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Before Easter, I promised a follow-up post on Dr Rowan Williams and the process for choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury, expected to take up the post soon after Williams stands down at the end of 2012.


On March 22, 2012, Virtue Online featured a round-up of reactions from Anglican bishops around the world — conservative and ‘liberal’ — in David Virtue’s editorial (emphases mine):

Archbishop Nicholas D. Okoh [the Metropolitan and Primate of the Anglican Province of Nigeria] noted that when Dr. Rowan Williams took over the leadership of the Anglican Communion in 2002, it was a happy family. He is leaving it with decisions and actions that are stumbling blocks to oneness [unity], evangelism and mission all around the Anglican world …

Okoh concluded … by saying that the announcement did not present any opportunity for excitement. “It is not good news here, until whoever comes as the next leader pulls back the Communion from the edge of total destruction.”

Dr. Peter F. Jensen, the Archbishop of Sydney, was more nuanced, but also recognized the underlying failure of Dr. Williams to lead the communion

There is apparently no evidence that Williams was asked to leave or was forced out of office. The decision was entirely his alone, according to sources in London.

Following his unexpected announcement that he is to leave Lambeth Palace at the end of the year, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s candor about his desire to retreat from the outside world is being interpreted as an insight into his tortured state of mind. There is some truth to this …

Some within the Church accused him of having a “lack of courage” while one Anglican pointed out that, “even Judas only betrayed his friend once”

Historians will recall Dr. Williams’ tenure as a colossal, tragic failure. His inability to understand the rise of the Global South with its evangelical emphasis on Scripture, faith and morals (the legacy of men like John Stott, J.I. Packer and Michael Green) reveal a spiritual blindness and a myopia that is hard to fathom.

History will not be kind to him. The only question now is who will follow him and is it too late. Any compromise candidate will be anathema to archbishops like Nicholas Okoh (Nigeria) or Eliud Wabukala (Kenya) and the rest of the Global South including Southeast Asia and Latin America (Southern Cone).

Personally, I think this is a great opportunity for Anglican repair, revival (not in the tent sense) and renewal. It is also a great lesson for Anglicans to learn about lukewarm and/or secularly-driven Christianity, both of which one could detect in Williams’s leadership.

However, two caveats here. One is that, as evidenced by the overwhelming positive response from liberal bishops in Virtue’s article, many Anglicans will want another Williams type, one who will do the job better. They will miss the signs of the damage done because they think the way he does. The second caveat is that if we think our church is lost, then it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that we will lose it, and that would be a crying shame. Doctrinally, it is the best denominational fit for millions of its members around the world, myself included. However, if we do have a resurgence of Anglican orthodoxy, I do not think it will happen overnight — it might take at least five years — and it will certainly not be without conflict.

I question whether Williams really loves the Anglican Communion and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. If so, it was rarely in evidence in his public pronouncements. How is it that orthodox Lutheran and Reformed congregations go from strength to strength? By pastoral leadership which understands and preaches Scripture and ties it into their respective confessions of faith! But I digress.

I also would not be surprised if within a year or two, Williams writes a book which reveals a shocking surprise to many about his view of the Christian — and Anglican — faith. That said, I do not think that it would be much of a revelation to his critics.

My apologies in advance to those of Celtic heritage, but his appointment had something of anti-Englishness about it. Stand Firm, a great Anglican site of news and opinion, has a few ongoing posts about Williams with reactions from its readership. On this post, an English cleric — A Senior Priest — says:

The man wasn’t even an English bishop. Rowan Williams is a Welshman foisted by a Scot [Tony Blair] on the primatial throne of all England. His entire tenure in office ab initio has been a giant diss on the Church of England, and an utter failure in every possible respect. Alas, the damage he has done will prove to be irreparable. “Good riddance to bad rubbish”, as we say in England. His departure can be said to be the best decision he’s made during his archiepiscopate. I can think of no other, though I used to at least try to do so, naif that I was.

Yes. It is highly unlikely, for instance, that an Englishman would become the Anglican Primate of All Scotland.

Did bishops know beforehand?

Observers of corporate or political worlds know that when someone resigns, a number of their peers already sensed things were in the works.  This is why they are rarely surprised by formal announcements of this kind.

It is no different with the world of church. On this Stand Firm post, reader Dr Priscilla Turner commented:

It would be a mistake to suppose that any reasonable candidate had no warning of Rowan’s departure. They will all have known months if not years in advance.

Earlier in the comment, she explained:

Historically speaking, Ebor [ancient Latin shorthand for the post of Archbishop of York, the city which was originally Eboracum] becomes Cantuar [Archbishop of Canterbury] unless there is a really solid objection such as age or unwillingness to serve. Sometimes Dunelm [Bishop of Durham] is being groomed instead. Some of us think that Tom Wright is therefore still in the running. Cantuar has to have academic weight. Ian Ramsey was being groomed in this way … and became a bishop for the purpose. He would certainly have gone to Canterbury, except that he died so suddenly instead.

