Obituary: ANTHONY JOHN SADLER

by
31 October 2014

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William Chapman writes:
ANTHONY SADLER, who died from cancer on 1 October, a day before his 76th birthday, was the Archbishops' Secretary for Appointments between 1996 and 2003. In this capacity, he served three Archbishops: George Carey, David Hope, and, more briefly, Rowan Williams. He was also secretary to the Crown Appointments Commission and of its successor body, the Crown Nominations Commission.

These posts are of considerable significance and influence in the Church of England. The holder provides key advice on senior appointments, both to the Archbishops, and to the House of Bishops generally. During Tony's time, no fewer than 26 diocesan bishops were appointed. His office also handled numerous other appointments, including those of suffragans.

Tony also worked to good effect behind the scenes, notably in the negotiation, with others, in connection with the deanery of Lincoln in 1997, and in working to expand and enhance the training offered to senior church leaders.

The post of Appointments Secretary calls for a number of attributes: tact, discretion, and good judgement; patience, but an ability quickly to get to the heart of things; occasional toughness, but consistent sensitivity to others. Possession of a thick skin, and a sense of humour, are also an advantage. The post-holder must ride above the politics of the Church, while navigating their twists and turns. He or she has to become used to the inevitable criticism of this or that appointment, from those who think a choice misguided and the secretary's fault. Tony brought to the task all these gifts, and more.

He had the endearing habit of marking the end of a round of diocesan consultations, on returning to the office, with a celebratory glass of sherry. Sometimes this may have been necessarily restorative, after consultations in which a higher than usual number of consultees had pinned a perhaps excessive importance to the next bishop's having a nice wife and children, and/or had repeated the somewhat threadbare "joke" that what was wanted was the archangel Gabriel.

Tony played a key part in the implementation of some important reforms, notably after the Perry review. He played a full part in the review, although he found painful some of the doubts wrongly cast on the integrity of the appointments process during the associated discussions, and he did not totally agree with the conclusions. None the less, he loyally ensured their implementation, once agreed.

He himself always respected the confidentiality of the process. He found the occasional leaks from the Commission and elsewhere dispiriting.

He was also responsible, with the Prime Minister's Secretary for Appointments, for co-ordinating the work leading to the appointment of a new Archbishop of Canterbury. This was notable, among other things, for a more extensive involvement than hitherto of leaders from the Anglican Communion. In many ways, he probably regarded this as the culmination of his work in the Church.

Tony was educated at Bedford School, and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He brought 30 years' experience in human-resources management to the Church, having served at senior levels in large businesses. He was awarded Companionship of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development for distinguished service to the Institute.

Tony also contributed to the wider community. In 1993, he chaired the successful Centenary Appeal for Southwark Welcare, which helped mothers and young children in need throughout Southwark diocese. He was invited by the Bar Council, in 2002, to be the lay member of a working party to respond to the Lord Chancellor's consultations on judicial appointments. He was churchwarden of St Luke's, Kew.

Tony took a proper pride in all his work. But, first and foremost, he saw himself as a servant of the Church, and, beyond that, of the communities which it served. He was always, and rightly, keen to keep the focus on the outward-facing nature of Church leadership. Upon his retirement, he was appointed CBE.

Tony retired to France, to the Île de Ré, with his wife Marie-José. She survives him, as do his three daughters. A memorial service will be held on Saturday 22 November, at 2.30 p.m., in St Anne's Church, Kew.

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