old structure (people were appointed or elected to the BCS and never bothered to attend, for example) but the new structure is very much sub-rosa and not yet the forceful body it was pre-Tom. The rolling-up of the OLM scheme into the NSM structure (Ordained Local Ministers have been combined with the non-Stipendiary ministers) was controversial even for Tom, and there was a goodly amount of ruckus in that normally pretty supine species, Synodus Diocesanus over it. I expect that there will be some tweaking of both structures.

I wonder if more cross-Thames cooperation might be in the cards. Tom, of course, had been Archdeacon of Northolt and Suffragan Bishop of Willesden in London, but had moved away to Leicester before coming south again. Christopher had spent a lot of time in London, both in Stepney and in Northolt, before being appointed to Woolwich 5 years ago. There has often been some talk about various ways in which London and Southwark could cooperate (sometimes combined with Guildford, St Albans, and Chelmsford) but I don't believe any of it came to anything substantial.

Well, we shall see what happens. At last, the waiting is over.
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In a comment on this post which repeats my inconsequential Tweets so that posterity will remember them. [ profile] tim1965 asks: Why are you Tweeting when Rowan Atkinson Rowan Williams is addressing the "gays in the clergy" issue???? We want your views. What [ profile] tim1965 is referring to is the remark by His Grace the Most Rev'd and Rt. Hon. Rowan Douglas Williams, PC, by the Grace of God Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Metropolitan of the Province of Canterbury and Primate of All England that he has no problem with gay bishops as long as they remain celibate.

This is not news. From the beginning of this controversy (at least in England) with the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading in the diocese of Oxford, it has been clear that in the opinion of all except for the most rabid of Evangelicals celibate gay men (in England) or lesbians (in other more enlightened parts of the world) may be consecrated bishops in the local Anglican churches. But the Archbishop says that his major objection to non-celibate lesbian or gay clergy is that it is divisive in the Anglican Communion because of theological objections in some provinces thereof.

Now, the first difficulty with this is that, for example, the ordination of woman deacons and priests is not allowed in all provinces of the Anglican Communion (South East Asia, for example) or in all areas of all provinces (the diocese of Sydney in the Anglican Church of Australia does not ordain women as priests, only as deacons, while the rest of that province not only ordains women as deacons and priests, but consecrates them as bishops).

If Rowan were to be consistent, he would have to hold that the ordination of women should not have gone ahead until there was a consensus in all provinces that woman's ordination was permissible. He does not so hold, and points to a resolution of the Lambeth Conference that such ordinations are permissible under "local option". Well, the Anglican Communion is a collection of autonomous provinces, only one of which (the Church of England by law Established) answers to the Archbishop of Canterbury. If local option is good enough for permitting woman's ordination, it should be good enough for the ordination and consecration of lesbians and gay men.

The second difficulty is that the Archbishop threw Dr. John to the Evangelical wolves when objections were raised to his becoming a bishop. Dr. John avers (and we have no evidence to the contrary) that he has been in a celibate relationship for many years, and I believe he is telling the truth. Thus while on the one hand the Archbishop is saying that celibate gay men may be consecrated as bishops, and on the other he persuaded Dr. John to withdraw his acceptance of appointment because of the noisy Evangelicals in the Church of England who were against it. Dr. John is now Dean of St. Albans, and was in the running for Bishop of Southwark until the Archbishop (who presided over the committee that recommends appointments of Bishops to the Prime Minister) reportedly vetoed his inclusion on the list.

What the Archbishop is showing is a tendency to throw away his theological opinions when he senses that they are a threat to the unity of the Anglican Communion or of the Church of England. This results in a great case of cognitive dissonance—he has previously expressed in his writings and teaching the opinion that he sees no theological objections to the full inclusion of lesbians and gay men in the life of the Church. When one believes one thing and does another, this creates a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety in a person. Thus the next bit of my post, some of which is copied from a post I made to another venue.

I saw a news item this weekend that stated that the Archbishop of Canterbury will not serve until he is obliged to retire (age 70 in the Church of England).

This is good news for the C of E and the Anglican Communion. What worries me is that the Archbishop (now 60) will retire at or before his 65th birthday. That would mean that his successor is chosen by the current Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron.

I have discovered that, reversing the decision of Gordon Brown to only require one name for episcopal appointments, Cameron has gone back to the historic tradition of requiring two names from the Appointments Committee, from which Cameron will pick one to send to the Queen for appointment. There are rumours (which I am discounting, but which may be true) that the two names that Southwark sent to the Prime Minister have been sent back, one for being too liberal, one for not fitting the profile of the Diocese. I do not think that this could have happened without it being announced, as the Appointments Committee would have to reconvene to send two more names (as happened when Tony Blair, crypto-Roman PM at the time, sent back the two names for Liverpool early in his premiership). However, it is still a possibility.

The trick to getting the Prime Minister to appoint the man you want to become Bishop when you must submit two names is to submit the name of your preferred candidate first, and submitting second the name of someone so obviously unsuitable for the post that the Prime Minister will inevitably pick the one you prefer. However, this has boomeranged in the past. In 1990, when Archbishop Runcie retired and two names were submitted to be his successor, there was one candidate whose name was submitted first (there are rumours around of who that might have been), and a second name so obviously unsuitable that Margaret Thatcher would not appoint him. The second name was that of the relatively new Bishop of Bath and Wells, one George Carey. He retired as Archbishop of Canterbury in the early part of the 21st Century and is now in the House of Lords as the Rt Rev'd and Rt. Hon. Lord Carey of Clifton. PC, DD.

