This week the Church of England unveiled proposals for a shake-up of its national governance structure in what critics have called “a coup by Archbishops to take control of everything”.
I won’t bore you with the details (you can read the full report here, headed-up by the anti-Brexit Bishop Nick Baines) but what stood out to me was the barely concealed aim of replacing the organic accountability of democracy with a sterile rule by a woke technocracy. One purpose of this is, inevitably, to increase ‘diversity’, but it’s not hard to see that the real agenda is to impose a woke uniformity of political ideology on a church already infamous for being led by a clerisy out of touch with ordinary churchgoers and the country as a whole.
At the heart of the takeover is the all-powerful Nominations Committee, which is tasked with establishing “a community of diverse, appropriately skilled and appropriately knowledgeable people from which panels would be convened to oversee appointments and ensure eligibility for election”. Anglican blogger Archbishop Cranmer puts his finger on the problem here.
Note “appropriately skilled”, “relevant knowledge”, “suitable to stand”, “talent pipeline”, and “appropriate.. behaviours”. It will fall to the Nominations Committee to ‘sift’ all applicants to all Church of England boards, committees and governing bodies. It will be for them to discern and define what is ‘appropriate’ and ‘relevant’, who is ‘suitable’ and has ‘talent’, and whether or not they manifest appropriate ‘behaviours’.
Has it not occurred to the Review Group that this Nominations Committee will have the power to create a church in its own image, and that the Chair of the Nominations Committee will have more executive power than the Archbishop of Canterbury? Or perhaps that’s the idea. It isn’t clear, however, which committee will ‘sift’ nominations to the Nominations Committee, but you can be sure that the process will be the antithesis of transparency and accountability.
He sees parallels with the notorious Cameroonian ‘A-list’ for Tory candidates:
Clause 200 is designed to be the safety valve, the check or balance on the abuse of power, but it is a bit of verbal chicanery. In what sense is pre-election ‘rigorous sifting’ not a negation of of [sic] democracy? If candidates may not emerge organically and appeal to their electorates directly, but instead may be weeded out by the Anglican Conclave compliance committee to ensure theological conformity and gender/ethnicity diversity, then democracy is indeed removed. The proposal apes the process adopted by the Conservative Party under David Cameron and his ‘A-list‘ for candidates, which caused such outrage among Party members with its social engineering of removal of democracy that it was eventually abolished – but not really: it is still very much in place to ensure the ‘right’ candidates are nominated to the ‘right’ seats, and are seen to be. But the Conservative Party’s Candidates Committee doesn’t operate with transparency and accountability. If it did, it would be subject to democracy, and that would hinder the political objective.
The Church of England’s ‘sifting’ people for the ‘talent pipeline’ is also a mechanism for seeming: to ensure the ‘right’ women and ethnic minorities are appointed to the ‘right’ boards, committees and governing bodies of the Church of England, in order that they might in turn select the ‘right’ candidates from the list ‘sifted’ by the Nominations Committee, who, you can be sure, will sift some more than others.
The report is clear that it regards democracy as an inadequate mechanism for ensuring sufficiently diverse governance.
In the Church of England, a significant number of appointments to governance bodies are made through the electoral process. In our view, this does not deliver what the Church needs from its governing bodies. …
The Church bodies which either elect or nominate people onto the Church of England’s governance bodies are themselves not very diverse bodies, meaning that the people they elect or nominate onto governance bodies tend not to supply the diversity which is one of the requirements of the Charity Commission’s Seven Principles of Governance.
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