Global issues examined in debate over who chooses the next Archbishop of Canterbury


CNC Canterbury

POSSIBLE changes to the composition of the Crown Appointments Commission (CNC) tasked with recommending names for the next Archbishop of Canterbury were debated by the General Synod on Thursday afternoon when it took note of a report .

The report said, “It is important to recognize that many of the responsibilities of the Archbishop’s national church are intertwined with the responsibilities of the Communion, as are his public voice. Current issues of global concern – the environmental crisis, migration, health issues (HIV, Covid, etc.) – call for a communion-wide response and commitment, which is demanding in terms of of time and resources.

But the report also recalled the context of ‘colonial history’ and commented: ‘The Church of England and the Communion cannot help but ask why a British cleric should always be first among equals [first among equals].”

The Commission currently has 16 voting members: nine representing Church of England national interests; six representatives from the Diocese of Canterbury; and one for the Anglican Communion, which in 2012 was then the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan.

The consultation paper’s proposal is to reduce Canterbury’s diocesan representation from six to three. The Council of Archbishops proposes nine representatives of the national interests of the Church of England; three from the Diocese of Canterbury; and five from Communion.

Introducing the debate, the Bishop of Chesterthe Rt Revd Mark Tanner (in place of the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, who had tested positive for Covid), described the issue as cutting “to the heart of who we are. Words matter. . . The same goes for the tone in which they are offered. It is a consultation, not a decision. . . a consultation on ‘our’ Communion.

In 2015, he said, the Diocese of Canterbury requested that more Communion voices be present. Other ways to address the imbalance have been suggested, including a rotating presidency.

“Canterbury does not hold legal authority over a province, but is first among equals. We are not here to instruct the Communion on its diet. Everything must go through a process of acceptance and consensus. Our sisters and brothers across the Communion matter to us.

He continued, “Don’t think it’s just about democracy. Do not be afraid that this proposal allows the representatives of the Communion to block an appointment: it is not a question of politics, but of fairness. Do not fear conspiracies in timing. . . [The present Archbishop] publicly documented his wish to continue “for quite a while yet”.

The world was watching, he said. “Our brothers and sisters observe our body language and our common words”, and the debate was “an opportunity to listen and understand each other’s voice”.

the Bishop of Ripon, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley (Leeds), said that when she was Bishop of Waikato, in the province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, she had had “tremendous respect for the see of Canterbury and the Church of England”, while acknowledging that it was “not without complexity, and in many ways bore the scars and contempt of colonialism”. She had been appalled by some of the responses to the consultation so far, she said, particularly the use of the word “stranger”. She asked, “If we refuse this consultation. . . what will our sisters and brothers in Christ say about us?

The Archdeacon of London, Ven. Luke Miller (London), recalled a period in the 19th century, before Pusey, when the “foreign mission” was left to private businesses and missionary societies, and when bishops were not appointed outside England. “These proposals help us to walk together. . . to explore together how we should engage in our own Church and in the context of the global communion.

Reverend Mae Christie (Southwark), who had recently become a British citizen, having been born and raised in the United States, said the Episcopal Church in the United States has a prayerful relationship with the Anglican Communion. “We all prayed every Sunday for the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion. . . connected it to our local history.

The new proposals could have the opposite effect of what was intended, she continued: primus between pares should be a guide, but this was an appointment and not an election “determined by the background from which they came. We all know how precarious this position is, requiring the consent of the entire Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury is, at bottom, a bishop of the Church of England: he starts first at home. . . I fear that this proposal may seem more rather than less colonial.

Christine Baron (Bath & Wells) urged Synod to reject the motion. A century ago, no one expected the Archbishop of Canterbury to spend between 25 and 40 per cent of his time in Communion. So it was right for the appointment process to change. “It would be good to have a wider consultation on the role, but don’t close the options by setting up an interview panel first,” she insisted. “To take note before a wide consultation of what to ask of the Archbishop of Canterbury” would be premature.

David Kamp (Canterbury) said the original 2015 motion had been a plea for a change in the CNC for the appointment of the Bishop of Dover. He recalled a practical letter from Archbishop Ramsey to his own father, a clergyman, as an example of “an archbishop [who was] practical in the management of his diocese” at a time “when we knew exactly where the decisions were made”. The Bishop of Dover was again an appointment of the Archbishop. He suggested: “Make the Bishop of Dover as close as possible to a diocesan bishop”.

Jayne Ozanne (Oxford) also resisted the motion. “We need a primate for all of England – all of us,” she said. One of the reasons we were ‘paralyzed’ on issues such as gender identity was that ‘our own Archbishop had to keep tabs on the Anglican Communion. Others have made progress; we remain in a quagmire. She suggested what was needed was “a brand new boat, not a refit of the deckchairs”. There were also sensitivities to recognize, she said. Many members of the Communion might be in communion not so much with the Archbishop of Canterbury as with the Queen.

Reverend Jake Madin (York) supported the general aims of the consultation, but pointed out that a two-thirds majority was difficult to obtain from a membership of 17; the figure needed to be redesigned. He also thought about where those representatives would be chosen: “based on geography” was not representative of where most lived.

Canon Bruce Bryant-Scott (Europe) declared himself born and raised in Canada. The original proposal appeared to be primarily for the Bishop of Dover, he said; therefore: “Are we trying to solve a problem that does not exist? Is it deeply colonial? The Archbishop of Canterbury is first among equals, but that’s because none of us can come up with a viable alternative. Should it, he asked, be a case of “a non-British citizen telling the C of E that it must be a decision made by English people”?

The first Church property commissioner, Alan Smith, told the Synod of his upbringing in Barbados. His great-great-grandfather had been born a slave, but had built Anglican churches, and was therefore one of only five people in Barbados to have a headstone there, as Anglicans did not bury people of African ancestry. “The Lord has a sense of humor,” he said.

The Anglican Church was there, “possessing plantations where people were property. Here we are today talking about giving 25% of the vote to 75% of our community. The question was not, “Are you an Anglican?” Are you from the Church of England? but “Are we brothers and sisters in the global community?” »

Dr Jamie Harrison (Durham) stepped in to remind the synod that the risk of not voting to take notice would mean the matter would lapse.

Jane Patterson (Sheffield) suggested it was a good time for consultation as there were no vacancies. She supports the principle of rethinking the composition of the CNC, but wants clarification. Questions could be included on the needs of the Communion, Canterbury See and other English Sees, to ensure equal representation of the Diocese, National Church and Communion. “It would send a signal that we intend to act. Start the conversation about the needs of Kent, England and around the world.

Gavin Drake (Southwell & Nottingham) has declared an interest as director of communications for the Anglican Communion; therefore, he will abstain in the vote. “We may not like the colonial part of our history. . . but the Archbishop of Canterbury has clout and congratulations that other bishops don’t have,” he said.

The motion to take note was passed on a vote by the Chambers: Bishops 26 nem. con., with one abstention recorded; Clergy 102-27, with 13 abstentions recorded; Laity 112-43, with 12 abstentions recorded.

The consultation is open until March 31.


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