Candidates for the posts of bishop and archbishop in the Church of England will be given a test on ecclesiastical history – the first time such an exam has been set.
Even applicants for the role of Archbishop of Canterbury will be required to prove the depth of their knowledge. In a move towards the methods of the secular jobs market, episcopal vacancies will be announced in advertisements in the national press.
The General Synod, meeting at Church House, Westminster, decided yesterday that shortlisted candidates should be interviewed in the more conventional way before a vote is taken on who gets the job. Church leaders have taken the decision in reaction to public criticism that the way the Church appoints bishops is too secretive.
Under the current system, the dates and locations of commission meetings are kept secret and candidates do not know that they are being considered. Interviews for bishops were ruled out in reforms proposed last year by Baroness Perry of Southwark in her report, Working with the Spirit.
Opponents said it would be unfair to clergy to be called repeatedly to interviews, especially if they were not interested in the post.
The amendment demanding interviews was introduced by Rev Paul Collier, priest-in-charge of St Hugh, Bermondsey, London, and a member of the Crown Appointments Commission, the body that chooses diocesan bishops.
He said that people in all walks of life had to cope with failing to get jobs. "Senior clergy are robust enough to deal with this kind of disappointment, as are people in other walks of life."
The Rev Bernard Silverman, Professor of Statistics at Bristol University, said: "I have been interviewed for senior appointments. If interviews are conducted properly they are enormously informative and very helpful.
"The option of interviews is more than superficially attractive, I think it is essential."
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