[Episcopal News Service] With General Convention upon us and the Church of England General Synod just around the corner, our communities are asking crucial, weighty, and imperative questions, like:
How should we allocate our resources?
How should we interact with secular governments?
And who should be our next archbishop of Canterbury?
While the last of these questions will be decided in the Church of England, it is nonetheless worthwhile for all members of the Anglican Communion voice their opinion on this vital leadership role so that we grow in knowledge and awareness of how we want our church to be nurtured in the coming years.
Which is what I am doing today.
While Archbishop John Sentamu and Bishop Richard Chartres are currently the most talked about candidates for the titular head of the Anglican Communion, it has come to my attention that we have overlooked one of the brightest, most compelling voices of the modern church, one who would be an able, strong, and confident leader who could guide our communities with wisdom and grace in the years ahead.
So I would like to propose another candidate, an outsider certainly, but one who, I believe, would offer the kind of leadership necessary to move our church forward in its mission and ministry. My choice for the next archbishop of Canterbury:
Vicar Geraldine Granger of Dibley.
Or, to provide a catchy motto for her candidacy: VoD4ABC.
Now, dear canonically-aware readers, let me anticipate your critiques, as I can see you raising your hands in my mind’s eye, ready to object to my candidate: Geraldine Granger is a woman, you say. And since women can’t be bishops in the United Kingdom, it’s impossible for her to ascend to the post of archbishop.
Plus, she’s fictional.
These are, I admit, itsy bitsy problems, but not insurmountable ones. Forsooth: While the Church of England doesn’t have any women bishops, they simultaneously have no rules barring fictional bishops. That she is fictional, therefore, permits her to run for the post in a way that trumps the gender prohibition: As a fictional character, none of her physical attributes are real, thereby rendering her canonically indistinguishable from a male fictional character.
In other words, she’s fair game for ABC. So is the more recent Adam Smallbone from the BBC show “Rev.” —but I don’t think he’s quite as compelling candidate, though you may disagree with me.
(Also, if you are finding flaws in my logic, you’re taking things a bit too seriously.)
Anyway, now that we have gotten the heavy legalities out of the way, allow me to sway you, dear reader, with four reasons why Vicar Geraldine Granger is the finest, Grade-A choice to lead the Anglican Communion forward in these turbulent times:
1. She can navigate contentious communities: It is true that the Anglican Communion has experienced some tension and conflict over the previous decade. Geraldine Granger would, no doubt, be skilled at traversing such terrain. After all, the Vicar’s arrival in Dibley was not without dissension: David Horton—a wealthy member of the parish council (aka vestry) and district councillor for Dibley and Whitworth (aka politician)—vociferously disapproved of the Bishop appointing a woman as his community’s spiritual guide. Though he tried to remove her from her post, the vicar displayed no reactivity or indignation, humbly focusing instead on her calling as pastor, teacher, and evangelist for her community. By the end of her first week in Dibley, the vicar multiplied Sunday attendance by 1,750 percent, welcoming those of all racial, sexual, and educational orientations. The community emerged more cohesive—yet respectful of difference—and, most importantly, able to grow in their mission and ministry together. Not only, then, did the vicar show grace under fire, but she also proved herself to be an incredible evangelist, even in tendentious times.
2. She’s accustomed to media scrutiny: The archbishop of Canterbury is not only the leader the Anglican Communion but also the voice of the Anglican Communion. The archbishop must be comfortable in front of cameras, journalists, and microphones, gifted not only as a preacher but also as a media personality and giver-of-sound bites. The vicar has shown such savvy. Early in her tenure, the vicar allowed television cameras into St. Barnabas to film Songs of Praise, a BBC television series that explores the music and faith of communities throughout the United Kingdom. Later, she participated in a series of interviews with radio and print media to discuss her choice to be a female priest, which eventually led to the paparazzi smearing her reputation as well as the reputation of various members of her congregation. The vicar responded to the media hysteria with humility, acknowledging her imperfections while never abandoning the ideals of the faith she held dear. (Plus, she’s got the kind of name recognition that would inevitably lead the curious but un-churched to sit themselves in our pews.)
3. She guides her people well: As leader of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop must be adept at recognizing the many and varied gifts and cultures that make up our beloved denomination. Geraldine Granger has shown great skill in this regard. As Dibley’s vicar, she realized that every member of her congregation was unique, blessed by God, and because God loved them, she was called to do the same. As their leader, then, she tried to nurture their strengths so that they blossomed more fully into the people God intended for them to become. So, for instance, when Alice challenged Oxford-educated David Horton in the Village Quiz, the vicar recognized her intellectual gaps and crafted questions that empowered her, building on her strengths so that she gained confidence and felt more comfortable with the person God created her to be.
4. She understands the essence of Christian mission: Finally, the archbishop must be someone who understands the essence of our call as Christians: to work with God to bring about a new heaven and a new earth in which suffering and pain are no more. We work together to accomplish this goal through Jesus’ command to love God and our neighbor. Yet, what it means to love God and neighbor is complicated, and we don’t always agree on what it looks like in practice. Indeed, if the controversy about female and homosexual leaders or the controversy over our current budget has shown anything, it has shown that we are at times deeply divided on the best way to love God and neighbor. And yet, it is imperative that we not get distracted from that question of how to love well, because only by seeking shall we find, only by knocking shall the door be open to us. This is clearly a priority for the vicar as well. As she herself preached, we are called to consider, “the big things, issues like, well, how much you help those who need help, how much you love people and show your love to them.”
I am convinced that it will take a compelling, confident and compassionate leader to guide and pastor our communion. And though the Church of England may not be in a place right now to choose a “babe with a bob cut and a magnificent bosom,” as its titular head—nor will it likely choose a fictional character—perhaps we would do well to remember that we Christians are a people called to hope for a justice and peace that, with God’s help, will become our future. And while it’s tempting to say such a vision is unrealistic, that a new heaven and new earth is unattainable, we must continue to hope and work together, because that is our calling. That is what it means to be a Christ-follower.
So while there may be a multitude of practical reasons to invalidate the Vicster’s candidacy, we cannot forget that it is our call to advocate for those things that transform, even when they seem unlikely or unattainable, because unless we hope, unless we try, they will never be a reality.
And that, dear reader, may be the best reason of all to vote for the vicar: Because while her candidacy may seem unrealistic, her leadership would inevitably be transformative.
And that, I believe, makes it worth fighting for.
Note: To support Geraldine Granger’s candidacy for archbishop, visit the Vicster’s official candidacy page at: www.facebook.com/VoD4ABC
– The Rev. Danielle Tumminio lectures at Yale University and is the author of “God and Harry Potter at Yale.” She currently serves as an interim associate at St. Anne in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
Statements and opinions expressed in the articles and communications herein, are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Episcopal News Service or the Episcopal Church.