How Not To Pick Your Successor

Great news for all those who tweet. The Daily Telegraph reports today that Twitter users are to be invited to help choose the next Archbishop of Canterbury:

Well, to clarify, it will not just be Twitter users. As the article states:

A spokesman for the Church of England said the invitation would be made through the church press but also through other media including the social networking site Twitter, where the CofE already posts news in nuggets of 140 characters or less. Tweeters and others will be asked to offer names and “views on the needs of the diocese of Canterbury and the wider community”.

I wonder if this is entirely wise.

Britain is known for not taking publicity stunts or requests for audience participation very seriously, as anyone from Vodafone ( to David Blaine ( can attest. In fact, such requests often degenerate into one-liner competitions, with users trying to out-humour one another in their facetious responses.

So if too much weight is assigned to the views of those who respond on Twitter, it is entirely possible that we will end up with Archbishop Billy Connolly or Pete Doherty. And maybe inadvertently canonise St. Amy Winehouse while we are at it.

On a more serious note though, I read this article and my first thought was how silly, for such a major world religion to effectively take nominations for the top job via Twitter. But then I read and recalled how the process works at the moment:

Having wrestled with the best way to choose a new leader, the Church of England has decided to use the social networking site Twitter. It will also seek the views of people of all faiths and none, from the Chief Rabbi to Professor Richard Dawkins.

For the first time in history, the long and usually private process will begin with a widespread public consultation, to be finished by the end of May.

The Crown Nominations Commission, which must present the Prime Minister with two possible successors to Dr Rowan Williams, will also ask for contributions from “senior figures in other faiths, the secular world and the life of the nation”.
[my emphasis in bold]

So yes. On reflection, compared to having the Prime Minister tossing a coin and choosing the next leader of the worldwide Anglican communion, asking for the opinions of a load of drunk Twitter users fresh back from the pub, people from rival faiths, an avowed atheist and Susan Boyle doesn’t sound like such a bad idea after all.

A democratic church, what a genuinely interesting concept. One that probably deserves a blog post all of its own.

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