Princes of the Church - Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Willams, Bishop of London Richard Chartres, and the Daily Telegraph - blog by Gurdur

 




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Princes of the Church - Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Willams, Bishop of London Richard Chartres, and the Daily Telegraph
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Posted 11-Sep-2011 at 03:57 PM (15:57) by Gurdur
Updated 12-Sep-2011 at 02:26 AM (02:26) by Gurdur

So there's a report out from Jonathan Wynne-Jones of the Daily Telegraph that floats the idea that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is allegedly preparing to resign next year, almost ten full years before his time as archbishop is up. In that article, it's also reported that the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, is allegedly "telling clergy [Rowan Williams] should give someone else a chance after nearly ten years in the post", and that "such a move could be beneficial for the Church, though the Bishop of London would also be one of the front-runners himself".

Immediately the reaction around the Anglican networks has been one of some dismay. Later no doubt there will be the usual denunciations of a mythically homogenous and evil "Media" (look, this is only Jonathan Wynne-Jones of the Telegraph; it doesn't help to obfuscate issues by blaming "the media"). There have alrready been various appeals not to speculate on the matter. Well, being an atheist gives me free licence to do so, so let me do it for you all. Some think it does no good to discuss such issues; I'll tell you bluntly not discussing them does far more harm.

Let's look at the report from Jonathan Wynne-Jones. He's from the Telegraph stable, but he has a different personal agenda from Damian Thompson. Wynne-Jones is the Religious Affairs and Media Correspondent of the Sunday version of the Telegraph, and tends to have a loose-cannon schtick; in comparison, Thompson, who is Editor of Telegraph Blogs and a leader writer, has a much more focused agenda of conservative Roman Catholicism, and when he does the Church of England (CofE), it's often enough with a sneer and anger that the Anglo-Catholics don't all desert the CofE and become good little Pope-obeying Roman Catholics. Wynne-Jones also does tend to well-base his reports, even if he doesn't make his sources clear, so it's not as if making up the Williams future resignation bit out of whole cloth is a strong possibility it isn't. But just what lies behind it? Now the Telegraph, with an overall schtick of defending conservatism against the supposed ravenous hordes of liberalism, does have something of an overall dislike of Rowan Williams, whom they may well see as a dangerous liberal, but again, this report is most unlikely to have been invented from scratch, and Wynne-Jones is by no means so stereotypical or kneejerky as others on the Telegraph.

Now the article only mentions five actual names Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Rowan Williams and Richard Chartres are the most pertinent. While John Sentamu (Archbishop of York) and George Carey (former Archbishop of Canterbury) are also mentioned, neither is really relevant to this discussion.

So exactly what are the most likely reasons for this report? In the article itself, it's mooted that "friends" of Williams are passing along the information that Williams would like to retire so as to give his successor enough time to prepare for the next Lambeth Conference (the summit of the leading clergy of the wider Anglican Commmunion, all the other Anglicans and Episcopalians around the world apart from the CofE which is only basically for England itself). Now it could well be true that friends of the Archbishop are passing along the word, and if they are in fact doing so, then the word has to be originally coming from Rowan Williams himself, and the permission or request to pass it on to chosen channels in the media has to come from him as well.

That's if it's really real friends. It's amazing how many people will pose as friends to give unsolicited advice which has far more to do with their own personal aims and agendas than with any genuine friendship. It's possible, for example, that "friends" actually, basically enemies are trying to put pressure on Rowan Williams to resign, so by floating the idea he wants to, they want to create a wave of expectations and demands that he should do so. It's possible, but one would expect Wynne-Jones not to be so easily fooled or used as a cat's-paw yet the possibility remains.

The article does specifically mention Richard Chartres as doing just that trying to put pressure on Williams to resign by rolling around the countryside telling any passing-by clergy who will stand still long enough that Williams should resign. Is the allegation about what Chartres is supposed to be saying plausible? Well, when we look at the rest of what Richard Chartres says, it seems only too plausible. Chartres as Bishop of London was long openly against the ordination of women overall, and is still very much against women bishops, and he now doesn't do any ordinations of clergy at all, leaving that to humbler peons. Chartres has openly threatened to invoke the "London Plan" a kind of scorched-earth fighting retreat or actual fightback when the first woman bishop gets consecrated into office.

Williams comes off looking like a ultra-liberal compared to Chartres in that respect, and given Chartres' open hostility, previously to the ordination of women, and now still to women bishops, then personal hostility to Williams would hardly be unsurprising. There is also a possible element of personal competition Chartres was floated as possible or even probable successor to Carey as archbishop for Canterbury archdiocese, only to lose out to Williams.

