Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Defending the White Cliffs of General Synod

Pete Broadbent was silenced recently by his boss the Bishop of London over his remarks about the royal couple. This time he is remarking about his Archbishop, after the Church of England General Synod members did not want the Bishop of Dover as the next Chair of the Business Committee, causing him to stand down. Bishop Broadbent writes in explanation:

Actually it was never intended that the 2 bishops should be considered as candidates for the post. In those days, the 2 bishops chaired the two major committees - education and ministry. We never thought that they should be candidates for chairing the business committee or the appointments committee - and they never have. With hindsight, we should have written that convention into the standing orders of Synod, but at the time it seemed so obvious that a bishop should not undertake these synodical roles that we didn't do so.

So are we to assume that Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, by wanting his nearby bishop in charge was making a power grab over who runs the business? After all, there is an Anglican Communion Covenant to discuss soon. Certainly, once the Bishop of Dover stood down, up got Rowan Williams. Again, says Pete Broadbent:

The Archbishop of Canterbury attempted, in a rather manipulative way, to chastise Synod for opposing his nomination. But of course the issues aren't about the personal - though they contain the personal.

Interesting observation by the Bishop of Willsden, that, for those who have pointed to the Archbishop of Canterbury's behaviour being manipulative - as when exposed by the notes of Colin Slee.

As regards what the Bishop of Dover had just said, Rowan Williams put members on the naughty step:

I think we've been quite properly embarrassed by what we've just heard - and so we should be.

Was this him being manipulative this time? I don't think so. I think it is that Rowan Williams spoke in precisely the opposite terms of being manipulative, as a form of manipulation. Machiavelli would be proud.

If it is the view of Synod that membership of the House of Bishops precludes someone from taking an office like this then Synod needs to say so, after a proper and open discussion.

As for the suitability of a bishop chairing the bsiness Committee, the Archbishop said:

I suggest to those who think it might be the case they should perhaps read the ordinal and remind themselves what bishops should be there for.

In other words, Rowan Williams has changed the assumption, himself. Just himself. On the bishop's perspective being not right for the running of Synod or the assumption that the House of Bishops or Presidents might habitually interfere:

...then again I would like that to be said openly rather than privately.

Openly and not privately! Hah! Who was it that silenced the report about the leaking of the selection process regarding the Bishop of Southwark? Which powers that be had tried to pin the blame on friends of Jeffrey John?

And on building trust within Synod:

I don't think that we build trust very effectively by acting on the assumption of suspicion.

What tosh. Bishops huddle together and meet in secret. This matters not a jot to the Archbishop, whose perspective is coloured purple. He surely knows that the Synod is a corrective to the men in purple, to give power across the ministers of laity and clergy too. But just like the Presidential address, just like the Covenant, it's all about bureaucracy and centralisation when it comes to the man at the top. Another reason why he is no 'liberal' - he is acting with suspicion. He wanted the Bishop of Dover to run the show because there is a Covenant to shove through. Perhaps General Synod will now grow some balls and chuck it out. More detail via Thinking Anglicans.

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