The successor to Rowan Williams should be someone who is a consensus-builder, has a truly Anglican view of the Communion, and does not think of himself (or, perhaps by then, herself) as an Anglican Pope. Cameron is unlikely to look with favour on such a candidate.

By consensus-builder I do not mean someone who tries to find the lowest-common denominator among the Provinces and settle on that. By consensus-builder I mean someone who is able to forcefully lead, with persuasive arguments, robust debate, and vigourous advocacy of a consistent theological worldview. Williams was thought (by some) to be that person. Instead, he is a very poor communicator, inclined to overlong and overcomplex replies to relatively simple questions as well as a misguided view of what the Archbishop's position in the Anglican Communion should be (he is not some Anglican "pope") and a terribly misguided view of what the Anglican Communion is (it is not a unified worldwide church, like the Roman Catholic Church, but a federation of autonomous provinces who look to the Church of England or the Scottish Episcopal Church as their "mother" churches but who, on the whole, manage their own affairs in their own provinces).

By the time Williams retires I believe that the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church in Wales, and perhaps the churches of Australia and New Zealand will be out of the orbit of the Archbishop of Canterbury. But the wrong person chosen as Archbishop will have a devastating effect on the Church of England. In 5 years the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, will be 66 and thus probably too old to take it. The current Bench of Bishops is conspicuously thin on the ground of good diocesan bishops. If Nick Baines (Suffragan Bishop of Croydon in the Diocese of Southwark) has gotten a diocese and settled in by then, he would make a good candidate. But we need to be very wary of a new ABC. After all, we have suffered since 1990 with two very unsuitable Archbishops and a third one in a row would mean misgovernment of the Church for at least 30 years.

A humourous postscript: A Welsh politician has upbraided Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, for stating in an interview that if he is with Rowan Williams and wants to say something in private, they switch to speaking Welsh. The politico says that this reinforces the stereotype of non-Welsh people entering a pub in northern Wales and hearing everyone switch to speaking Welsh as soon as they see that strangers have entered. That was exactly my experience the one time I went to north Wales, so perhaps it's more than a stereotype.
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A blog post by the Church Mouse relates the results of a Gallup poll on religiosity in national life in many countries. The big news for the United Kingdom is that we are near the bottom of the table for religiosity. Estonia leads from the bottom, with only 16% of the population saying that religion plays an important part in their daily lives. The UK is sixth from the bottom, at 27% saying the same.

The Church Mouse thinks that 27% is overstating the numbers for the UK. I think this is probably correct. Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair's special advisor, once bluntly said of politicians and the Government: "We don't do God." Church Mouse thinks that there is more spirituality in the UK than religiosity. I wonder, though. Is New Age spirituality, the faerie movement, Druidism and the like on the rise as traditional religiosity declines?

I am easy about the decline of religiosity. As someone recently said and I tweeted: Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. Ponder the truth in these words.

Sunday church attendance in England hovers around 7% of the population—there may be some few more who go during the week. However, the great majority of people here in England live ordinary lives, partnered, raising families, nurturing children and grandchildren in many cases, and practice a kind of rough ethics and morals in their own lives which are derived from the Abrahamic religious traditions without actually being actively informed by them. The Book of Common Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, and the two Great Commandments articulated in the Gospels are some of the sources of morality and ethics in English society. But most people are unaware of these influences on their daily lives, or perhaps unconscious to them.

Those who go to church should be actively aware of the influence of their religion on their daily lives. But, often, they are not. Naughty vicar stories, so beloved of the tabloid, abound in English history. Vicars run away with the organist, vicars ditch their wives or husbands after confessing that they have a yen for the church secretary or someone in the Altar Guild. Churchwardens or church treasurers run away with the funds.

On a lower level, there are tales of strangers coming to church and being blanked by all the parishioners and the vicar at the coffee-hour. "Cold as an Episcopal coffee hour" is an allegory of the chill felt by newcomers when they first attend an Episcopal Eucharist. There are other tales of people going to church at Easter or Christmas, or attending a wedding, christening, or funeral—instead of being welcomed as brothers and sisters they are harangued for their non-attendance at other times. People come to church in ragged clothing, or clothing such as very short shorts or a tube top showing a bit too much skin and are turned away for being dressed inappropriately.

Can those who act not in accordance with the express teachings of Christ and the ethical and moral imperatives of Scripture as expressed in the Two Great Commandments but act only according to the feelings of the moment be counted among those 27% of the UK who profess that religion plays an important part in their lives? I sometimes wonder. I include myself in both the 27% and the portion who sometimes fall short of the expectations of my religion and the Two Great Commandments, of course.

What it comes down to is this: statistics and numbers mean little when it comes to measuring religiosity. Six percent of England going to church, 27% of the UK saying that religion plays an important part of their lives, mean nothing. Bums on seats do not mean that a church is successful. In the first Queen Elizabeth's time, it was mandatory to attend Sunday Church of England services, on pain of fine. The only marriages which were legal were those that were conducted by the Church of England, which kept all the records. Do these coerced church attendances mean that people were more religious then than they are now? I doubt it.

What does count is how people conduct their lives, and it is possible for people to lead ethical and valuable and, indeed, morally admirable lives without explicit reference to any one religion, or any religion at all. Many millions of people do so. The question that is begged by saying that only 27% of the UK is "religious" is this: "We assume that the absence of religious practice in a life means that the quality of that life is declining." That is an incorrect assumption on so many levels, and religious bodies make a fatal mistake when they assume it.

August 2017

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