Following hard upon the unlikely appointment of ex-chancellor George Osborne as editor of the Evening Standard, and the slightly less unlikely appointment of arch-republican Pete Broadbent as Bishop of London, the Crown Nominations Commission has nominated the almost unlikeliest name of Michael Gove as the next Bishop of Sheffield.
“I am simply a Christian seeking to serve the world in a spirit of humility,” he said, on receiving the news. “Jesus Christ teaches that the first step in becoming a mature human being is to refuse to be a little god. I have now definitely stopped trying to be one,” he added. “Jesus came in the form of a servant, and so should we, and so henceforth shall I.”
Michael Gove is a devout Anglican and a committed Christian. This makes his nomination rather more promising than many of those currently in the House of Bishops. You may quibble that he isn’t ordained, but the above picture suggests that he may be so – certainly as much (if not more) as members of The Society believe that women may be so. In any case, ordination is simply not a requirement for priests and bishops in the Church of England: the Five Guiding Principles reiterate beyond doubt that Michael Gove may truly and lawfully hold the office of Bishop of Sheffield, while not actually being ordained a priest (or, indeed, being consecrated a bishop). Ever since the Henrican Reformation (aka Brexit I), Royal laymen (and, of course, women) have been able to be Head (or Supreme Governor) of the Church of England without being in holy orders: the next logical step was to widen access (“radical inclusion“) and share out the spiritual authority.
And unlike many of the current psalter of bishops, Michael Gove wears his faith on his sleeve and proclaims it in Parliament: “It’s because I am a Conservative I believe in the rule of law as the foundation stone of our civilisation. It’s because I’m a Conservative I believe that evil must be punished. But it’s also because I’m a Conservative and a Christian I believe in redemption,” he told MPs last year.
Importantly, he understands the nature of Anglican catholicity, which is by far the best type of Catholicism. He observed in the Times recently how Theresa May gave up crisps for Lent, making her “Britain’s first Catholic prime minister”. He continued:
An Anglo-Catholic rather than a Roman Catholic, but no less a Catholic for that. One of the many wonders of the Anglican Church is that it comprehends both those who think of themselves as definitively Protestant in the tradition of Thomas Cranmer and those who believe they are continuity Catholics practising a spirituality and believing in a theology that has passed down from St Augustine to Pusey and Keble. Theresa May’s father, Hubert Brasier, was a priest who very much subscribed to the latter tradition.
And he goes on to talk knowledgeably and intelligently about Roman Catholic social thought and the dangers of excessive individualism and oppressive statism. “It has its roots in the philosophy of Aquinas, borrows from the work of Aristotle and was revived for the industrial age by Pope Leo XIII with his encyclical De Rerum Novarum (Of Revolutionary Things) in 1891.” He is passionate about Christian virtue, the common good, the Reformation and Brexit II. He explains:
We pursued a global, maritime, buccaneering, individualistic, liberal destiny, the spirit of our capitalism was infused with a very Protestant ethic. Now that we are once more freeing ourselves from a conformist Continent to make our own way in the world the question of whether we need to be more radical to maximise opportunities or more cautious to reassure and protect is central to our politics. I can see the case for both. Which may not be very crusading. But I suspect it makes me genuinely Anglican.
The Crown Nominations Commission, which deliberates in secret, reached their decision to nominate Michael Gove late last night, just in time for Gogglebox. The Rev’d Kate Bottley is naturally disappointed not to have been selected, but she is holding out for London, where, as of midnight last night, it is a case of Sede vacante. But that is certainly no longer the case in Sheffield, where the Sede is now very much occupied by a Bible-believing Christian of impeccable integrity, intelligence, discernment and wit. God bless Michael Gove (and guard him from the illiberal-liberal, anti-conservtive, orthophobic mob).