A report from the Church of England admitted the body that chooses bishops has sometimes misinterpreted the will of God and made “unworthy” appointments.
The report, published by the church’s Theological Review Group, said that the Crown Nominations Commission has at times failed in its duty to discern the will of God and appointed “inadequate and unworthy” bishops who were “plainly unfit” to serve, according to The Times. The church ordered the report to review the commission, on which the church relies for discernment.
“Can our discernments of God’s purposes fail? Certainly, they can,” the report reads. “Inadequate, even unworthy bishops, have been appointed from time to time and sometimes God allows what appeared to be a perfectly wise discernment to be overtaken by events.”
The report clarified the commission’s failures in discernment do not prevent God’s care for the church or his blessing and that God continues to call the church to search to seek and interpret His will.
“But that does not prevent God caring either for the world or for the church, and his blessing does not depend upon our success in making the discernments he calls us to make,” the report adds. “He has preserved episcopal leadership as a blessing in the past even through periods when criteria were defective and some bishops were plainly unfit for their role. Yet he continues to call us to search for his will.”
The Theological Review Group did not specify which bishops had been plainly unfit for their positions, though some bishops have resigned or stepped back from their appointments. The Right Rev. Philip North stepped down as Bishop of Sheffield in 2017 after critics protested his appointment because he opposed the ordination of women. North currently serves as the Bishop of Burnley.
U.K. authorities sentenced the former Bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball, in October 2015 to two years and eight months in jail for abusing 18 teen boys and young adults, though he only served 16 months. The Archbishop of Canterbury also asked honorary assistant bishop George Carey to resign because of his role in protecting Ball.
The church also censured Lord Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury, for failing to deal adequately with Ball’s case.
The Theological Review Group began its work on the report in 2016 and completed it in fall 2017. The group’s report, while admitting past failures on the part of the Crown Nominations Commission, also asserted that the commissions’s work was necessary and that the process of discerning God’s will should continue as it has in the past — away from the public eye and under no strict procedure, so as to allow the members to follow God’s will.
Three lay members and three clergy sit on the commission, along with extra clergy from the diocese to which a bishop will be appointed. The commission creates a list of potential candidates and then, through the process of discernment, narrows the list down to a primary candidate and a backup candidate.
The commission then hands their final choices over for approval by the archbishop of Canterbury and the Queen.
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