Thursday, 3 May 2012

Nolo episcopari

We congratulate Martin Warner on the announcement of his appointment to be Bishop of Chichester. I spare you the biographical details, except to say that although Dr Warner went to the wrong college, twice, he is nonetheless a man both grave and witty, and a holy and dedicated priest.

These are, we admit, unusual qualifications for the bench of bishops.
Perhaps we should regard this appointment as a Fresh Expression of Getting Preferment. Certainly the people of Chichester are fortunate to have been chosen for this experiment, although we are not sure it is likely to be repeated.

Our congratulations, however, are muted by disappointment that preferment did not come the way of Plumstead Rectory. The Diocese of Chichester is almost defined by anglo-catholicism, reaction and whimsy, and would suit us very well. Not only that, but my elderly grandmother lives in Sussex, and it would be convenient to be able to visit her: and the personal convenience of the clegy is, we know, the principle on which clergy appointments are usually made.

Has Dr Warner an elderly relative in Crowborough? If he has not, I have clearly been most unjustly discriminated against. 

And what we thought would clinch the matter is that I would be quite content to take the Tory whip in the House of Lords, which we suspect Dr Warner will not; although in these decadent days of the secret ballot (nasty foreign innovation) we cannot be sure of his vote.  My own vote, I can assure Mr Cameron (if he is reading this) has been quite reliably Conservative up to now, despite some pretty unsavoury offerings on our side at times.

It is no wonder that the Coalition is doing so badly when it fails to use its church patronage to boost its majority in this way. Picture the scene, as the Prime Minister, with his coat-tails over his arms, warming himself at the fire, receives the tweet "The Bishop of Chichester is retiring". Perhaps he forwards the message to Mr Clegg, but that gentleman has no supporters left to reward. 

What he then should have done is to ask the Chief Whip for a list of Tory clergymen from the key electoral areas of the North West. Instead he lets the CAC choose, and Dr Warner, interested only in "mission" and "service", is to be the man.

Disappointed, I trudged down to the polling station this morning for council and mayoral elections; one more voter lost to the Conservative Party. 

Surely some other party, I thought, will reward my zeal? But to my surprise not one candidate for Mayor of Liverpool is proposing to repay clerical support with ecclesiatical plums. Not only that, but no party at all is standing on a platform of defending the Church. There are plenty defending Christianity, and several more saying they will defend Christianity, but that is not the same thing at all. Christianity can look after itself: it is the Church that is going to the dogs, like the rest of the country.

With so few sympathetic in public life, I fear the House of Lords might be a strange and alien place. And now I learn that the income of the see of Chichester is very much cut down. You can blame the Liberals for that, too. Perhaps nolo episcopari after all.


  1. I'm pretty sure you've not been in Orders 10 years, which is, as I am sure you know, a minimum requirement for elevation to the episcopate.

    1. I didn't know that. Archdeacons and residentiary canons have to be six years in orders, by canons C21 & 22, and bishops have to be at least 30 years of age, by canon C2. Where is it made a requirement for bishops to be 10 years in orders?