Comments: Nick Baines on Southwark

Thank you, +Nick, for bringing some sanity to this media field day, though I'm sure many will think it unsporting of you to let facts and process get in the way of a good argument!

Posted by Hannah at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 10:40am BST

Just what I said!

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 11:11am BST

Bp. Nick Baines reminds us all of the need for objectivity in our comments on the internet. It is difficult for any of us who are passionate in our desire for what we see as the need for a more caring and inclusive Church to know when to draw the line at points-scoring, rather than give in to our personal agendas - sometime to the detriment of fairness and charity.

I now feel that, sometimes, our keenness to score a point against the perceived opposition overrides our better judgement - especially when any news reporter appears to back up our own particular prejudice or preferences. No-one has suffered more from mis-reporting (and perhaps, our subsequent vilification) than Archbishop Rowan Williams. He is a spiritual person of intellectual breadth and charity, who seems to have been pressured by one or another different interest groups in the Church - to the point where his political judgement may have seemed, in different circumstances to different entities, unwise or lacking in empathy for one or other side of an issue. However, in the end, he is Primus inter Pares of our world-wide Anglican Communion and has the onerous task of trying to 'keep the peace' between all factions.

No-one in their right mind would want Rowan's job - except, perhaps, the movers and shakers at the extreme edges of the theological spectrum. To be seen to preside over a divided Communion must be the nightmare of anyone as deeply concerned about Church Unity as Abp. Rowan. The High-Priestly Prayer of Jesus must be constantly on his mind and heart as he tries to harmonize the divergent streams of Anglican Traditionalism with the rise of a newly-vocalised call for justice and truth in the Church.

Thank you Bishop Nick for bringing us back to the understanding of exactly how the appointments process for choosing a Bishop in the Church of England works out. From this we can clearly see that no prospective appointment can ever be a foregone conclusion in the English system. Others of us in other Provinces have different ways of appointing our Bishops - but then, we are a Communion of very diverse organisational polities. The Church of England has to deal with its own appointments in its own way - until or unless it is changed by law.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 12:12pm BST

Thanks for posting these and thanks to Nick Baines for writing them.

On this side of the pond, people who don't regularly visit here may not be clued in to how, er, speculative, or, um, just plain wrong Ruth G. often is - although I think she's toned things down a bit since I first started hanging out here.

I was not aware of the poor reputation for accuracy the main perp of this has in England until a Yank in London posted a very thorough analysis and 'outing' of him.

They same probalem or potential problem in reverse exists with The Washington Times newpaper. It is owned by the Moonies and its main religion reporter is a supporter of Minns et alia. The WashPost, on the other hand, strives for objectivity and accuracy - not always on target in the minutia of church polity, but not partisan, either.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 12:48pm BST

Why is it that every time something really awful happens in church politics, someone always comes along to explain, on procedural grounds, why its all perfectly normal and to be expected?

Posted by jnwall at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 12:59pm BST

Thanks to Nick Baines for breathing some sense into this sterile argument of few facts. If the ABC was angry at the 2-hour meeting of the CNC it was because someone had broken the confidentiality of the process and has deliberately done so again. The whole thing was put up by those wanting to block both Jeffery John and Nick Holtam, presumably on the supposed ground that they are miserable sinners whom God hates.

Don't blame anyone but the leaker and his/her agenda. Please God this will rebound on the hate-filled people who started it. I hope they listen hard to next Sunday's Gospel lection.

Posted by cryptogram at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 1:34pm BST

It is reported that all but one of the diocesan representatives wanted Jeffrey John. Therefore, if he was not the favourite, this is because the Archbishops and others from the higher echelons of the Church did not want him.

Since he is obviously bishop material - and was actually appointed Bishop of Reading at one point - and since he was the preferred choice of the diocese, it is fair to infer that he was not the favourite because he was gay.

That's not good enough, I'm afraid.

