The Church of England is "at a crisis point" and the new archbishop of Canterbury will have to take a firm grip of its machinery, according to the influential bishop of the centuries-old diocese of Chicester in southern England, Bishop Eric Kemp.
In a recent issue of his diocesan newsletter, the bishop expressed this view as a new turn in the speculation about who will succeed Archbishop Donald Coggan, who announced he will retire on Jan. 26 as spiritual leader of the world's 65 million Anglicans.
One possible successor, Archbishop Stuart Blanch of York, 61, said he does not want to be the next primate.
he possibility of an overseas candidate has also been raised. Archbishop Edward W. Scott, primate of All Canada, might be nominated to succeed Coggan. Other contenders include Bishop Graham Leonard of Truro, southwest England, and Bishop Robert Runcie of St. Albans, just north of London. Both are 57.
Bishop Kemp's article adds to the speculation. He writes that the task of choosing the new primate will not be easy for the new Crown Appointments Commission which will be nominating an archbishop for the first time.
There was a natural tendency to want a charismatic figure who could be compared with Pope John Paul II and Cardinal George Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster, Kemp says. Last year's Lambeth Conference, the development of the Anglican Consultative Council and the tensions caused by the ordination of women to the priesthood in certain provinces seemed to suggest the need for someone who would be primarily a leader of the Anglican Communion.
"I believe," wrote Kemp, "that we are at a crisis point in the Church of England, when it has to be decided whether the real leadership of the church is to be with the bishops, each representing his own diocese, or whether episcopal responsibility is to be submerged in control by a fast-developing ecclesiastical civil service in the Church Commissioners and the various departments of the General Synod."
Kemp does not deny that something like a civil service is needed by the church but that need emphasizes even more the importance of a firm and considered leadership by the bishops who alone are in the position of being able to control effectively that civil service, Kemp asserted.
But he warned that such firm and without an archbishop of Canterbury who was aware of the problem and determined to deal with it.