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Frank Field’s comment on ‘talent’ among bishops

31 October 2014


From Mr Paul Sandham
Sir, - Your report "MPs vie to have woman bishop" (News, 24 October) contains an assertion, made in Parliament, that cannot go unchallenged. You say that Frank Field MP has suggested that, in 2012, "talent among bishops was 'at such a low ebb'" that the Crown Nominations Commission had to appoint an Archbishop of Canterbury "who had hardly got his bishop's cassock on".

Either Frank Field has a short memory or a distorted view of bishops' suitability. His remark is a slight to our present Primate and an insult to the broader bench. The Church had a handful of strong contenders, but the CNC selected an individual with a distinctively different background from his brother bishops'. Like all effective successional planners, the CNC had the foresight to transfer Justin Welby from the deanery of Liverpool to the see of Durham.

The brevity of his tenure at Durham was more because Magdalene College, Cambridge, moved in for Lord Williams, than because of CNC panic or an absence of alternatives.

I valued the Member for Birkenhead as a synodsman, like him as a writer, and admire him as a social reformer, but he is mistaken on this occasion.

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