16 March 2012
See also: Role of Archbishop of
Questions and answers
The responsibility for choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury
rests with the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC). Its task is to
submit the name of a preferred candidate (and a second appointable
candidate) to the Prime Minster who is constitutionally responsible
for tendering advice on the appointment to the Queen.
The membership of the CNC is prescribed in the Standing Orders
of the General Synod. When an Archbishop of Canterbury is to be
chosen there are 16 voting members
Chair (a lay person) - to be appointed by the Prime Minister
- A bishop
- to be elected by the House of Bishops
Archbishop of York or, if he chooses not to be a member of the CNC,
a further Bishop to be elected by the House of Bishops
representatives elected from the Diocese of Canterbury by their
Vacancy in See Committee
- The six
representatives (three clergy and three lay) elected by General
Synod to serve as members of the Commission for a five year
- A member
of the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion elected by the
Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.
In addition, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion,
the Prime Minister's Appointments Secretary and the Archbishops'
Secretary for Appointments are non-voting members of the
Before the Commission first meets there will be an extensive
consultation process to determine the needs of the diocese, the
Church of England and the Anglican Communion. This has several
diocesan Vacancy in See Committee will prepare a brief description
of the diocese and a statement setting out the desired profile of
the new Archbishop
Prime Minister's and Archbishops' Secretaries for Appointments will
conduct a wider consultation exercise to inform the Commission's
consideration of the needs of the mission of the wider Church of
England and the Anglican Communion.
The expectation is that the Commission will have an initial
meeting around the end of May to agree its process, which is likely
to continue over the summer. The number of meetings will be for the
Commission to determine. The process will among other things
of background material and results of the consultations, discussion
of the challenges for the next Archbishop and, in the light of
these, consideration of the personal qualities
Consideration of candidates
to identify the recommended candidate and a second appointable
candidate, whose names will go forward to the Prime Minister.
Since 2007 the agreed convention in relation to episcopal
appointments has been that the Prime Minister commends the name
preferred by the Commission to the Queen. The second name is
identified in case, for whatever reason, there is a change of
circumstances which means that the appointment of the CNC's
recommended candidate cannot proceed.
Once the Queen has approved the chosen candidate and he has
indicated a willingness to serve, 10 Downing St will announce the
name of the Archbishop-designate.
The College of Canons of Canterbury Cathedral formally elect the
new Archbishop of Canterbury.
The election is confirmed by a commission of diocesan bishops in
a legal ceremony (the Confirmation of Election), which confers the
office of Archbishop on him.
The new Archbishop does homage to Her Majesty.
The new Archbishop is formally enthroned in Canterbury
Further details on the nomination process for Diocesan Bishops
can be found
This includes the particular arrangements made for the See of
There are six principal aspects
to the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury:
The Archbishop is the Bishop of the Canterbury Diocese. He has
delegated much of his responsibility for the diocese to the Bishop
of Dover, who leads a senior staff team of the Dean, three
Archdeacons and the Diocesan Secretary. The Archbishop continues to
take a keen interest in the affairs of the diocese, attend staff
and other meetings, the annual residential staff meeting, and the
Archbishop's Council of the diocese when possible.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is also a Metropolitan, having
metropolitical jurisdiction throughout the 30 dioceses of the
Province of Canterbury. As such, he can conduct formal visitations
of those dioceses when necessary. Establishing close links with
bishops in his Province is an important part of his work and he
visits three dioceses each year. It is a Metropolitan's
responsibility to act as chief consecrator at the consecration of
new bishops, grant various permissions, licences and faculties,
appoint to parishes where the patron has failed to do so within the
prescribed time limits, act as Visitor of various institutions and
release, where appropriate, those who have taken religious
vows. He and the Archbishop of York are joint Presidents of
the General Synod. The Archbishop of Canterbury is Chairman and the
Archbishop of York Vice-Chairman of the House of Bishops and the
Crown Nominations Commission. Two Provincial Episcopal Visitors
report to the Archbishop in relation to the 163 parishes in the
southern province which have petitioned for extended episcopal care
under the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod.
As leader of the 'Church by Law Established' the Archbishop, in his
capacity as Primate of All England, is 'chaplain to the nation',
classically exemplified at a coronation. More routinely he has
regular audiences with the Queen and the Prime Minister, and is
frequently in touch with senior Ministers of State and with the
Leaders of Opposition Parties. In addition, both Archbishops and 24
other senior bishops have seats in the House of Lords.
The Archbishop is the Focus of Unity for the Anglican Communion. He
is convener and host of the Lambeth Conference, President of the
Anglican Consultative Council, and Chair of the Primates' meeting.
In these roles he travels extensively throughout the Anglican
Communion, visiting provinces and dioceses, and supporting and
encouraging the witness of the Church in very diverse contexts. As
primus inter pares among the bishops, he has a special concern for
those in episcopal ministry.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is, along with the Bishop of Rome
and the Ecumenical Patriarch, widely regarded as an international
spiritual leader, representing the Christian Church. On overseas
visits, a meeting with the Head of State is almost always a part of
the programme, as are meetings with other significant political
The Archbishop has a national and international ecumenical role;
nationally he is one of the Presidents of Churches Together in
England, who provide strategic guidance to ecumenical
The Archbishop takes the lead in relationships with members of
other faith communities both in this country and overseas,
reflecting the increasing significance of those communities for the
context in which the Church's mission and ministry take
Questions and answers
How does the Prime Minister select the Chair of the
The person must be an actual communicant lay member of the
Church of England. The Prime Minister may consult such persons as
he thinks fit before making the appointment. He is likely to be
looking for someone who will command the confidence of the Church
and the public, has a good understanding of the Church, good
chairmanship skills, insight and excellent judgment.
