Archbishop of Canterbury: who’ll get the impossible job?
Peter Stanford untangles the intrigues and rivalries in the race to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury
By Peter Stanford
7:24AM BST 28 May 2012
The role of Archbishop of Canterbury is, by common consent, a poisoned chalice. The challenge is to balance the various dogmatic factions within the Church of England at the same time as holding together the disparate worldwide Anglican Communion of 80 million souls. But, as a titular leader, the occupant of Lambeth Palace has no means of imposing his will. Unlike the Pope, with his formal teaching authority, the archbishop has to rely on persuasion and goodwill and that, as recent incumbents have found to their frustration, only gets you so far.
The thanklessness of the task extends to the process now under way for choosing the 105th archbishop to succeed Dr Rowan Williams when he retires in December. Because of long-standing divisions within the Church over such issues as gay marriage and women bishops, whichever candidate’s name emerges this autumn, it is guaranteed to offend a good proportion of Anglicans.
What is making the job even harder is that there can no longer be any passing of the buck to the prime minister. Traditionally, bishops were appointed from a list of two by 10 Downing Street, because the Church of England is established and the prime minister acts on behalf of its Supreme Governor, the Queen. That leeway has proved controversial, as when in 1990 Margaret Thatcher picked the outsider George Carey as a way, it was alleged, of snubbing his predecessor Robert Runcie, who had vociferously criticised her policies.
In 2007, however, Gordon Brown set up the Crown Nominations’ Commission (CNC) so as to hand responsibility back entirely to the Church. The 16 members of the CNC will choose a “preferred” candidate for David Cameron to rubber-stamp. A second “appointable” name will only be provided in case unexpected problems arise with the first.
“The new arrangements are being tested at a time when the Church is more polarised now than at any time in its recent history,” says Andrew Carey, a columnist in the Church of England Newspaper and son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury. “The controversy around the appointment of [the openly gay] Jeffrey John as a bishop in 2003, and his subsequent withdrawal, and then the decision to go ahead with women bishops, have only deepened the divisions during Rowan’s time as Archbishop. These issues now hang over the Church like a stalactite.
This ‘Telegraph’ article, by Peter Stanford, ends with the thoughts expressed by Andrew Carey, son of Archbishop Rowan Williams’ predecessor, George Carey. The irony here is that it was Archbishop Carey, under whose watch as ABC, the African Archbishops were able to bring their endemic homophobia into play at Lambeth
From the Statement known as Lambeth 1:10, here is part of the Central & East African Appendix:
” ( d) believes that in this regard, as in others, all our ordained Ministers must set a wholesome and credible example. Those persons who practise homosexuality and live in promiscuity, as well as those Bishops who knowingly ordain them or encourage these practices, act contrary to the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church. We call upon them to repent. “
In the context of this statement, it should be obvious that these Church of Central and Eastern Africa consider all practising of homosexuality to be promiscuous and therefore morally objectionable to their ‘Christian’ conscience. There has been no effort made to listen to the homosexuals in their Churches – to gauge whether or not there can be any virtue in faithful, monogamous same-sex relationships.
The simple fact that homosexuality is now considered by most psychologists and many theologians to be ‘morally neutral‘ seems not to have been accepted by the Anglican Primates of these Churches, and they have been aided and abetted to think in that way by the (then) leadership of the Church of England and other conservative Bishops of the Anglican Communion – headed by none other than Archbishop Carey.
Contrary to correspondent Andrew Carey, who wrote to the ‘Church of England Newspaper’, pinning the blame for the current divisions in the communion onto the current Archbishop, Rowan Williams; the entrenchment of conservative potential schismatic activity was begun with the negative influence on the Communion of Lambeth 1.10 – overseen and overtly supported by Archbishop George Carey.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand.