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Monday, 22 September 2014

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Carlisle's bishop helped choose new Archbishop of Canterbury

The Bishop of Carlisle has described how he helped “write the job description” for the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Decline: The Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome

The Right Rev James Newcome spoke to The Cumberland News after attending The Most Rev Justin Welby’s confirmation ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Monday.

“There were a lot of people there, which I was interested by, as mine was a rather smaller affair,” Bishop James said. “It was open to the public and I think quite a number of people came to it because they won’t have had invitations to the enthronement ceremony.”

The ceremony lasted about an hour and 25 minutes, with the legal procedures incorporated into a larger religious ceremony.

“There was a lot of bobbing around by people in breeches and wigs,” Bishop James laughed. “There was an element of Gilbert and Sullivan about the process – as the Archbishop of Canterbury himself commented before the service.

“Having said that, it was very dignified and it was quite moving. The fact that it was in a service of worship and in St Paul’s Cathedral with so many people there made it rather special.”

But the bishop admitted that the confirmation ceremony would pale into insignificance in comparison with the invitation-only “grand” enthronement ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral next month.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is leader of the 77-million strong Anglican community, and his role makes him one of the most powerful citizens in the country – only the Queen is superior.

Bishop James is proud to have played a key role in history because he was one of only two bishops who sat on the panel to choose the new religious figurehead.

“The first stage in the selection of a new diocesan bishop – of which the Archbishop of Canterbury is still one – is the crown nominations committee,” Bishop James said.

“That little group, made up of some clergy and some lay people, selects the new archbishop after going through lots of papers.

“On this group, there would normally be the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, representing the bishops. In this case, because it was for the Archbishop of Canterbury’s role and Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, was a potential candidate, they asked for bishops to volunteer.

“Every senior bishop was a potential candidate, but because I had no particular desire to be a candidate, I was happy to put myself forward.

“I was one of two bishops elected by all others to represent them.”

And the role of Cumbria’s most senior clergyman was not limited to choosing the right man for the job. Bishop James said that he and the committee were even responsible for partially writing the job description for their new boss.

“Much of it is indeed all about preaching the gospel and saying his prayers and those are standard regardless of who it is,” he added.

“Just at the moment, relations with the rest of the Anglican community around the world are pretty important, so we have suggested the Archbishop should spend some of his time developing good relationships with other Anglican leaders in other provinces of the world, such as Japan, Asia and Africa.”

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