Posted by badman at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 2:02pm BST

This gives an interesting and more rounded perspective on the going-ons? Thank you Bishop Nick!

Posted by Bob at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 2:28pm BST

I am sorry but this seems like a smokescreen: "move on, nothing to see" (a phrase usually uttered in order to have someone's interest dissipated rather than deployed as a means of stating there's obviously no there, there).

So the process can be studied on the website?

That's four clicks down from the front page. You couldn't claim it was buried but it's pretty well mulched in.

It's also 35 pages long. I suggest Nick Baines offers his summary to the CofE webmaster as a substitute.

But read through the précis itself. You can follow it, of course but it does strike me as at best meandering, all the same.

Also Baines is missing the point. It's not that we are claiming we could not find out about the method - we just disagree with it, in the same way that the familiar first-past-the-post system of voting here may no longer be fit for purpose in the context of the overall European practice of suffrage, we, the people, demand a clearer and more straightforward mode of access to the levers of influence.

The CofE is the Established Church - so who beyond the church may serve or gets invited to the deliberating bodies here? How?

Yes, please do read:

And then try to get elected to the House of Laity, when you cannot be nominated by your local parish priest should you even decide to start going to church:

It acts like a private club but those who are involved in the process are reminded:

"It is important that all who are involved in the process for choosing diocesan bishops bear in mind not just the role of diocesan bishops in their own dioceses, but also the ministry which they are called upon to exercise nationally and, in many cases, internationally as well."

It may be argued, so what, much like the Conservative Party, where a self-selecting private club may manage to propel an individual to the position of leading the country: but we can vote them out if we so choose. Can I vote JJ in, or someone else, out in a free and open election? No, even I cannot automatically be given the power of the vote here, not even as a paid-up churchgoing Anglican.

Oh, and while this document is being scrutinised, mark the following:

Before candidates are nominated, the Committee should be encouraged to consider the need for a balance of interests and representation *(clergy/lay; male/female; urban/rural; ethnic minorities; churchmanship; etc.)* among its representatives.

Do gay people come under "etc.", I wonder!!

Posted by Achilles at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 3:30pm BST

So, when a bishop in the Church of England, talking about the appointment of a bishop, announces that:

'there are more competent people around than there are posts [for bishops].'

just before the Synod meets to determine the possible future inclusion of women bishops, we are told that this is 'objectivity'.

That is simply ridiculous...

Posted by chenier1 at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 5:05pm BST

“Why is it that every time something really awful happens in church politics, someone always comes along to explain, on procedural grounds, why its all perfectly normal and to be expected?”

I don’t think anybody did. Nick Baines only pointed out that we cannot possibly know.

“It is reported that all but one of the diocesan representatives wanted Jeffrey John.”

That may have been reported, but as Nick Baines explains, unless there has been an official poll done by someone, we have absolutely no means of knowing whether this statement is true.

A shred of evidence, just a little bit, for any of these allegations would be helpful. The mere fact that JJ did not get the job, along with at least 5 others who didn’t get it, is not evidence.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 5:16pm BST

Interesting commentary from Nick Baines, but this would be the spin anyway and he's hardly a disinterested party. Achilles is not alone in wondering "smokescreen?" When five of the six Southwark representatives favoured John, yet his references were not taken up, something stinks. But who, in the Real World, cares about the Little People?

If it is true, as Riazat Butt and Stephen Bates write, that "it is said that Williams was extremely annoyed ... that the name had leaked and that he blamed the liberals" it is alarmingly indicative of the nature of Williams' knee jerk reactions, particularly if Wynne Jones is indeed, as Butt and Bates also report, an individual who is viewed by the radical evangelicals as "a friendly journalist (the son of an evangelical vicar)".

