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Chair of St Augustine

Chair of St Augustine

[Updated 11 January below in italics]

There is no Archbishop of Canterbury. No, it’s not a loss of faith (like: there is no {spoiler alert} Tooth Fairy!). No, it’s not a denial of the validity of Anglican orders (as in: Rowan Williams cannot have been an archbishop because he is actually just a lay person in fancy dress). The seat is vacant.

Rowan Williams, 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, stepped down from the position on 31st December 2012.

If you thought the recent voting on women bishops in the Church of England “General Synod” (don’t ask exactly how it functions – it’s a sort of parliamentary committee) was ummmm… interesting. If you think that this decision of this parliamentary committee to have 26 members of Parliament be required to have a… ummm (what’s the family-friendly, polite word) Y chromosome… if you find that decision ummm… interesting. Or if you found the discussion about excluding the Church of England from even being able to have parishes opt in to blessing gay unions ummmm…. interesting. Or if you thought the recent decision to allow celibate gay men to be Church of England bishops ummm… interesting…

… then you will find it ummmm… interesting that, no, Justin Welby is not the Archbishop of Canterbury. In fact today, 10 January, the College of Canons of Canterbury will meet in the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral to “elect” Bishop Justin as the new Archbishop. They have now received the Congé d’Élire and Letter Missive from the Crown authorising this “election” to take place.

Someone else will have to tell us how the chapter votes: Do they do it electronically (I think that’s how the sort of parliamentary committee General Synod does it)? Do they do it by show of hands? Or by secret ballot (how many names are on the paper; or if it is one name, what happens if a majority cross it out and write another. Secretly)? Do they need a quorum? Or can one do a postal vote? Or do proxy votes count? When was the last person beheaded for not voting as authorised by the Crown?

Electing Archbishop of Canterbury

sealing of voting documents

Update 11 January: 35 members of the Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral processed through the cloisters of Canterbury to the fourteenth century Chapter House. They sang a hymn prayed and signed the paper with one nomination on it for the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. It was the only time in living memory that all Canons have been present. Canon David Richardson, flew in from Rome especially to be there and Prof Robin Gill from elsewhere in Europe.

The process originates from the Benedictine monks of Canterbury electing the Archbishop of Canterbury, and has had a rocky history which includes Thomas a Becket and Henry II, King John, the papacy in Rome, Henry VIII,…

The “Confirmation of Election” will take place on 4 February 2013 at the ecclesiastical Court of Arches sitting at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The Dean of Canterbury will report to a commission of senior diocesan bishops chaired by the Archbishop of York that Bishop Justin has been elected according to statute. The Archbishop of York, on behalf of his fellow bishops and the wider Church, will confer on Justin the “spiritualities” of the diocese of Canterbury.

On 21 March, after paying Homage to the Queen in his new role, Justin’s public ministry will be inaugurated in a ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral. Bishops from the whole Church of England, Primates of the wider Anglican Communion, and many ecumenical guests will be invited. The new Archbishop will be installed in two places in the Cathedral – the diocesan cathedra in the Cathedral Quire as the bishop of the diocese of Canterbury, and the Chair of St Augustine as Archbishop of Canterbury.

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