I’m not sure about ‘historically speaking’ and ‘becomes’, as a look at the list of the Archbishops of Canterbury throughout history shows they came from various bishoprics. It might be that the Archbishop of York is the preferred candidate, I do not know. I only recall two selections — for Carey and Williams — and remember that two candidates were shortlisted. That’s when the process becomes more public and is — or was — covered in the press. The media are — or were — also allowed to interview the candidates and publish or broadcast these. Generally, questions concern the place of the family in modern society, opinions on church-related issues as well as a prognosis for the future of the Anglican Communion.

The selection and appointment process for the next Archbishop of Canterbury

Stand Firm has reposted the selection process in full from the Church of England website, which is down as I write.

Please be sure to read it in full, as I shall feature only a few excerpts below:

Friday 16th March 2012
The responsibility for choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury rests with the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC). Its task is to submit the name of a preferred candidate (and a second appointable candidate) to the Prime Minster who is constitutionally responsible for tendering advice on the appointment to the Queen.

The membership of the CNC is prescribed in the Standing Orders of the General Synod. When an Archbishop of Canterbury is to be chosen there are 16 voting members

  * The Chair (a layperson) – to be appointed by the Prime Minister
  * A Bishop – to be elected by the House of Bishops
  * The Archbishop of York or, if he chooses not to be a member of the CNC, a further Bishop to be elected by the House of Bishops
  * Six representatives elected from the Diocese of Canterbury by their Vacancy in See Committee
  * The six representatives (three clergy and three lay) elected by General Synod to serve as members of the Commission for a five year period
  * A member of the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion elected by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.

In addition, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, the Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary and the Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments are non-voting members of the Commission.

A consultation process follows, anticipated to begin in May and last throughout the summer.

The process will among other things include:

  * Review of background material and results of the consultations, discussion of the challenges for the next Archbishop and, in the light of these, consideration of the personal qualities required
  * Consideration of candidates
  * Voting to identify the recommended candidate and a second appointable candidate, whose names will go forward to the Prime Minister.

Then — a slightly revised procedure will come into force this time:

Since 2007 the agreed convention in relation to episcopal appointments has been that the Prime Minister commends the name preferred by the Commission to the Queen. The second name is identified in case, for whatever reason, there is a change of circumstances which means that the appointment of the CNC’s recommended candidate cannot proceed.

Once the Queen has approved the chosen candidate and he has indicated a willingness to serve, 10 Downing St will announce the name of the Archbishop-designate.

The College of Canons of Canterbury Cathedral formally elect the new Archbishop of Canterbury.

The election is confirmed by a commission of diocesan bishops in a legal ceremony (the Confirmation of Election), which confers the office of Archbishop on him.

The new Archbishop does homage to Her Majesty.

The new Archbishop is formally enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral. 

A number of readers probably wonder if the Queen as Defender of the [Anglican] Faith would oppose a candidate.  It is unlikely.

Responsibilities of the Archbishop of Canterbury

The page goes on to list the Archbishop of Canterbury’s responsibilities. Again, excerpts follow:

There are six principal aspects to the job of the Archbishop of Canterbury:

1. The Archbishop is the Bishop of the Canterbury Diocese. He has delegated much of his responsibility for the diocese to the Bishop of Dover, who leads a senior staff team of the Dean, three Archdeacons and the Diocesan Secretary …

2. The Archbishop of Canterbury is also a Metropolitan, having metropolitical jurisdiction throughout the 30 dioceses of the Province of Canterbury. As such, he can conduct formal visitations of those dioceses when necessary. Establishing close links with bishops in his Province is an important part of his work and he visits three dioceses each year. It is a Metropolitan’s responsibility to act as chief consecrator at the consecration of new bishops, grant various permissions, licences and faculties, appoint to parishes where the patron has failed to do so within the prescribed time limits, act as Visitor of various institutions and release, where appropriate, those who have taken religious vows.  He and the Archbishop of York are joint Presidents of the General Synod

3. As leader of the ‘Church by Law Established’ the Archbishop, in his capacity as Primate of All England, is ‘chaplain to the nation’, classically exemplified at a coronation. More routinely he has regular audiences with the Queen and the Prime Minister, and is frequently in touch with senior Ministers of State and with the Leaders of Opposition Parties. In addition, both Archbishops and 24 other senior bishops have seats in the House of Lords.

4. The Archbishop is the Focus of Unity for the Anglican Communion. He is convener and host of the Lambeth Conference, President of the Anglican Consultative Council, and Chair of the Primates’ meeting. In these roles he travels extensively throughout the Anglican Communion, visiting provinces and dioceses …

On overseas visits, a meeting with the Head of State is almost always a part of the programme, as are meetings with other significant political persons.

5. The Archbishop … nationally … is one of the Presidents of Churches Together in England, who provide strategic guidance to ecumenical endeavours.

6. The Archbishop takes the lead in relationships with members of other faith communities both in this country and overseas, reflecting the increasing significance of those communities for the context in which the Church’s mission and ministry take place.

I shall be watching news coverage to bring you more in the months ahead.

Tomorrow: Possible successors


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