Vacant Sees

The Church of England has announced dates in 2017 when the Crown Nominations Committee (CNC) will consider appointments to vacant sees – currently London, and Sodor and Man. Compared with the 13-day sede vacante before the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis I, the process in the Church of England is positively glacial, as the Diocese of Oxford knows to its cost.

The inauguration of the Rt Revd Dr Stephen Croft took place at Christ Church Cathedral on Friday 30 September, his predecessor, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, having retired almost two years earlier on 31 October 2014. Furthermore, although as Bishop of Sheffield he was one of the 21 Lords Spiritual under the former “Buggin’s Turn” arrangements, Bishop Stephen has yet to be introduced to the House of Lords as Bishop of Oxford.

Both Sodor & Man and London have an associated role in the secular legislature. Although the Isle of Man is not part of England, the diocese of Sodor and Man is a diocese of the Church of England and is part of the Province of York. The Bishop of Sodor and Man is an ex officio voting member of the Legislative Council of Tynwald, the Upper House of the Manx parliament, but is ineligible to be a Lord Spiritual.

As a holder of the “five ex officio sees” of Canterbury, York, Durham, London and Winchester the new Bishop of London will automatically receive Writs of Summons to attend the House of Lords, S5 Bishoprics Act 1878; such an appointment as Lord Spiritual is irrespective of gender, s1(5) Lords Spiritual (Women) Act 2015. In addition, the Bishop of London is ex officio Dean of HM Chapels Royal and is invariably appointed to the Privy Councillor (in addition to the two Archbishops).

Forthcoming vacant sees

The appointments process for diocesan bishops has been described in a guest post by Peter Owen; the corresponding procedures for suffragan bishops are here. The stages, from the announcement of the appointment to the installation of a new bishop, are covered here with particular reference to Bishop Stephen.

The Church announcement indicated that the CNC will meet on two days next year to consider the See of Sodor & Man: 7 February and 8 March; and three days have been set aside for the See of London: 27 September; 7 November 2017; and 29 November 2017. [The dates of 1 Nov 2016 and 28/29 Nov 2016 had already been set for consideration of the See of Sheffield, vacated by Bishop Stephen].

Whilst both of the current incumbents announced their intention to retire within a couple of days of one another, here and here, the effective dates are 11 November 2016 (Sodor and Man) and 2 February 2017 (London). Bishop Chartres’ last public engagement will be at Candlemas, 2 February, but Her Majesty the Queen has indicated that he should remain as Dean of HM Chapels Royal until the appointment of the 133rd Bishop of London.

Thinking Anglicans observes [emphasis added]:

“The current central members of the CNC were elected in 2012 for a five-year term of office which expires on 31 August 2017. It will therefore be their successors (to be elected by General Synod next year) who, with the archbishops and diocesan members, will choose the new bishop [of London].

As Bishop Chartres retires on 28 February 2017, the diocese of London can expect to be without a diocesan bishop for at least a year.”


The procedures involved in the nomination of bishops and archbishops tend to attract media and parliamentary attention when there is the likelihood of a substantial delay, such as the Church Times Editorial ‘At the limit of what is realistic’, 5 October 2012, following the failure of the Crown Nominations Commission to propose two names for a new Archbishop of Canterbury to the Prime Minister.

The Church has considered issues relating to the See of Canterbury in the Hurd Report, To Lead and to Serve (2001), and the second Mellows Report, Resourcing Archbishops, (2002); and with regard to diocesan bishops in Working with the Spirit: Choosing diocesan bishops (2001). In his guest post, Peter Owen noted:

“The main constraint on the timetable is the CNC. The Commission fixes dates for six pairs of meetings per year, and vacancies are generally allocated to these dates in order of their announcement.”

The Crown Nominations Commission is governed by Standing Orders 136-141 of the General Synod  and meets at least twice per Vacancy in See. In the case of London, 3 dates have been allocated in the later part of the 2017. The work load varies and 2015 was a particularly busy year for the Committee, with a total of six meetings to consider the Sees of Gloucester, Oxford, and Newcastle, before the end of July.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Vacant Sees" in Law & Religion UK, 6 October 2016,

6 thoughts on “Vacant Sees

  1. OK – so electing a Pope is fast (nowadays) but that’s the exception – the RC process for diocesan bishops is pretty slow – can match that of the CoE in cases.

    • Thanks. I should have been comparing like-with-like. However, the nomination of Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury was quite a lengthy process.

    • Or as Montgomery Campbell is reputed to have muttered on making his grand entrance for his enthronement at St Paul’s – where his predecessor, JWC Wand, had been installed as a residentiary canon – ‘Behold, the See giveth up its dead’.

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