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Thursday, 12 February 2009

A jar, an empty cupboard, and kissing the hand of the Queen

Synod spent some time exploring 'Legislative business' - on Suffragan sees and other ecclesiastical offices (appointing some bishops and others...).

Recent changes in how senior CofE appointments are made - and No 10 and the Crown's involvement in them - were being discussed. Apparently, during some vacancies, in effect the Crown gains some rights, only returned to bishops when they make their oaths of allegiance to the monarch - and, we were led to believe, kiss the hand of the Queen.

As the Crown no longer wants to claim the 'jar' during a vacancy, as Pete Hobson put it, the 'empty cupboard' is no longer really needed. Except that, without the legal framework of the cupboard that could otherwise be disposed of, there would be no meeting of the newly appointed bishops with the Supreme Governor of the CofE. Indeed, the whole framework of the established nature of the church might be at risk, apparently. Christina Baxter, who has spoken of disestablishement before, wondered if this was the only reason for keeping this bit of legislation, this empty cupboard.

The bishop of Guildford brought some interesting light to these peculiar proceedings. Indeed just last week he had been at the formal swearing of oaths of two new bishops. During this, the Queen takes the hand of the new bishop, and the 'Clerk of the Closet' holds a copy of the scriptures, which is what the new bishop kisses.

For the Queen to be fully aware of who the new bishops in her church are, and that new bishops have their primary focus on the scriptures - however quaintly demonstrated - both sound good principles to me; even if it is strange to keep an otherwise empty cupboard...

Alastair Cutting GS101

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