From Canon Paul Oestreicher
Sir, - Let me welcome the Revd Nicholas Henderson (
Letters, 9 December) to the club: one day elected bishop, the next day
everything in the melting-pot.
The Dean of St Albans knows what that's like. So do I. In 1985, the diocesan
synod of Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, elected me as the next
bishop, to public acclaim. The Archbishop of New Zealand, who had persuaded me
to accept nomination, had just been made Governor-General, and was out of the
picture. By a majority vote, the other bishops refused to confirm the election.
As in the current circumstances in Malawi, it was the liberal or radical
theology of the elected nominee which was the real problem. In my case, the
formal grounds were my membership not of the Modern Churchpeople's Union, but
of the Society of Friends - even though both Archbishop Runcie and my own
bishop, Ronald Bowlby, had given their blessing to my joining the Quakers.
Mr Henderson's experience is an almost exact replay of mine. What we do not
know is how many times the liberality of a possible bishop has meant that his
name was not even put forward.
The situation is worse in what were once called the colonies. We failed to
export the comprehensiveness of the Church of England, which is now also under
threat at home. In England, controversial prophets have become bishops, and
have creatively rocked the superstructure of our boat.
It is much harder overseas. (South Africa is the outstanding exception.) The
Anglican provinces abroad tend to be more monochrome theologically and
socially, and our sister Church in the United States is rapidly breaking into
two such monochrome blocks.
I never felt a victim in these "shameful proceedings", and I hope Mr
Henderson does not, either. With no irony, I thanked those bishops who enabled
me to stay in England, my chosen home. There is, in any case, no greater honour
than our baptism.
What this experience reflects is the fear that many have of being challenged
- a fear that has put the Anglican Communion into turmoil, and placed an almost
intolerable burden on the Archbishop of Canterbury. We can only offer him our
critical solidarity and our continuing prayer.
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9RH
From the Bishop of Lincoln
Sir, - While, as president of the Modern Churchpeople's Union (MCU), I
welcome publicity that can serve only to boost our membership, I deeply regret
the hurt caused to the Revd Nick Henderson by this process of election and
Furthermore, the province of Central Africa has turned its back on the
ministry of a fine priest in good standing with the diocese of London. All who
feel strongly about the free exchange of theological ideas will be saddened by
this decision and the reasons given to justify it.
Bishop's House, Eastgate
Lincoln LN2 1QQ