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When does the Holy Spirit get a look in?

25 April 2012


From the Bishop of Antsiranana

Sir, - In his interview with the Press Association, the Archbishop of Canterbury was asked whether he had a personal preference for his successor. "Yes - the person God wills." But the question that Simon Parke implicitly asks (Comment, 13 April) is: where is the space to listen to what God wants in the prescribed and technocratic appointments process that the Church of England has fallen into - certainly for parish clergy?


As someone who has been on both sides of the interview, I recog­nise that those who are called upon to decide the outcome are usually people who take their respons­ibilities seriously and prayer­fully - though I deplore the unprofession­alism of those senior clergy who sometimes speak inappropriately and cavalierly of their experiences.


The failure to weigh what Parke said suggests that the priority of the parish profile, or personal assump­tions about what is required, trumps other insights that might, conceivably, be God's. Those who are interviewed have the right to expect that they will get an open and sensitive hearing - even one that encourages the kind of frank­ness which helps the discernment process - and, yes, one that recognises the needs of introverts.


The present system is far from perfect, and not helped by loading the burden of such discernment on over-busy and probably weary shoulders.


When God does get a word in edgeways (such is my experience) it is often a subversive, counter-intuitive one. I rejoice that those of us who have been rejected more often than not, and who carry the pain of such rejection, nevertheless can and do flourish. "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" comes to mind.


Evêché Anglican
BP 278, 4 Rue Grandidier,
201 Antsiranana, Madagascar

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