Bishop ‘prays not to be Archbishop of Canterbury’

Graham James, Bishop of Norwich

The Rt Rev Graham James said the role is “massively demanding”

The Bishop of Norwich has told the BBC he is “hoping and praying” that God does not choose him as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Church officials are preparing to make a final decision on who should be the new Archbishop.

Dr Rowan Williams is due to retire in December.

The Rt Rev Graham James, 61, said the role carried “lots of expectation but relatively little power” and was “probably a job for a younger man”.

He explained that “you don’t apply – you are called by the Church to do this job.”

The 16 members of the Crown Nominations Committee will carry out an exhaustive assessment of potential candidates and are due to choose two names, probably by the end of Friday.

The Queen, the Church’s Supreme Governor, will then approve the chosen candidate.

Bishop James, who is among the contenders, was Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1987 to 1993 and has been the Bishop of Norwich since 1999.

He said: “I’ve not placed a bet on myself [being chosen] and I wouldn’t advise anyone to do so,” he added.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury role is hugely important one but of course it’s a massively demanding because you have lots of expectation placed on you but relatively little power and executive authority.

“I also think, because I’m going to be 62 in the not too distant future it’s probably a job for a younger man than me.”

He added: “It’s not to do with the fulfilment of ambition. Anyone who really longs to be the Archbishop of Canterbury is probably not terribly well equipped to do the job.

“I’m fairly sure the whole process will lead, I hope and pray, to God choosing someone other than me.”

Asked what he would he do if he was chosen, he replied: “I shall pray a lot more.”

Anglicans believe the new Archbishop of Canterbury will be taking over at a crucial time in the church’s history, with divisions a possibility over issues such as homosexuality.

Bishop James has previously said that gay marriage would create “new minorities”, but approves of civil partnerships and believes it is impossible to mount a theological argument against women bishops.


Perhaps Bishop Graham James (+Norvic) may well be best qualified to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury – considering his reported reluctance to be considered for the up-coming post. Having been present in the historic Norwich Cathedral in the U.K. just 2 years ago when Bishop Graham presided at the Ordination of new Priests and Deacons for his diocese, I observed his dignified and yet cheerful conduct of the ceremony – in conjunction with other clergy, of whom I was privileged to be a Kiwi delegate.

The Diocese of Norwich seems to have contained both pro and anti-women factions, but at this Ordination one was able to observe the readiness of all to celebrate the bestowal of Holy Orders on both male and female candidates. So the Bishop is not against Women Clergy. Nor, I believe, is he in principle at least against Gay Clergy in his diocese.

On these grounds alone, I believe that he would probably make a pretty good next Archbishop of Canterbury Рif only for the interim period that some in the Church of England feel would be the best  alternative at the present time.

There is ample evidence of clerics in the Church not wanting to assume the onerous responsibilities of High Office. Those that have eventually been persuaded, seem to have been good for the Church. Maybe this is the sort of person God might just choose through the present membership of the Appointments Commission? Whatever the result of the selection process, our prayers are for God’s choice to prevail.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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