Comments: proposals for constitutional reform

How about letting the faithful participate by means of a diocesan synod where the clerical and lay houses together may prayerfully select their own bishops.

Just a thought.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Thursday, 27 March 2008 at 5:12am GMT

"the clerical and lay houses together may prayerfully select their own bishops."

Demned colonial!

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 27 March 2008 at 12:06pm GMT

Ford - I think that Malcolm, like me, is a 'blessed Celt' rather than a 'demned colonial' - the Anglican provinces of Wales, Scotland and Ireland all elect their own bishops and archbishops.

Posted by RichardM at Thursday, 27 March 2008 at 3:46pm GMT

I am a blessed Celt (both Irish and Scots), but I am also a demned colonial. As in says on my blogger profile, "An Anglican priest on the Canadian prairie."

Come by for a visit and see how bunnyhugs (that's the proper name for what the rest of the world call hoodies) have become incorporated in Easter tradition.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Thursday, 27 March 2008 at 7:56pm GMT

Um, sarcasm! I too am a demned colonial (or being a Newfoundlander, something of an illegitimate child of the Celts). We elect our bishops, and I really have my issues with the British way of allowing the government to appoint bishops. But then I'm an Anglo-catholic, a movement that took root in attempts to oppose the government's attempts to rearrange dioceses.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 28 March 2008 at 2:57pm GMT

Fr Malcolm wrote:
"How about letting the faithful participate by means of a diocesan synod where the clerical and lay houses together may prayerfully select their own bishops."

Hmmmm. That process has produced (in no particular order) Schofield, Bennison, Jefferts Schori, Robinson, Duncan, Iker, all of whom are universally accepted and loved by every contributor to TA, irrespective of their theological position. (I suspect it has also produced Akinola, Venables....)

I'm no great fan of the C of E's method, but at least it has permitted the appointment of the very protty Suffragan Bishop of Lewis (alleged here to refuse to wear a mitre) by the distinctly spiky Bishop of Chichester.

Since I'm also distinctly spiky, I do quite look forward to the ecumenical day when I owe my allegiance to a prelate described formally as "by the Divine Grace and the favour of the Apostolic See, Lord Bishop of Lichfield". :-)

Posted by Alan Harrison at Friday, 28 March 2008 at 7:11pm GMT

Ford, you mean you can actually find your Sanctus Bells amidst the piles of snow? I suspect you have to use plenty of incense to warm that place up!!!!

The one place I was beset in ice in salt of St. John's.

Come down here to the Ohio country, a little Morning Prayer with Anglican chanted canticles will surely warm you up!!!

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Friday, 28 March 2008 at 9:26pm GMT

And don't forget, Alan, the likes of Michael Ramsey (too academic), Tom Wright (ditto), and Rowan Williams (ditto) would have not been appointed hadn't it been for this process.

Incidentally, what I prefer is the kind of electoral college that Wales, Scotland (but the electoral college is the diocesan synod), and Ireland has--where everything is outside the public limelight as much as possible.

Posted by Ren Aguila at Saturday, 29 March 2008 at 12:30am GMT

One could create quite a list of feckless, time-serving Sir Humphrey Applebies out of the assorted Prime Ministerial gifts in the Church of England.

For all the weaknesses of having synodical elections, I'll take it in a sinch over having bishops appointed by some politician whose ecclesiastical affiliation may well be nominal - or elsewhere.

Draw lots. Roll the dice. Anything is better than having secular politicians doing it.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Saturday, 29 March 2008 at 5:44am GMT


You do understand, I hope, that in England, even before the changes referenced here are made, politicians do not now choose bishops. Rather, the church chooses bishops via an "electoral college" process, and the chosen names are then sent to the Prime Minister for the Queen's approval. It has been many decades since the last time a secular politician chose a bishop.

And, by the way, Sir Humphrey Appleby, of blessed memory, was never a politician, much less a Prime Minister. He was a Civil Servant. Would that any politician had any of his gifts!

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 29 March 2008 at 8:29am GMT

The byzantine and labrynthian machinations of the Crown Appointments Commission notwithstanding, it is still a process driven by politics - and not necessarily ecclesiastical.

I was not suggesting Sir Humphrey was a politician, but rather that the episcopal candidates selected under the present process are like as not to be ecclesiastical Sir Humphreys - self-seeking timeservers whose duty above all is the preservation of the political status quo, both secular and ecclesiastical.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Saturday, 29 March 2008 at 6:22pm GMT


If only.

If any of the current bishops of the Church of England had a tenth of the skills of a Sir Humphrey, I for one would be delighted.

Why is the English method of bishop selection more likely than the Canadian (or any other) one to produce self-seeking timeservers?

And how on earth do you go further and link the CofE episcopal process of selection to secular politics in Britain?

By the way, the body to which you refer was renamed the Crown Nominations Commission back in 2003.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 29 March 2008 at 6:48pm GMT

Because, Simon, the process still allows for secular politics to interfere. The PM's office is still represented in the initial process. The nominations still proceed through the PM and the PM still has the effective capacity to reject nominees not to his liking - however seldom he may use it.

While no system can completely eliminate the possibility of self-seeking timeservers, Lincoln was correct about how effectively people can be fooled. Ineffective bishops are inevitable in any system where humans are involved. But self-seeking time servers generally have a tough time hiding that quality which electors generally find unattractive.

But at the end of the day, I simply believe it is theologically, ecclesiologically, politically and morally unsound for the secular authority to have ANY role in selecting the leadership of the Church.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 2:18am GMT


If you will refer to the General Synod debate of February concerning Crown Appointments, you will see that synod members on all sides desperately wanted to avoid losing the external, independent, unbiased, expertise that the PM's Appointments Secretary has hitherto provided. This was being discussed in the context of choosing Deans rather than Bishops, but it is nevertheless pertinent. What the PMAS has provided is in practice nothing like what you imagine. I'll repeat my point: the PMAS is a Civil Servant, not a Political appointment. Perhaps this distinction is not meaningful in Canada?

The responses to the consultation which preceded the debate showed also a widespread lack of confidence in the impartiality of bishops themselves when making other appointments, if left to their own devices.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 30 March 2008 at 7:26am GMT

Having been a public servant, I am quite clear on the distinction between public servants and politicians. However you cut it, the process still runs through the hands of a politician for the Prime Minister is ever thus. And, at the end of the day, the public servant serves his (albeit temporary) political master.

I certainly wouldn't want to leave bishops to their own devises. I merely want the Church to choose the leadership of the Church. Synodical election, if I might plagiarize your former Prime Minister, is the worst system in the world except for all the others.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Monday, 31 March 2008 at 4:43am BST
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