Given that the current central membership of the CNC
expires at the end of July, will they or subsequent central
membership consider the vacancy?
Standing Order 122 (e)(iv) provides that once the CNC has begun
its work in relation to a particular vacancy in see the elected
central members see the process through to its conclusion even if
it is not completed until after the end of their terms of office.
This Commission will have started its work on the Canterbury
vacancy some time before the end of July, so the responsibility
will fall to the existing six central members.
Who are the current members of the Crown Nominations
Commission elected from General Synod?
From the House of Laity:
Professor Glynn Harrison - Diocese of Bristol
Mrs Mary Johnston - Diocese of London
Mr Aiden Hargreaves-Smith - Diocese of London
From the House of Clergy:
The Very Revd Andrew Nunn - Diocese of Southwark
The Revd Canon Peter Spiers - Diocese of Liverpool
The Revd Canon Glyn Webster - Diocese of York
Who will be consulted in the "extensive consultation"
An announcement will be made in the church press inviting people
to write in with comments on the challenges of the role. In
addition, the Appointments Secretaries will consult with a wide
variety of people from church and public life including senior
church representatives, representatives from other Christian
denominations and representatives from the Anglican
Communion. Senior figures in other faiths, the secular world and
the life of the nation will also be invited to comment in the light
of the national significance of the role of the Archbishop.
Will the results of the consultations be made
The work of the Appointments Secretaries remains confidential to
the Commission and will inform their deliberations and
consideration of candidates. The Vacancy in See Committee of the
Diocese of Canterbury may choose whether or not to make their
Diocesan Statement of Needs public.
What is the election process for the primate chosen by
the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion?
It will be for the Anglican Communion Office to arrange this
under the oversight of the Chair of the Standing Committee of the
Communion (The Rt Revd James Tengatenga from the Province of
Central Africa). This will be the first time that a primate from
the Communion has been a member of a CNC (though the Secretary
General of the Communion was already a non-voting
How do people become candidates? Do they need to
Candidates for consideration are suggested by members of the
Commission. There will be an announcement in the church press which
will invite members of the public to submit the names of possible
candidates and this is made available to members of the Commission.
Names of possible candidates are also collected during the
consultation process. Candidates are not expected to apply.
Will candidates be interviewed?
Since 2010 CNCs have been piloting the use of interviews as part
of the discernment process for the nomination of bishops and have
found it a welcome addition to the discernment process.
How long will the process take?
The process is starting straightaway so that the new Archbishop
can be in office as soon as possible after the see becomes vacant
at the end of the year. The hope is that an announcement will be
possible in the autumn.
During any interregnum who will "hold the fort" in i)
the Church of England ii) the Southern Province iii) the Diocese of
Canterbury iv) the Anglican Communion?
The present Archbishop of Canterbury will be continuing to
carry out all his responsibilities until the end of 2012. During
any short interregnum thereafter, the Archbishop's responsibilities
in relation to the Church of England would fall to be exercised by
the Archbishop of York and in relation to the Diocese of Canterbury
by the Bishop of Dover. The Archbishop's responsibilities in the
Southern Province would be exercised in a variety of ways depending
on the function. It would be for the Secretary General of the
Anglican Communion and the Chair of its Standing Committee to
decide how any Anglican Communion business that could not await the
arrival of the new Archbishop should be handled.
Are all bishops from within the Anglican Communion
eligible for consideration as the next Archbishop of
Since the Archbishop of Canterbury is automatically a member of
the House of Lords he must, under the law of the land be a British,
Irish or Commonwealth citizen. The person chosen will be someone
whom the CNC considers to be best able to fulfil the full range of
responsibilities of the role, which, in addition to those
concerning the Anglican Communion include being Primate of All
England, Metropolitan for the Southern province and Diocesan Bishop
of Canterbury. There is, however, no rule which limits the CNC to
choosing someone who is currently holding an office in the Church
of England. Indeed Archbishop Rowan was serving in another province
of the Communion when nominated as Archbishop of Canterbury.
Could the next Archbishop of Canterbury be female if the
women bishops legislation passes in July?
The next Archbishop will be male, whatever happens in Synod this
July. Even if the legislation secures final approval then there are
several further steps that will have to occur before it can come
into force. It will be late 2013 or early 2014 before it is
possible for women to be appointed as bishops in the Church of
Will the Archbishop be made a life peer on
That is a matter for the Prime Minister.
Is the Archbishop leaving now so that he can speak out
more freely once liberated from the responsibilities of
He is leaving to take up an important academic role, which will
also give him more time than he currently has to write, as one of
the current generation's major theologians. Throughout his term of
office the Archbishop has, however, continued to speak and write
freely on a wide range of subjects.
How does he feel stepping down at this difficult stage
in the discussions on i) the Covenant and ii) Women
There is never an ideal moment to move on but by the end of this
year the Archbishop will have been a bishop for more than 20 years
and an Archbishop for more than thirteen years as well having held
his present office for a decade.