Richard Chartres is an anointed son of the English Establishment, the ruling-class, with a long career behind him of being a high-flyer, and today is the third-most senior bishop in the CofE - the Bishop of London ranks only just behind the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (the other two most senior bishops in the CofE are of the bishoprics of Durham and Winchester, but they rank lower than London). He's definitely not all bad at all - he is a very committed enviromentalist. The reasons for his personal opposition to women bishops are unknown to me.

Yet with his long career in the upper reaches of the establishment, and with his seniority in the clergy, his reported rolling around telling anyone who will listen that Williams should resign ("to give someone else a chance") is quite extraordinary. Such conduct can only be all too easily seen as grievously disloyal, and harmful to the Church of England, contributing all to much to the bitter factionalism so obviously present within the CofE.

As to how the formal choosing of whomever to be next Archbishop of Canterbury, that gets left up to the shadowy Crown Nominations Commission, who have for a long time allowed and/or caused themselves to be seen as alternating between the Anglo-Catholic and the Evangelical factions in choice for Canterbury. Yet the Crown Nominations Commission only pass along a shortlist to the British Prime Minister, and things can get unexpected at the last step George Carey, often seen as a disaster for the CofE, was personally chosen by then-prime-minister Margaret Thatcher, against recommendation.

So who gets to be likely for the archbishopric if Williams steps down? Well, Williams is seen as pro-forma representing the Anglo-Catholic faction, his being a patron of Affirming Catholicism, while his predecessor, Carey, was from the Evangelical camp. So the Crown Nominations Commission will most likely draw up a list of three people all from or plausibly attributable to the Evangelical part of the CofE, if they keep up the usual alternation. Chartres, as apparently another Anglo-Catholic, would not then be really in the running at all (though if I've got that one wrong, and he is actually seen as belonging to the Evangelical wing, then as third-most senior English bishop, he's well and truly in the running). Whoever does get chosen for the shortlist is likely to be made unexpectable and unpredictable, since the Crown Nominations Commission like to be seen as independent, but keep in mind there's also the chance of a surprise powerplay by David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, who seems determined to leave his own stamp hard on British society. One way or the other, princes of the church seem to be manoeuvring.



        


              

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  1. Old Comment
    What they really need is a woman at the helm! (Sadly not likely to happen any time soon!)
    Posted 11-Sep-2011 at 05:13 PM (17:13) by fragranceofgod fragranceofgod is offline
  2. Old Comment
    I am not convinced by Jonathan Wynne-Jones' story, which I suspect contains some elements of speculation or exaggeration. For instance the notion that Richard Chartres 'would have just as good a chance of becoming archbishop given his connection with the royal family, but the only problem is his opposition to women's ordination' seems improbable in this day and age. Chartres, by the way, does do ordinations - for instance he ordained several deacons, women included, on 2 July 2011. (There is a video of this on . The timing was very inconvenient - it was the day of Pride - but this was to do with the date of Petertide rather than intentional!)

    It is possible that others might be angling to become Archbishop of Canterbury, or at least to get Rowan Williams out of the way, but it is also possible that friends are trying to persuade him that - if he finds his position too stressful - he should not feel guilty if he decides to return to academia, a rather different matter. It is even possible that someone is trying to scupper Chartres' chances just in case Williams steps down early, by making him seem disloyal! I have no inside knowledge, but, like you, am wondering about the reasons behind the 'leak'. For instance, in July 2010, Wynne Jones broke the story 'Gay cleric in line to become bishop in Church of England', which helped to scupper Jeffrey John's chances.

    Savi Hensman
    Posted 11-Sep-2011 at 05:59 PM (17:59) by Unregistered
  3. Old Comment
    layanglicana's Avatar
    Tim, I agree with both you and fragranceofgod: if ++Rowan is to be replaced, a woman (any woman!) would stand the best chance of putting this particular train back on the tracks. Can either of you see any Tamworths flying past the window?

    That said, I first heard this rumour on the Twurch podcast of 13 August(28.35-31.40) and I expect it has been gossip in church circles for a while.

    So, fellow detectives, as someone has already asked, 'Who benefits from the rumour?' The finger points as you say to +Richard Chartres, who is studiously promoting the claims of ++John Sentamu, whose claim he probably regards as less good than his own. The bishops of Winchester and Durham are both new, and both were appointed without having previously been suffragan (junior) bishops. This probably rules them out of consideration this time round.
    The aim is presumably to achieve office by being dragged to the throne like the parliamentary Speaker, mumbling in sham modesty: 'Who, me?'

