THE next Archbishop of York should be a person of spirituality and theology, be close to the people of the diocese, and continue the work of the present incumbent towards the regeneration of the north, people attending a public consultation this week to discuss the succession said.
Some commentators have suggested that the retirement in June next year of Dr Sentamu (News, 5 October) would be an opportunity to promote a woman to the second most senior position in the Church of England. Among the group of 13 who braved a wet and cold Monday evening to attend the meeting in York, however, there was no opinion either way. Nor were they exercised about the possibility of the successor’s being an LGBTQ person, or someone from an ethnic minority.
One of the group, Mike Stallybrass, a member of the General Synod’s House of Laity and the Archbishops’ Council, drew general approval when he said: “We need someone of spirituality who is open to God’s direction; we are not concerned by political correctness.” He continued: “This country is in turmoil at the moment, and we need a person capable of facing challenges we have not even considered yet.”
The meeting was the latest in a series in which the public were invited to comment on the needs of the position and the qualities required of the next Primate of York. The Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary, Edward Chaplin, and the Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments, Caroline Boddington, began by explaining the appointment process.
The public’s views will form part of a consultation both in and outside the Church which the Crown Nominations Commission will use to draw up a list of candidates, and then, in the autumn, recommend one individual to the Prime Minister to submit to the Queen.
The meeting was chaired by the secretary to the vacancy-in-see Committee, Peter Warry, who asked the audience to address five questions:
What are the issues with which a new Archbishop should usefully engage at diocesan, regional, national, and international levels?
What qualities, skills, or leadership characteristics in Archbishop Sentamu’s ministry have helped you to grow in faith and/or express that faith in day to day life?
What qualities, skills, or leadership characteristics will his successor require so that church and community life can be helped to flourish?
What particular characteristics, qualities, or skills will the new Archbishop need to fulfil the diocesan responsibilities, given the regional, national, and international aspects of the role?
Are there any other important points that you would like the Vacancy in See Committee to know?
A former Canon of York Minster and retired Rural Dean of Easingwold, the Revd John Harrison, said that they needed an Archbishop who could delegate, as the diocese was too large and diverse to manage. He agreed with a woman in the audience who said that the next Archbishop should be “a man of the people” who people could talk and relate to. He or she should also have sense of humour.
Canon Harrison recalled a question raised about a previous archbishop: “Was he the sort or person who sent out a member of staff to buy his sausages, or a person who bought his own? We need someone who is approachable: a person who buys their own.”
After the meeting, Mr Warry admitted that he had been “a little underwhelmed” by the turnout, but that many people had chosen to give their opinions directly by letter or email.
“This time, we have had several hundred written or electronic submissions from individuals and groups. We have got a SurveyMonkey running online, and we have put a version of the questions to church schools and got a number of responses from children and youth groups.
“It is a fair cross-section; so, from that point of view, I am not disappointed. It would have been nice if there were more at the meeting, but, in terms of the overall process, I am satisfied.”