Church of England deadlock is a consequence of bureaucratisation
Despite attempts by the Church of England Communications Office to maintain an air of propriety and quash rumours of paralysis, it has rapidly become evident that the committee selected to choose the next Archbishop of Canterbury has failed to reach agreement on who should lead the Church of England and become Primus inter pares to the 80-million strong Worldwide Anglican Communion.
After three days of prayer and feasting (not a typo), it is now known that officials narrowed the field to three candidates, but could not agree on which two names to pass to the Prime Minister, or the order of preference of those two for the Supreme Governor to bestow her blessing. The Communications Office simply told us: ‘The work of the Commission continues. There will be no comment on any speculation about candidates or about the CNC's deliberations.’
A little terse, you may think, if not patronising and dismissive. You can’t ask 80 million Anglicans to pray fervently for the CNC, and then fob them off with a pompous sentence of secretive self-importance. Indeed, the lack of communication clarity only engenders speculation, which has gleaned that the CNC is deadlocked between the Bishop of Norwich Graham James; the Archbishop of York John Sentamu; and the Bishop of Durham Justin Welby.
And so the world mocks the Anglican paralysis, as members of other churches pontificate upon the superiority of selection by conclave (Roman Catholics), a blindfolded child (Copts) and the gathered church (Nonconformists). But consider...
His Grace has had an idea for appointing future Conservative prime ministers. Instead of enduring the expense and inconvenience of a plebiscite of the entire party membership, let us convene a committee of, say, around 16 – good men and true (and good women and true). Such a body needs to be chaired by someone competent, serious and respectable, for choosing a political leader is a weighty business. So let a semi-detached, interested body appoint the chairman directly. Being established and quasi-independent, and having once been considered the spiritual wing of the party, the Church of England would constitute such a body. And, since its leader occupies the historic Chair of St Augustine, let the Archbishop of Canterbury decide who shall chair this committee, which we shall call the Conservative Nominations Commission (CNC).
Let us imagine that a left-leaning, Gaurdian-reading Archbishop decides to appoint his trusty like-minded friend, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, formerly Bishop Richard of Oxford to the position of Chairman of the CNC. And since the position of British Prime Minister is of not inconsiderable importance to the entire Commonwealth of Nations – at least by virtue of his (or her) being the only Commonwealth head of government out of 54 to enjoy a weekly audience and free association with the Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – it is necessary for this committee to include a representative of that international body. So, to represent ‘Conservatives Abroad’ in (say) Australia, Canada, Cyprus, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, etc., etc, His Grace suggests drafting in Andrew RT Davies AM, Conservative Leader in the Welsh Assembly.
Next, we need a couple of senior and experienced politicians, for only they really understand the pressures of the job and appreciate the fundamental qualities required of the candidate. Since we already have an ‘independent’ lefty in the Chair, we really need a couple of known and experienced conservatives – perhaps one from each ‘wing’ of the party. His Grace suggests Lord Tebbit of Chingford and Kenneth Clarke MP. They should get along just nicely.
Next, we need we need a further six representatives from interested bodies, like CCHQ, the Party Board, MEPs and the 1922. His Grace suggests Mr Grant Shapps MP, the Lord Feldman, Ms Emma Pidding, Mr Graham Brady MP, Mr Peter Bone MP and Mr Daniel Hannan MEP.
And finally we need six representatives from the local associations, because we must remember that the Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party is also a constituency MP, with important parochial concerns and responsibilities. Some of these should be drawn from the Tory heartlands, and others from those Labour areas where the party never wins. His Grace suggests an association officer from three safe seats and three where there’s scarcely a Tory to be seen: Matthew Carrington (Kensington and Chelsea), Samantha Magnus (West Yorkshire CF), Cllr Robert McLean (Windsor), Neil Pearce (East Ham), Adam Marsden (Liverpool) and Joel James (Rhondda).
So, the full membership of the Conservative Nominations Commission, convened to appoint the next Conservative Prime Minister:
The Lord Harries of Pentregarth
Representing 'Conservatives Abroad' (esp. in the Commonwealth of Nations)
Andrew RT Davies AM, Conservative Leader in the Welsh Assembly
Representing the Conservative Party
The Rt Hon The Lord Tebbit of Chingford
The Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP
Representatives of interested and associated Conservative Organisations
Mr Grant Shapps MP
The Lord Feldman
Ms Emma Pidding
Mr Graham Brady MP
Mr Peter Bone MP
Mr Daniel Hannan MEP
Representatives of local associations
Mr Matthew Carrington (Kensington and Chelsea)
Miss Samantha Magnus (West Yorkshire CF)
Cllr Robert McLean (Windsor)
Mr Neil Pearce (East Ham)
Mr Adam Marsden (Liverpool)
Cllr Joel James (Rhondda)
Consider how long it would take such a committee to agree a candidate for Conservative prime minister (ie, arrive at a 2/3 majority). Administrative bureaucracy is as hindering to the discernment of spiritual leadership as it is to the advance of political democracy. The insistence upon gender and social equality and economic diversity in representation can only be ensured through closed-status centralisation, and that can only be implemented through the strengthening of bureaucracy. If public opinion is to be minimised, we are left with the authority of officialdom. And where there is competing strong-willed bureaucratic specialisation tugging in opposing directions, the governed are left in limbo.
Bureaucracy is a virtually indestructible system of domination: we see it increasingly in the politics of the nation state as well as in supranational governance like the European Union and the United Nations. It works only for those who know how to make it work. When experienced officials are infiltrated by inexperience and parochial-interest – as is the case with the CNC (actual and imagined) – the creation of stable, reliable and precise authority is less and less feasible. And when the bureaucracy also controls the means of communication between the government and the governed, its superiority – spiritual and political – is made absolute.
Here are the Members of CNC. The composition is, in His Grace’s humble opinion, absurd. Reflect on the imagined deliberations of the equally-absurd Conservative Nominations Commission, and be patient with the Crown Nominations Commission. They need prayer; not derision.
The Rt Hon the Lord Luce of Adur
Representing the Worldwide Anglican Communion
The Primate of The Church in Wales, the Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan
Representing the House of Bishops
The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Michael Perham
The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome
Canterbury Diocese’s Vacancy-in-See Committee representatives
The Rt Revd Trevor Willmott
The Revd Canon Clare Edwards
The Revd Canon Mark Roberts
Mr Raymond Harris
Mrs Caroline Spencer
Mr David Kemp
General Synod representatives
Mr Aiden Hargreaves-Smith (London)
Professor Glynn Harrison (Bristol)
Mrs Mary Johnston (London)
The Very Revd Andrew Nunn (Southwark)
The Revd Canon Peter Spiers (Liverpool)
The Revd Canon Glyn Webster (York)