Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A Choice, Not a Northern Echo

Speculation is growing that the press, despite continual public washing of the Church of England’s appointments process, has no idea who is to be the next Bishop of Durham. Never fear: we at Plumstead Rectory are ready to show how to mount a rumour.

It is highly unlikely that the Bishops of Norwich, Leicester or Newcastle will move. As for the Bishop of Chester, we understand that Dr Forster’s translation has been blocked by the expenses department of the Church Commissioners. At 75 miles further from London, this would mean no pensions at all for the poor lower clergy.

Could it be the Dean of St Albans? Dr John would find Durham perhaps less cosmopolitan than, say, Manchester. And some believe that it is unlikely that an Anglo-Catholic would be promoted to what is the Church’s fourth most senior post at this stage.

Certainly Durham has an enviable tradition of decanal appointments, but precedence has gone in the past to the deans of Liverpool (who would be much missed, but he might – as is now traditional – leave his wife behind by way of compensation) and Lichfield.

Both deans went to the right college (at least, the one that matters in this context) but Dean Dorber gets extra points for his experience in the Diocese of Durham, and for not (as far as we know) being a Newcastle United supporter, which will count for a lot. Possibly as quondam colleagues they stitched it all up years ago at some Lichfield Granita, with Fr Wealands Bell in the role of a canonical Prince of Darkness.

The Lichfield-Liverpool Compact is not assured, however, with unconfirmed reports that Dr Sentamu is still hawking round the shop-soiled Rector of St Pancras, and that the Bishop of Fulham is getting restless after so long in his current post.

Of course, there are older and better precedents still (these are largely synonymous at Plumstead Rectory). The last Bishop of Durham to end up at Canterbury (Michael Ramsey) was succeeded by the Bishop of Croydon. Could the current occupant of that post be in line for preferment? Perhaps he and Dr Baker could take it as a job-share?

Scraping the barrel, you think? But with twenty or so episcopal vacancies (it is so hard to keep track) you ain’t, as modern people say, seen nothing yet. Perhaps the Archbishops have taken our previous thoughts to heart and are refusing to consecrate anybody. If so, it is high time to implement this further proposal, despite the sadness that a reduced cast of episcopal characters will cause for some of us.

In the meantime we can cast our net wider and invite a female observer-bishop to guard the spiritualities of Durham without causing offence to anybody. The Dean of York would seem the obvious person, and episcopal manual acts could be provided (in the event that any be needed) by the neighbouring bishop of Whitby Ripon Newcastle. Or by the Archbishop of the province himself.

This, no doubt, is the dastardly plan of that latter-day Wolsey. We approve most heartily. Dr Sentamu, over to you.

Note for editors: this post will be deleted tomorrow morning and replaced with one in which we correctly predict the announcement of the new Bishop of Durham and sing his praises. We were not born yesterday.

1 comment:

  1. Paul Butler has got the job. Current Southwell and Nottingham.