    You are right about the Church having traditionally alternated between evangelical and Anglo-Catholic, but I think this is not a watertight tradition. In the Twurch podcast, Peter Ould and Church Mouse talk about alternating conservative with [more radical] and in this sense Carey would be more conservative than Williams. As you say, one also has to bear in mind that the Prime Minister of the day is likely to be a Conservative.

    The Twurch podcast goes on to speculate about possible successors being +Nick Baines and +Mike Hill, currently in Bristol.

    Interesting times we live in...

    {PS I should make it clear that I wrote my comment without having seen Savi Hensman's. What she says is a useful corrective, particularly on the point of fact about his ordaining deacons}
    Posted 11-Sep-2011 at 06:11 PM (18:11) by layanglicana layanglicana is offline
    Updated 11-Sep-2011 at 07:31 PM (19:31) by layanglicana
  4. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Unregistered View Comment
    ... Chartres, by the way, does do ordinations - for instance he ordained several deacons, women included, ...
    Thanks for the correction, Savi!

    Quote:
    ... It is even possible that someone is trying to scupper Chartres' chances just in case Williams steps down early, by making him seem disloyal! I have no inside knowledge, but, like you, am wondering about the reasons behind the 'leak'. For instance, in July 2010, Wynne Jones broke the story 'Gay cleric in line to become bishop in Church of England', which helped to scupper Jeffrey John's chances.
    Savi Hensman
    Now this is something I should have thought of, and didn't; @TimothyJMoore raised much the same point as you did. But why on Earth would Jonathan Wynne-Jones be gunning for Richard Chartres? Or would someone be using Wynne-Jones to do that which would need a fair amount of manipulation to make sure the desired report was made in the desired way?
    Posted 11-Sep-2011 at 06:58 PM (18:58) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  5. Old Comment

    points of information

    Good evening all. Richard Chartres is not an evangelical, but a conservative Anglo-Catholic. As such he has no problem with ordaining women Deacons. It is the Priesthood that he will not allow his hands to admit them to. This is the task which he leaves to his fellow Bishops. He has established generally good relations with the evangelical parishes in his Diocese, and if RW was to resign soon, we would certainly see conservatives agitating for him to go to Canterbury. However his opposition to the ordination of women means he would have no chance whatsoever. In any case, both he and Sentamu are in their early 60s, and therefore it is very likely that neither will get a shout.

    I too think that the days of alternating the job between evangelicals and catholics are gone. Other criteria will be in play, although given the increasingly eccentric choices for recent Episcopal appointments, what those criteria will be is anyone's guess. Anybody who correctly predicts the next ABC at this stage is just plain lucky. Personally I feel quietly confident of making the shortlist at least.
    Posted 11-Sep-2011 at 10:41 PM (22:41) by Charlie Peer Charlie Peer is offline
  6. Old Comment
    And I should also have mentioned that David Cameron will have no say in the matter, since his predecessor Gordon effectively abdicated that power, very unwisely in my opinion.
    Posted 11-Sep-2011 at 11:14 PM (23:14) by Charlie Peer Charlie Peer is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Many thanks for the input, all!
    Posted 11-Sep-2011 at 11:20 PM (23:20) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  8. Old Comment
    I doubt that Jonathan Wynne-Jones himself would be gunning for Richard Chartres, but if someone told him that this was what Chartres said, he might think it newsworthy enough to report.

    Savi Hensman
    Posted 11-Sep-2011 at 11:48 PM (23:48) by Unregistered
  9. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Unregistered View Comment
    I doubt that Jonathan Wynne-Jones himself would be gunning for Richard Chartres, but if someone told him that this was what Chartres said, he might think it newsworthy enough to report.

    Savi Hensman
    In all likelihood he'ld probably want corroboration first, and not rely on only one informant. By the way, Savi, it's great to have you, Charlie Peer, @LayAnglicana and @fragranceofgod all commenting; I'm bloody grateful for the additional points of view (though I tend to mildly disagree with @fragranceofgod, since I think women are just as good at stuffing things up as men are, but a woman ABC certainly would be an interesting change and a great signal of change, and one day will happen).
    Posted 12-Sep-2011 at 12:20 AM (00:20) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
    Updated 12-Sep-2011 at 12:53 AM (00:53) by Gurdur
  10. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    By the way, I got a couple of really bloody nice tweets from Jonathan Wynne-Jones himself out of the blue (I hadn't tweeted him); I include the full correspondance below, because basically I am so bloody glad to see such conversation going on here as on this comment thread.


