The choice of a successor to Dr Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury may not take place for several months, the Church of England has said. Officials reiterated that the work of choosing a successor could go on throughout the autumn. This follows intense speculation that the Crown Nominations Commission had failed to agree a candidate. Officials stressed that the group had all of autumn to decide, conceding only that it would want to avoid having no-one to replace Dr Williams when he steps down at the end of the year.

I am not surprised. In fact, I cannot see how any decision can ever be made concerning the next archbishop of Canterbury.

The evangelical party of the Church of England believes that it is now the most powerful grouping in the Church of England. They have hardcore members on the Crown Nominations Commission, including a shrink who believes gay people can be "cured." There is no way their representatives are going to allow the election of an archbishop who believes that sex between two people of the same gender is not a sin if it takes place within the same bounds of fidelity as sex between two people of opposite gender. The problem is that everyone else believes that, unless we are to become a fundamentalist denomination dominated by the cultural norms and prejudices of the so-called Global South churches, the full inclusion of gay people within society and the church must be achieved under the next watch. Another ten years of prevarication will lose the Church of England any residual respect it may enjoy within the wider British society. Ten years of an archbishop of Canterbury determined to impose evangelical theology and morality on everybody will end up with the Church of England becoming a sect of evangelicals plus those who just don't care about theology and the concerns of anybody else except themselves (which, let's face it, is probably the majority of the membership).

To put it bluntly, the evangelical party will not back down this time, nor will they accept an evangelical archbishop who is not 100% dedicated to turning the Church of England into a "Bible-based" sect and getting rid of "the gay problem" by getting rid of gay people from the church. Other members of the Commission, those who are not evangelicals, will be fighting tooth and nail to stop such an eventuality because the church they love will disappear completely if the evangelicals get what they want. So, no decision is possible.

It's ironic that of the people who remained within the Church of England following the Act of Uniformity, those who were most adversely affected by the imposed conformity of the act, were the Puritans, the theological and ethical forebears of an evangelical party within the church now determined to impose their own invented orthodoxy and orthopraxis upon everyone else. You might think they would have learnt tolerance from their own experience of exclusion. Instead it appears they just want revenge and their turn at telling everyone else what they should believe and how they should behave.



  1. Interesting take on the situation. I think that it’s likely a struggle between the Evangelical wing and the Anglo-Catholic wing (including the centrists) is taking place, and as candidates need a 2/3rds majority in order for their names to be forwarded to the Prime Minister this bunch of people may have to be replaced. Alternatively, a candidate such as Chartres to hold the place while the two factions slug it out might be chosen.

    If the rabid Evangelicals think they will get a candidate to sling out the gays they have another think coming. George Carey sent Tom Butler into Southwark to root out the nest of gay and lesbian clergy he saw here. Tom came charging in with his fists up ready for a fight. We gave as good as we got, and better, as Tom discovered that the gay and lesbian clergy here were doing a fine job and that changed his heart. He became one of the biggest supporters of gay and lesbian people in the Church by the time he retired. Wouldn’t that be the kicker for these yahoos?

  2. I think this is just so sad. In the USA your church has elected gay bishops and has come so far I was even thinking that if I ever went back to a church I might investigate the Episcopalian Church. However I think perhaps I am better off being a Church Alumni.

    • Probably a very good idea, Jay. And from a selfish point of view, having a blog in the Neighbourhood that is almost completely uninterested in the political going ons of the Anglican Communion makes a refreshing change and is part of my daily reading I wouldn’t want to see change.

  3. So, here’s a question for you, Jonathan.

    Would it be better to actually go ahead and choose an evangelical ABC, and thus hasten not just the demise of the church but also the rebuilding – or is that not a desireable outcome?

    I know when it comes to American politics, Joe has made comments that maybe what we should do is give the Republicans absolutely everything they want, put them in every elected office possible and let them run everything into the ground – because the sooner we get the crash and burn part over with, the sooner we can start rebuilding from the ground up and this time, GET IT RIGHT.

    What say you to that?

    • The “It Was Necessary to Destroy the Village, In Order to Save It” argument? Ask a bunch of dead Vietnamese how that one works out…

  4. Jay, if you wish it, you can still come our way. If the English evangelical haters get their way, about the first international think they will do is toss TEC out. So you will still find a home here. It is for the British people we have to pray and hope now.

    If I understand canon law over there correctly, if the commission reports itself hopelessly deadlocked, the prime minister has authority to simply pick a name and take it to her majesty. Rumor hath it that this is one decision where she does not think of herself as a rubber stamp, but in the end, I think the PM if determined would prevail.


    • I think you are probably right, but the discretion to pick a name stops with the Prime Minister. The Queen is obliged by convention to recommend for election by the Chapter of Canterbury the name presented to her by the Prime Minister. I suspect this may actually happen as the Evangelicals are determined but are trumped by the blocking 1/3. All good fun.

