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Changes proposed by Crown Appointments Commission Review Group

The Crown Appointments Commission Review Group, chaired by Baroness Perry of Southwark, has recommended changes aimed at ensuring the process of choosing the Church of England's diocesan bishops is seen to be open and transparent. It found no need nor any general demand to change the overall shape of the system, says the report Working with the Spirit: choosing diocesan bishops. The report has the authority only of the Review Group that produced it.

Evidence taken by the Review Group raised concerns about some aspects of how the appointments process works, combined with appreciation of the individuals appointed, of the quality of the Church of England's episcopate as a whole and of the Appointments Secretaries who run the system. As a result of the concerns, the Review Group concluded that, however fair, robust and effective the system, it was not demonstrably so.

The Group's recommendations include removing unnecessary secrecy, as distinct from proper confidentiality, to increase the transparency of the process. Clergy would, in future, know they were on a list of potential candidates for senior appointments, though it would not be made public. Regular review of clergy's ministry would ensure that potential for senior appointment was recognised and suitable clergy added to the list.

Those on the list would be able to check factual information available to the Commission, submit personal statements and name referees. This would improve both the quality and
quantity of information available to the Commission, the Review suggests. Clergy included on the final shortlist for a specific diocese would be given the opportunity to update information about themselves in light of the job and person specifications for the appointment.

Proposals recommend that more emphasis when considering vacancies be placed on the needs of the Church of England as a whole via a statement of needs written by the archbishops to be considered alongside the two documents about the needs of the diocese currently made available.

The report also proposes changing the name of the Crown Appointments Commission to the Episcopal Nominations Commission, reflecting the fact that the Crown nominates rather than appoints diocesan bishops and the Commission is not concerned with the majority of Crown appointments.

"We have concluded," the Review says, "that the overall shape of the Church of England's processes both for choosing diocesan bishops and for conferring the office on the person nominated is right. In each case, the process is one in which both the diocese and the wider Church need to be involved. We believe that if our recommendations are implemented, these processes will be more open, transparent, known and understood than is currently the case. This would enable all to play their proper part, working with the Holy Spirit, in choosing bishops for the Church of God."

Working with the Spirit: choosing diocesan bishops, which has the authority only of the Review Group that produced it, is published by Church House Publishing, price £7.95 and is available from all Christian bookshops and Church House Bookshop, 31 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BN, tel 020-7898 1300, fax 020-7898 1305, email bookshop@c-of-e.org.uk, web www.chbookshop.co.uk (mail order available).

WORKING WITH THE SPIRIT: CHOOSING DIOCESAN BISHOPS

9 May 2001

A statement by Lady Perry

Thank you for coming to hear about the report of the Review of the operation of the Crown Appointments Commission (CAC).

The Review Group asked itself whether (in the words of Sir Timothy Hoare quoted in paragraph 1.17) our system for choosing diocesan bishops is 'fair, thorough, representative and effective'. We received a great deal of evidence from many people, including past and present members of the CAC.

That evidence revealed widespread unease about important aspects of the operation of the system, and as a result we cannot say from the evidence which we received that there is general confidence that the system is demonstrably fair, robust and effective. It is important to stress that we are not saying that the system is unfair, weak or ineffective. What we are saying is that it needs to be seen to be fair, robust and effective, and that in order to increase confidence in it, the system must be made more open and transparent. We recommend a number of improvements to the system in order to achieve that.

In particular, the information available to the CAC needs to be consistent, more comprehensive  less selective  and needs to include input from those who are being considered.

The system should, we believe, be underpinned by a new Senior Appointments List (replacing the two lists of potential candidates which are currently kept). Although this would not be a public list, clergy would be told when their names were added or removed from the list and would be able to make representations if they felt that they were unfairly excluded from it. This would require sharper and more consistent use of episcopal review  the practice whereby the ministry of the clergy is regularly reviewed by and with the bishop or a member of his senior staff acting on his behalf. We believe that this would assist with the development of the clergy in general, and make it easier for their talents to be used appropriately.

In preparing our report we have given careful attention to developing practice in secular appointments (especially public appointments) tested against what the Church has received in Scripture and Tradition. At the same time, we have been conscious of the difference in context between many secular appointments and the discernment of vocations within the Church, in which those concerned seek to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and do not choose between people applying for a position.