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 5:27pm BST

I think there would not be such a stink if JJ had been appointed to Bishop of Reading in the first place, at least from the liberal wing of the church. I find myself incensed that Dr. JJ had to walk to the scaffold twice. Just tell him, "you're not a suitable candidate, step down." This was never going to fly. My question is why not get rid of all the homosexual priest period. Solves your problem CofE. You can be pure just like Nigeria or the ACNA, not tainted like TEC. Same for women. Dump the undesirables. It's a make believe world Evangelicals live in.

Posted by bobinswpa at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 6:07pm BST

Yes, Wynne-Jones used to work for the C of E Newspaper. Seems that Christian journalists-or this one will do anything sometimes for good story -- and the devil take the hindemost !!

Posted by Pantycelyn at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 6:20pm BST

I don't think I want 'competent people'. I've had my fill of them in church and state already.

I want michael ramseys, ha williamses, and people like the Dean (of the Dean's Watch); and the Warden-phoebe willetts, Dss Elsie Baker;tony benn, michael .... (er ex-labour leader) - and all sorts of people seen as none-entities from Lambeth, Westminster and all these clever places.

Look what Thatcher and Blair did to UK --and the world

Posted by Pantycelyn at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 6:28pm BST

Now that we have a "more rounded perspective of what is going on", how does that explain the virulent homophobia the leak unleashed? Why weren't the other candidates' names leaked? We are still in the dark over the whole silly process. Were other candidates married/single/ closet gay/celibate? It is preposterous to blame the media when the desired backlash clearly worked.

Posted by Rev Sidney Jensen at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 6:46pm BST

Well it's quite good to hear from Bshp B; though his cool remarks/reminders of due procedure rather miss the mark as I hear, see, and understand that mark - maybe by a few miles if not more?

The point is (surely): we Anglicans indulging another round of overt-juicy queerbashing preachments as usual from all the usual rightwing CoE figures/speakers? Reform FiF, Ang(not)mainstream, others - all were quite happy to talk self-righteously in many public venues about how innately immoral, still, by category and by presupposition, all queer folks truly are, cross my heart and hope to die.

Plus, the gleeful targeting of a candidate who by common sense view is surely among the talented-gifted-proven of current church life leaders? These two points stand, sadly enough; no matter whether the cool-easy proper procedures were followed perfectly, imperfectly, or not very much at all.

The third chapter of this latest lesson, of course, is that JJ could even be nominated - even for pretends or something like pretends - given the horrid (mis)treatment of TEC which RW has spearheaded, just because - gasp - a partnered lesbian of similarly competent reputation and discernment was indeed elected very openly step by step by step, in Los Angeles USA.

These three bad lessons stand, regardless. Proper cool procedures. Or otherwise.

A hidden fourth lesson chapter may exist or obtain, insofar as we are shown yet again how it nearly requires a deep sadomasochistic bottom streak for queer folks to be alive, honest, and thriving in CoE and a good many other global places-spaces. Unseemly, all that S&Ming is, without proper safe words and without adult consent ahead of time.

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 7:27pm BST

Where is it reported that 5 of 6 diocesan representatives favored Dean John? What's the source?

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 8:02pm BST

Dear Dr. Williams,

Hundreds of thousands are "annoyed" with your constant smoozing turned oozing of harmful discrimination and excluding of LGBT Christians at ALL levels of Anglican Churchlife...sorry to observe that "snideness" and "demeaning" of LGBT Anglicans/friends/family at TEC has spread (like the disease it is) into "blackballing" revealing stunted clarity of thinking when evaluating clergy/laity with good moral character in Merry Olde England! Rowan Williams, resign.

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 9:10pm BST

No doubt there are many stories to tell here. But I don't think we should weakly capitulate to Nick Baines' allegedly objective procedurism, especially as delivered in such a patronising mien. Failing cogent evidence to the contrary and on the useful principle 'cui bono?', it seems obvious that the leak must have come from anti-gays. In which case, as always, they play a very dirty game.

Posted by john at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 9:50pm BST

" is understood that five of the six diocesan representatatives on the 16-person commission voted for him." i.e. for Jeffrey John.

