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The Crown’s and Lord Chancellor’s rights of presentation to livings

by
25 July 2007

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From Mr Brian McHenry
Sir, — I was very surprised by your leader comment (20 July) arguing for the Crown to retain its role in respect of the Crown’s and Lord Chancellor’s livings and some cathedral canonries. Bishop Colin Buchanan provides the right riposte in the same edition when he says that “such deference to the secular authorities is breathtaking.”

  You cite in support of your position Augur Pierce’s 2003 submission to the effect that the Crown brings fresh ideas to the appointments process and helps prevent any trend towards a monochrome diocesan clergy.

  I ask, however:

1. Is the Church really incapable of bringing fresh ideas to the appointments process? I believe that there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

1. Is the Church really incapable of bringing fresh ideas to the appointments process? I believe that there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

2. Where is the evidence of a monochrome diocesan clergy? In my view, the clergy remain as diverse as ever in respect of tradition, personality, and experience. My current ordination course gives me no reason to fear a bland sameness in the future ranks of the clergy, either.

2. Where is the evidence of a monochrome diocesan clergy? In my view, the clergy remain as diverse as ever in respect of tradition, personality, and experience. My current ordination course gives me no reason to fear a bland sameness in the future ranks of the clergy, either.

  At last, the Church is going to be free completely to make its appointments free of State involvement. This can only be good news for the proclamation of the Good News. It would be very sad, if not pathetic, if the Church spurned the Government’s happy renunciation of its prerogatives.
BRIAN McHENRY
(Vice Chairman, House of Laity, General Synod, 2000-05)
21 Maude Road, London SE5 8NY

From Canon Brian Selvey
Sir, — As someone who has been appointed by the Crown to a living, I welcome the Green Paper The Governance of Britain, and share in Bishop Colin Buchanan’s dismay (Comment, 20 July) at the lack of enthusiasm by the Church for taking control of all appointments.

In these days when posts are advertised publicly, and parish representatives together with the bishop rightly take an active part in the appointment of a priest, Downing Street involvement is inappropriate. Crown patronage in livings could be transferred to trustees involving parish representatives and the bishop.

My own experience was far from satisfactory. I was approached by a suffragan bishop to see whether I was interested in going to a parish that had lapsed to the Crown because of the death of the diocesan bishop. I met the churchwardens privately, but was told that I could not meet the PCC. I said I would be willing to be considered for the living.

I heard nothing and went abroad for a fortnight’s holiday. Unknown to me, a letter arrived from Downing Street saying that if they did not hear from me in a specified few days the appointment would be announced. When my wife and I returned from holiday, even though I had told no one in the parish where I was vicar, the churchwardens and parishioners had read in the newspapers an announcement of my appointment even before I knew myself.

How can such a system be justified?
BRIAN SELVEY
Low Quietways
Borrowdale Road
Keswich CA12 5UP

From the Revd Richard Hibbert
Sir, — In regard to the report of the General Synod’s debate on Crown appointments (Synod, 13 July), may I clarify that in my speech I did not ask bishops “to adopt the best practices of modern human resources in lay appointments in their dioceses”.

I did, however, encourage bishops to adopt the best practices of modern human resources in appointments in their dioceses, especially using a lay person to advise them in this important world of search, interview, appointment, disappointment, and discipline.

This will also help bishops with the new clergy terms of service that are upon us.
RICHARD HIBBERT
Christ Church Vicarage
115 Denmark Street
Bedford MK40 3TJ

From the Revd Neil Patterson
Sir, — I was disappointed, but not surprised, to read Bishop Colin Buchanan peddling the myth much favoured by non-Anglican critics that the royal appointment of bishops is somehow a product of the Reformation.

Even if the legal situation altered then, English state involvement with episcopal office had begun when Augustine sought King Ethelbert’s permission to evangelise Kent, finding his wife’s prelatical chaplain already in place, and continued through the centuries, with controversy over how bishops were invested, but little doubt that kings and subsequent politicians had a rightful place in their selection, and indeed the right to instruct cathedral chapters to elect formally their candidates.

Perhaps when commentators accept as a premise that the establishment of the Church in England is coeval with the realm itself will it become clear that each of the thousand cuts by which it dies is another step towards the end of a Christian country.
NEIL PATTERSON
5 New Road Gardens
Cleobury Mortimer
DY14 8AW

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