    In reply to @LayAnglicana's retweet of my tweet about my post:

    @JonWynneJones:
    @layanglicana @Gurdur nice piece. and thanks. some at telegraph aren't rowan fans, but I like to be objective + can't see a better ABC.

    Me in rather shocked reply (yes, I do get easily shocked to find anyone at all reading my posts):
    @Gurdur:
    Whoa. That's extraordinarily nice of you to tweet me like that -- many thanks indeed!

    @JonWynneJones again:
    @Gurdur not at all. Your piece was fair + insightful. nice change amid a lot of rubbish + knee-jerk reaction i've seen written


    @Gurdur again:
    @JonWynneJones That is really bloody decent of you to say so, and to an unknown newb like me. Greatly appreciated. Many thanks!
    Posted 12-Sep-2011 at 12:26 AM (00:26) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
    Updated 12-Sep-2011 at 12:50 AM (00:50) by Gurdur
  11. Old Comment
    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for an excellent and objective article.

    As for who might be a suitable successor, should Rowan move on, maybe we should look at one of Rowan's own suffragens, Bishop Graham Cray. He certainly comes from the Evangelical mould, but is someone very much from within the Greenbelt mould too, so maybe seen as a liberal evangelical (contradiction in terms?).

    Whoever gets it is on a hiding to nothing though. Rowan could never win when you have such divisive sides pulling in opposite directions. The conservative Anglo Catholics wanting us to go back to pre-Reformation ways and the ulta conservative Evangelicals, led by provinces in Africa and Asia, some of whom would probably like to see all gay people exhorcised or cast into the fiery pit! With such forces exerting their wills, how can any ABC be expected to pull it all together into a cohesive body again...if it ever was in the first place?

    I'm glad we've got someone "outside the structures" who can raise the points you do!

    Cheers

    Tad
    Posted 12-Sep-2011 at 12:51 AM (00:51) by Tad Eastman Tad Eastman is offline
  12. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Many thanks for your kind comments, Tad Eastman!

    I'm staying personally away from the question of who might be a successor (I simply don't have any of the necessary knowledge) - this blog post was all started off because I found Chartres' reported conduct so odd. I can easily imagine Rowan Williams having enough of the long slow crucifixion, though one tends to think he could have avoided much by being much more proactive and simply willing to inflict casualties on enemies. The Crown Committee do certainly seem to prefer moderates from both camps, and there are some liberal Evangelicals around, though they'ld probably be dismayed at the label.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tad Eastman View Comment
    .... Whoever gets it is on a hiding to nothing though. Rowan could never win when you have such divisive sides pulling in opposite directions. The conservative Anglo Catholics wanting us to go back to pre-Reformation ways and the ulta conservative Evangelicals, led by provinces in Africa and Asia, some of whom would probably like to see all gay people exhorcised or cast into the fiery pit!
    It is like watching gory slaughters in the Serengeti, isn't it? Or like the film The Ghost And The Darkness, you kinda wonder who gets nicked and eaten next. All part of the Glorious Tapestry Of Nature, red in tooth and claw, I guess.

    Quote:
    ... I'm glad we've got someone "outside the structures" who can raise the points you do!
    Thanks! As an atheist and all-round odd person, I'm so far outside the structures I'm in a different galaxy from them, hundreds of thousands of lightyears distanced.
    Posted 12-Sep-2011 at 01:07 AM (01:07) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  13. Old Comment

    Thanks, Tim

    Thanks, Tim for taking this story apart kindly and acurately. My worst dread is that the whole church now spends all the next year chasing its tail round and round in circles doing office politics and fantasy football.

    What I wonder speculatively is, if Rowan does plan to retire in a year's time, or whenever, what effect would it have just to say so? With everything up front there'd be nothing to speculate about and all the runners and riders in this P.G.Wodehouse stye choirboys handicap would just have to be that bit more honest about what's going on... perhaps?
    Posted 12-Sep-2011 at 02:41 PM (14:41) by Unregistered
  14. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar

    Thanks, Tim

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Unregistered View Comment
    ... What I wonder speculatively is, if Rowan does plan to retire in a year's time, or whenever, what effect would it have just to say so? With everything up front there'd be nothing to speculate about ...
    I cannot but agree with you. It strikes me as unnecessarily self-sabotaging, to float things this way; and yet, that so often has been the SOP. All quite sad, in a way.
    Posted 12-Sep-2011 at 06:33 PM (18:33) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  15. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Progress: The CofE but unofficial General Synod Blog has given a link to my blog post above in a blog post of their own.
    Posted 12-Sep-2011 at 06:35 PM (18:35) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
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