Reported in by Riazat Butt and Stephen Bates

Posted by badman at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 10:09pm BST

Baines is no friend of lgbt people either.

Posted by Pantycelyn at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 10:11pm BST

Is the bishop always so condescending?

Posted by JPM at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 10:25pm BST

Frankly, I am not persuaded by Nick Baines' articles.

I wonder if Nick Baines got the points that many progressives have made about this nomination process. The secrecy of the process cannot help but contribute to misinformation and confusion surrounding the process. It won't do to say that a more transparent process will enmesh the Church in "politics". "Politics" is unavoidable in any process. This factor just has to managed well and an open process is a good way to do that. nomination process.

What good does it do to have an "insider" like Nick Baines tell us that Jeffrey Johns was not the "favorite"? How does he know? What secrets can't he tell us? How does one avoid thinking that the bishop is being condescending to us? We have no way of verifying that what Baines tells us is a fact. What are we to do with the reports that Jeffrey received five of six votes from the diocese? If that were the case, he would have been the favorite of the diocese and his nomination would have been stopped by others representing the Church at large. And it can come as no surprise that powerful bishops can "veto" a nomination process, even if they don't have "veto power". +RW did this to Jeffrey after he was appointed the last time.

But most importantly for me, as a member of another Church (TEC), I am becoming persuaded that many of the bishops of the CofE, and, especially +Rowan Williams, are strangely disconnected from the realities of the social environment in which they live. As editorials and commentaries are making clear, the body politic in England is somewhere between apathetic to the CofE and appalled by it. This nomination process and the amendments of the ABC and ABY regarding women bishops have contributed greatly to the numbers of the appalled. When does a Church have to take seriously the work of the Holy Spirit in the body politic? Have we forgotten Gregory of Nyssa's maxim that the whole of humanity is the Body of Christ? I was first struck by this when +RW stated that it wasn't good enough to advocate for LGBT rights merely on the basis of "human and civil rights." I found that a stunning statement from the ABC. It didn't help when +RW kept silent for months about the Ugandan "kill the gays" bill. Or when RW "asked" that TEC representatives resign from Anglican bodies while African and other representatives from provinces whose Churches support draconian laws against LGBT persons stay on, or resign because +RW isn't tough enough for them. Is hatred for and discrimiation against LGBT persons representative of the "faith and order" of the Anglican Communion?

As Christians we do have a different motive and a different vision than those who work only for civil rights. But at the moment, the ABC, and the bishops in concert with him find themselves arrayed against the British parliament, even the Conservative party, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Is that where the CofE wants to be? What is the point of making the Church irrelevant to the struggles of women and LGBT persons for authetic human freedom and dignity?

In that context, I remain deeply untrusting of +RW and in serious wonder at where the CofE is going.

Posted by karen macqueen+ at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 11:49pm BST

Some might say that Bishop Baines has a vested interest, but I would never say that.

Posted by Grandmère Mimi at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 2:38am BST

I am so very happy with the transparency and the democracy of our system in TEC. Quite honestly, it seems hard to believe we're in the same Communion. And maybe the time has come to admit that we're not.

Posted by Old Father William at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 2:39am BST


OBJECTIVITY concerning CofE procedures.

What is it you Brits say? "Pull the other one, it has got bells on."

Posted by MarkBrunson at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 5:33am BST

From a simple, Yank, political scientist, who probably should stay quiet: I see Bishop Baines' point. But I also think that the problem comes about from a lack of transparency in the process. A secret/confidential appointments process is well suited to choosing hierarchs, not legitimate leaders. Indirect election may insure competence (at the expense of representativeness), but even US Supreme Court justices (who are selected through a similar indirect process, by others who are appointed) are subject to public scrutiny at some point (see Elena Kagan Senate hearings). A similar ethos to this one was reflected when the Sec Gen of the ACO wanted to meet with the Exec Council of TEC in a closed session. As people from the US realize, that kind of secrecy *leads* to exactly the kind of leaks that are present in this outdated process. Factionalism and rumour-mongering like this come from a lack of openness and accountability.