    • This our best and only hope, Chris. I can’t see this prime minister, if given the choice, choosing somebody who is going to actively campaign against his own plans for bringing gay people fully into all aspects of our society including the churches.

  5. Jonathan, as deeply sad as all this makes me, i can’t help but wonder if the CoE might not be seeing the end of the ‘appointment’ system writ large. Clearly a creation of patriarchy, it becomes nothing but an exercise of control- one of the last quarters a flexing of the patriarchal muscle is possible.The elections model, practiced her in Canada and in the US, as imperfect as it may be is clearly most closely aligned to our vocation to be the BODY of Christ in the world. So i can only hope that this current embarrassment is a ‘You’ve got to do better than this, boys’ message from the Holy Spirit and that with time they’ll actually listen.

  6. A distant relative of mine has actually suggested it’s about time H.M. E II got out the old mace of her office and read the riot act to them! lol

  7. The question is, why do we need an Archbishop of Canterbury at all? Despite the claims of Rome and Constantinople, I see nothing in the early church to indicate that anything remotely resembling a primate was thought necessary. Why not just make the senior bishop of each province the chair of bishops’ meetings and the chief consecrater, and leave it at that? Surely this would be a lot closer to the spirit of Jesus?

    • I agree with you entirely, Tim. In fact, I remember posting some years back that the orders should be restricted to deacons, priests and bishops only. No archbishops, archdeacons, rural deans, readers and certainly no references to “senior” clergy that is all the rage nowadays.

    • Well, I don’t know whether I’m in favour of getting rid of all the other offices of the Church. I’ve found Archdeacons very useful in the past, and as a Lay Chair (would I be abolished?) I am getting proficient at managing my Area Deans (I’ve now seen off the third, and will be welcoming a fourth soon) and would hate to be thrown in the bin just yet.

      I do think there is a case for an interregnum. The House of Bishops would blanch at the thought, but most dioceses have one. Southwark had almost a year without a diocesan bishop and we did just fine. I would not abolish Archbishops,but I would make the appointment process more open and transparent. Perhaps election by the House of Bishop with the Houses of Clergy and Laity then concurring by orders. The slates of nominees should be open. No surprises. As Canterbury is run by the Bishop of Dover in any case, it should affect them much. I think that if the stalemate goes on long enough there could be some movement toward a different process.

    • I’m not suggesting we get rid of all the offices of the Church. Just the super-hierarchical, clerical ones. I regard readers as unordained deacons who we should ordain. Lay chairs are by their very definition nothing to do with the clerical orders.

      The problem is that when you have degrees of authority within types you end up with power struggles within the types. I have always believed their should be no authority, other than collegiate authority above the rank of bishop and that all bishops should be equal. They should most definitely be elected by those they are to serve and not their friends from college.

  8. You don’t have to be “evangelical” to affirm orthodox morality. If the Church of England doesn’t do that by choosing an ABC that reflects orthodox morality, then the Anglican Communion will be history. OF COURSE I COULD BE WRONG, but the chances of that are vanishingly small.

    • But evidently you do have to be anonymous, which says everything anyone needs to know about the proponents of so-called orthodox morality.

      You know, thinking about it, I’ve never come across a liberal troll.

    • The Communion’s fate was sealed when the C of E declined to sign on to the Daft Covenant Annie. It’s going to fracture no matter who sits in Lambeth. England will have to decide if it’s part of the West or part of the South. TEC won’t be pushed around by any Archbishop, and neither will the rest of the Anglosphere.

      And I suspect Rowan and Phony Blair’s evil plan to get everybody to cross the Tiber will come to naught as well.

      Personally, I’m pulling for Father Jack Hackett

  9. Until relatively recently, TEC’s Presiding Bishop was simply the most senior bishop. We have no archbishops, and do not miss them. +++Frank Griswald was the first presiding bishop styled, “primate” and that title was sold to General Convention as a concession to the ACC which has, “primate’s meetings.” Given the amount of mischief those meetings have undertaken, we should get rid of them.

    My $.02 worth.


    • I had an idea that was the case with TEC, Jim (or, as it was then the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA); that was certainly in my mind when I asked why we needed an ABC at all. I know the secular world loves to know that ‘someone’s in charge’, but I’m not sure the biblical witness is always in agreement with that idea.

    • The problem is that human nature doesn’t respect the best intentions of semantics. The presiding bishop in the USA is just a primate by another name. Remember that Rowan Williams behaved as if he had far more authority in the Communion than he actually had and people went along with it. Perhaps the Church of Scotland has the right idea in restricting the reign of each “moderator” to just one year.

  10. Oh, good grief. Just have a mud wrestling contest with all the named candidates. Whoever wins will be covered and caked in muddy sloppiness which means he’ll already have a head start on life in the post.

    • Who, if memory serves correctly, wanted to be styled “Archbishop” but the General Convention wouldn’t go along with it and would only make him a “Primate.”