Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Lambeth Palace confirms that Archbishop George will retire in October 2002
[a piece written for my American friends]

On Tuesday January 8 the BBC News announced that Lambeth Palace had confirmed that Dr George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, will retire at the end of October 2002. Then on Radio 4 it hosted discussions about whether the Church of England should be dis-established. The person who spoke against this was Dr Alistair McGrath of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Later on the evening news on the various TV Channels the same announcement was made with speculation as to who would succeed him.

The process of choosing a Bishop in the National and Established Church of England is very different from that in the Episcopal Church of the USA. The whole process is wrapped in secrecy and is ultimately the choice of the Queen on the advice of her Prime Minister. We recall that when it was announced that George Carey was to be the new Archbishop in 1991 most people were taken by surprise for they had not realized that he was even being considered.

The Prime Minister is provided with a short List of Names in a specific order by a Commission made up of senior bishops and lay persons from the General Synod of the Church of England. This Commission is committed to secrecy and its members do not comment after their meetings or share information with people outside the membership. On receiving the List the Prime Minister can reject all names thereon or put them in a different order. When he presents a name to the Queen she must as a constitutional monarch accept the advice of her Prime Minister. Only then is contact made with the person so named and accepted. And technically he has the right to say "no."

The persons considered by the Commission must fulfill the basic criteria as set forth in canon law for candidates for the epsicopate or they must be already bishops. We recall that Thomas Cranmer, editor of the first Book of Common Prayer, was an Oxford don and in priest's orders before being ordained and consecrated the archbishop of Canterbury. The criteria in English canon law prevent the appointment of priests or bishops from overseas unless they have been ordained and served in the Church of England.

The names being mentioned by the media and in the church press and by members of General Synod include the following. In providing them I must make the point that even as the appointment of George Carey was a complete surprise so may be that of the next archbishop.

It is possible that the commission and the Prime Minister will look for a man who is in favor of the ordination of women and who will be prepared to be the chief consecrator of the first woman bishop for the Church of England (say in 2005). They may also look for someone who will be supportive of the Anglican Communion of Churches and wish to be deeply involved in its oversight. But chiefly they will be choosing the diocesan bishop of the diocese of Canterbury (and not the equivalent of an ECUSA presiding bishop who has no diocese).

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres.
He is a very capable and learned man but is regarded as less than an enthusiast for General Synod and its workings. Further, he is not supportive of women bishops.
The Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt.
He is a thoughtful and pastoral man, whose name has been attached to a controversial Study of Marriage Policy for the C of E. He favors the ordination of women.
The Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones.
He is an evangelical who is liked by the Prime Minister and he is supportive of women's ordination.
The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali.
He was a bishop in Pakistan before working in the Church of England. He is intellectually capable and is chairing the latest official Commission on Women Bishops. He is in favor of women's ordination. His appointment would make the C of E appear more multi-racial.
The Bishop of St Albans, Christopher Herbert.
He is very committed to women ' ordination and has a wide following.
The Archbishop of Wales, Rowan Williams.
He is a former Oxford Professor of Theology. He is very committed to the ordination of women.

We shall have to patient for six months or more, perhaps up to a year, to find out who it is that the Prime Minister chooses and the Queen approves.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Jan 9 2002

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