Some of the comments here were heated, but I wasn't really embarassed, as the Bishop of Croyden was. I agree that we were played--probably by the media among others. But that doesn't mean that the system works very well. Nor does it mean that the Archbishop can be called a homophobe. (Unless he did knock the Dean of St Albans out of the running based on the furore. He's been known to override/bend procedural rules before. We'll probably never know for sure.)

Posted by Scot Peterson at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 7:37am BST

"I don't think I want 'competent people'. I've had my fill of them in church and state already.

I want michael ramseys,..."

Yes and Amen! But none of the systems we now have seem designed either to produce them or to allow them to grow and nurture. It's all Bishop's Job descriptions, profiles, and leadership skills for competent management

And if we changed the system to a more open electoral one, can you really see a Michael Ramsey standing for election?

Posted by Ordinary Vicar at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 7:41am BST

Well, just take a look here:

We simply have a Cold War situation that may break out into an all-out one.

it's pretty obvious that the sooner this happens, actually the better.

There may be troubles in post-Fall of Communism Europe but it's nothing when compared to the atmosphere of fear, duplicity, subterfuge and hysteria that reigned up till 1989.

Let's just have it out, and tear down the wall. That should be our objective, since we have realised, once this artificial barrier was removed, we are all Europeans now.

Similarly, once the 'Big H' has been removed as an 'impediment' we may actually go back to realising that we are all in fact Christians.

But if the AoC believes that he can and should try to preserve 'the peace', he is mistaken. He is in fact only perpetuating the conditions of a cold war, at best. For by wanting to preserve an equilibrium all he is doing is propping up the division.

Posted by Achilles at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 8:25am BST

This surely was a media event.

Of course it is peppered with a broad streak of irony for those who remember well Rowan's own flirtation with the Southwark "process" and how it dealt badly with him and the stories he was wont to tell.

The stories are (as usual with leak stories from secret meetings) based on one or two snippets of truth retold in a salacious way. Undisclosed additional sources -usually described as "senior" something - (who may not even exist!) interpret these "facts" and fill them out and make the story as punchy as the journalist wants it to be.

Other journalists - even those highly suspicious of much of the material - are caught up in a whirlwind and find themselves sucked into a spiral of something approaching hysteria.

It becomes an opportunity for many to retell old stories and to add a few salient facts and commentaries relating to the broader context.

It has to be remembered that Rowan's treatment of JJ was the turning point for many progressives in their attitude to Williams and his Primacy - this was so in the media too where the editor of a national newspaper who had been a fan started referring to him as the "Welsh windbag".

But you really can see how much a media event this was when you get a Telegraph journalist quoting Coward as an authoritative source when he is actually reiterating "facts" from another Telegraph journalist (Wynne-Jones) story - something I like to call "The Vatican Method" of making something appear authoritative.

But while it is true that TA has attracted more than its fair share of hysterics lately who repetitively bash Rowan et al. and laud TEC we haven't fallen into the trap Baines clearly has of seeing two unpleasant extremist positions bitching and snarling at each other while good old sensible, fair and thoughtful Baines sits in the Anglican middle being jolly well shocked.

In general I think the Baines piece offers nothing at all other than a self-serving "Look how moderate and "Lambeth friendly" I am.". Sad.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 9:43am BST

'michael .... (er ex-labour leader) - '

Foot -of course-- finally recalled last name. Not 'competent' --just visionary , moral, passsionate, all that ...

No, you're right --there's no way a michael ramsey could emerge much in the brave new world - not without a miracle / 'cock up'. Rowan emerged from the chrysalis, but was squidged alas, while vulnerable - before his wings had dried and hardened for the necessary flying. (I'm no better, really).

Another 'good John' is still possible, or another 'John Paul 1' -- but he too, was finished off very early on...

