The game is on. Journalists have started their game of speculating without reason on the internal workings of the mind of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The whistle has blown, the runners are lined up, and now we’ll get a race to see who can guess the best story. How exciting… er… or maybe not quite.

I thought the silly season had finished with the ending of the summer break. However, I was clearly wrong. But, the race they describe is the wrong one – the only ‘race’ is between the newspapers.

The media are running with the Telegraph’s speculative story about the retirement of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Despite the accurately vague language that is used in these reports, it is sadly inevitable that many people with think them credible. I don’t blame the writers for amusing themselves in this way, but the readers need to ask themselves a few questions.

Let’s start with the headline in the Times: “Bishops line up to don Williams’ robes”. Can someone tell us just how bishops ‘line up’? What’s the process? The facts are: (a) there isn’t one, (b) no bishops are interested in playing this sort of game, (c) bishops cannot put themselves in the frame even if they wanted to, and (d) bishops are usually too busy doing their work to bother with this stuff.

“Bishops are placing themselves under starter’s orders in the race to become next Archbishop of Canterbury”. Er… who and how? I understand the use of the metaphor, but it doesn’t work in this case. There is no race. There is no competition. There is no ‘finishing line’. The horses don’t know that they are running or where the jumps are that they didn’t know they were required to jump.

It simply doesn’t work like this. If any particular bishop was being considered, he probably wouldn’t know. He couldn’t influence the process anyway. Unlike some other Provinces of the Anglican Communion, there is no election to be fought, no lobbying to be done, no one to lobby and no ‘ultimate prize’. One newspaper report speaks of “some apparent jockeying for position among Dr Williams’ potential successors”. How would a potential successor actually do this ‘jockeying’? Just asking.

You’d have to be out of your mind to want to be Archbishop of Canterbury. My guess is that whoever is asked to do it next will have to be dragged to the seat.

Just read this in today’s Telegraph: “The Archbishop is thought to be under pressure from some senior colleagues to move aside…”. Er… ‘is thought’ by whom (other than the media who would like a good story)?

Anyway, all this speculation is based on another misleading use of language. Why would Rowan be ‘retiring early’ by leaving when he thinks it best for the Church to do so? The fact that any of us can go on until we reach 70 doesn’t mean we should – and most bishops don’t. There would be no sinister significance in the timing of a retirement.

I have no idea when Rowan thinks he might retire. I doubt if anyone else does. Journalists certainly don’t. We can all speculate, but that’s all it is.

And most of us have a life to live and work to do and will leave this media game (for, entertaining though it obviously is, that is all it is) to the media.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Oxford

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