Church of England

Archbishop’s political adviser role advertised exclusively in Guardian and Economist

In the continuous stream of church life, things occasionally niggle. Some are easily shaken off with the passing of time, but others recur like an irritating charismatic leitmotif, keeping alive a misguided quest for new wineskins when you’re really much happier just knocking back the old wine.

Most people don’t care that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s social and public affairs (ie political) adviser has got a new job in Geneva. He’s done a good job and obviously has to be replaced. And most people won’t care how that replacement is found, but… well, when you advertise the job exclusively in the Guardian and the Economist, aren’t you sending out a certain message?

Bear in mind that this is a principal advisory role to the Archbishop of Canterbury on social and public (ie political) affairs. Is it to be deduced that the preferred candidate shares the essential social and political outlook of those two journals? Why otherwise would the Church of England limit advertising the vacancy to them? Is it to sustain a certain liberal status quo which is incapable of reform? The question was put to Jack Palmer-White, the current holder of the post, and here’s how the conversation went:

There appears to be no apprehension at all in the mind of the Archbishop’s current social and political adviser that there is any potential social or political consequence of advertising for his replacement exclusively in socially-left-liberal journals. Yes, of course non-socialists scour the jobs pages of the left-wing media, but we are concerned here with probability and perception. If you advertise a vacancy in the socially-left-liberal media, it is highly probable that the majority of applicants will share that worldview, not least because the congregation is more likely to be imbibing the daily socialist bubbly and happen to stumble upon the exciting new career possibility. Moreover, the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan informed us. What message is the Church of England (and, indeed, Lambeth Palace) conveying to potential applicants when it advertises a vacancy through the lens of a particular media worldview? How might a Brexit-supporting Conservative perceive a job vacancy set in a context of liberal social biases and left-leaning political ideology?

The Guardian and Economist may not agree on matters of economics, but there’s not a hair’s breadth between them on social philosophy and preferred policy. Both are vehemently pro-EU, pro-free movement and in favour of high levels of immigration. Both also support same-sex marriage, a liberal abortion policy, the legalisation of drugs, assisted dying and the human rights agenda in general. They both share a belief in anthropogenic global warming and the need for mandatory coordinated intervention (with massive taxation). They also both disapprove of the Monarchy (and of monarchy in general). Essentially, they believe that there is nothing that should be socially restrictive; that people should be equal and free, and politics should be ‘progressive’.

All of which (with the exception of monarchy) pretty much coheres with the prevailing political orthodoxy in the Church of England, or with the preferred social gospel of the Bishops and most other clergy.

But this doesn’t seem to matter to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s current social and political adviser (who may very well be pro-EU, pro free movement, pro-same-sex marriage, etc., etc):

David Waddell works for BBC News, and obviously understands.

Perhaps the Church of England and Lambeth Palace have a penchant for a particular political disposition among its advisers?

We must hope (and pray) that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s next social and political adviser will understand probability and perception, and, indeed, grasp the practical reality that the broadest philosophical range of candidates is most likely to be drawn from a broad political range of media. The Church of England doesn’t need to go so far as advertising its future vacancies in the Daily Mail, of course, but if you balked at the very thought of Lambeth Palace being tarnished by Dacre, you grasp the point very well indeed.