Perhaps we need help in grappling with all this betrayal and murderousness from Verd's in-depth analysis and portayals of power at work in Church & State?

Posted by Pantycelyn at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 11:23am BST

"In general I think the Baines piece offers nothing at all other than a self-serving "Look how moderate and "Lambeth friendly" I am.". Sad."

Bearing in mind that Nick Baines was merely making the point that we simply cannot know - what should he have written?

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 11:35am BST

The Baines article raises more questions than it answers as the above contributions point out. Only time will tell whether the chosen candidate does indeed meet the needs of the diocese more than any other candidate could have done. I suppose we should be grateful to the leaker for pointing out the shortcomings of the current process even though it is temporarily embarrasing for the Church. Far better surely to involve the clergy and laity of the diocese more directly in the election of their bishops under an Alternative Vote system such as the one being proposed for Parliament, allowing people to vote for candidates in order of preference. It would tie in nicely with the Deputy PM's reform of the House of Lords. The appointment of bishops always involves political considerations as well as any other, so why not open up the process - not leave it to smoke-filled rooms.

Although one of the stipulations in the Southwark diocesan profile was the pastoral care of gay clergy, this would appear to conflict with the pressures of international ecclesiastical politics. Even if John had been the stongest candidate by a long way, he would still have come up against the moratoria and looming Covenant, regardless of the nature of his relationship. Remember ABC's Reflections of nearly a year ago? ... "So long as the Church Catholic...does not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle". Given that John is in a civil partnership and Glasspool is not in a formalised union (I assume, although correct me if I'm wrong) it would be difficult for the ABC to sell the moratoria/Covenant on the international stage if one of his own bishops appeared to be in breach, however slight.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 11:53am BST

"It is preposterous to blame the media when the desired backlash clearly worked."

Not so sure about that. Mr Wynne-Jones let himself be used... I think that's bad enough.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 1:22pm BST

Erika --

If the point is "we simply cannot know" then he shouldn't have written "Jeffrey John was not the favorite" (as if he knew).

The tone was pretentious & condescending (as others have already said).

Really, everyone ought to watch the "Yes. Prime Minister" episode, "The Bishop's Gambit." It will clarify a lot of of questions. ("We don't trust that the Holy Spirit knows who will make a good Church of England bishop.")

Posted by Prior Aelred at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 3:00pm BST

Prior Aelred wrote, answering Erika's question on what Bishop Baines should have instead written: "If the point is "we simply cannot know" then he shouldn't have written "Jeffrey John was not the favorite" (as if he knew)."

We cannot define Nick Baines error better than the good Prior has written, Erika.

Yes, many were played by the fundevangelicals and their co-dependent journalist (rather hard for me to use that term, given the results, but there we are) friends or allies.

But the good Bishop should not have written his non-factual opinion about Dean John, should he?

The CofE process, revealed through the Southwark election travesty, very clearly demonstrates why back-door deals and hypocritical secrecy is deeply flawed.

Just because it's good enough for Rome is not good reason for it to be good enough for any Anglicans.

Let secrecy be part of our past, and let an open process be part of our future.

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 9:52pm BST

"then he shouldn't have written "Jeffrey John was not the favorite" (as if he knew)."

He explained that the system does not identify favourites and frontrunners. The only favourites are those whose names are finally chosen to go forward.

So if there are no favourites, JJ cannot have been a favourite.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 10 July 2010 at 10:20pm BST

Stephen Bates in the Guardian says, "The knowledge that John . . . was one of six candidates for the south London diocese was known to journalists more than a week before the story appeared in print."

So there was a week-long conspiracy of silence in the press? Bizarre.

And contradictory of the notion that this was a media-driven event. According to Bates, it seems that several "journalists" (note the plural) tried to hush it up.

If you can't count on the press to report the news, where's the accountability? For the press? For the Archbishops?

Posted by Jeremy at Sunday, 11 July 2010 at 8:43pm BST
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