The Crown Nominations Commission, which will nominate Rowan Williams’ successor as Archbishop of Canterbury, leaks. Strategically. And at least one leading figure thinks the leak needs to be plugged before the next archbishop is selected.
In a letter to the Guardian, Dean Jeffrey John wrote:
In July 2010 someone on the CNC leaked to the press the fact that I was a shortlisted candidate for the See of Southwark. The archbishop of Canterbury set up an inquiry into the leak under Baroness Fritchie. This inquiry was never published, and was said to have been unable to reach a conclusion.
Colin Slee, the late dean of Southwark, who was a permanent member of the CNC, sent in a memorandum to the Fritchie inquiry about the conduct of the Southwark appointment, which was published last year after his death. In it he expressed his great distress at having been ostracised because he was regarded by many, including both archbishops, as the probable source of the leak. Colin made the point that to suspect him was ludicrous, since he strongly supported me for the Southwark post, and the obvious purpose of the leak was to stir up threats of reaction among hardline evangelicals and frighten the CNC out of appointing me.
Following Colin’s death and the publication of this memorandum, the journalist who received the leak was honourable enough to publish a statement that Colin was not his source. The archbishop of Canterbury set up the Fritchie inquiry with alacrity when it was suspected that Colin Slee was the leaking member of the CNC. It would be good to know that steps are being taken to identify the real culprit and ensure that he will not be involved in nominating the new archbishop or in any further appointments.
Matthew Taylor of the Guardian has a news story containing all of the relevant background. But the key piece of reporting was done 11 months ago by Jonathan Wynne Jones who received the leak in the first place.
It is not difficult to understand why Rowan Williams was upset that the story had leaked out, but there was great hypocrisy from some of those most upset by the disclosure, with one senior lay evangelical protesting just a little too much.
It seems that insiders in the Church of England know who the leaker, knows what his or her game is, but are unwilling to do anything about it.