Church considers removing bishops role from No. 10 Downing Street
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Fri Nov 16 01:14:53 EST 2001
Church considers removing bishops role from No 10 Downing Street
By Victoria Combe, Religion Correspondent
THE Prime Minister and the Queen would no longer have a role in
appointing bishops under reforms being considered by the Church of
A motion from Southwark diocese was debated by the General Synod
yesterday with a view to allowing the Church to choose its leaders
without interference from Downing Street. Senior churchmen argued that
the Church was "mature" enough to run its own affairs and should not be
tied by legislation dating back to the reign of Henry VIII.
The 1534 Ecclesiastical Appointments Act, which underpins the
establishment of the Church, gave power to the monarch instead of the
Pope to appoint bishops. After the intervention of the Archbishop of
Canterbury, Dr George Carey, Synod agreed to delay voting on the issue
until next summer. Dr Carey said he was "worried" that such an
important question, which affected the Church's relationship with the
State, was being decided without proper preparation.
At present the Crown Appointments Committee recommends two candidates
to the Prime Minister. He states his preference to the Queen, who makes
the appointment. The Church is already seeking to make the selection of
bishops less secretive and to allow churchgoers to recommend
candidates. The Bishop of Woolwich, the Rt Rev Colin Buchanan,
introduced the motion, saying that the Church needed "a transparent
"Are we to be free before God?" said the bishop. "Are we grown up? Or
do we still need a governmental, secular hand to take care of us?"
Southwark's background paper put before Synod on the proposed reform
said it was wrong for a secular Government to make decisions for a
"It is incomprehensible that the political leader of the State should
exercise patronage over the appointment of leaders of a Christian
Church," said the paper.
The Archbishop of Canterbury opposed the reforms. He said the system
worked well and in his 10 years as archbishop he had encountered only
one "collision" with Downing Street.
"At that time we had got in such a muddle and we needed the help of
outside," said Dr Carey, apparently referring to Mr Blair's rejection
of the names offered for Liverpool. In the end, the Rt Rev James Jones
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