In a light-hearted exchange in the House of Commons, Michael Fabricant invited John Bercow to be the restored Archbishop of Lichfield on his retirement today in a Parliamentary debate on the rôle of the Church of England.
Michael first asked Dame Caroline Spelman MP, representing the Church Commissioners, about the workload of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. She replied: “The Archbishops of York and Canterbury have many duties in relation to the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Church of England, and the Archbishop of Canterbury is also the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, a global network numbering tens of millions of members. There is no doubt in my mind that both these men are both able and effective.”
Michael then said: “But both these men are overworked, Mr Speaker! Now my Right Honourable Friend, indeed the whole House, will be aware that 1,200 years ago, Archbishop Hygeberht, was the Archbishop of Lichfield. It seems to me Mr Speaker, that you could have a future role in your retirement, as the Archbishop for Lichfield” (Julian Lewis MP shouts out “Canterbury!”). Michael says “No! We want him in Lichfield! And then the hard work done by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, can be shared. We have that precedent – we want him now!”
Caroline Spelman: “Mr Speaker, fortunately I did have a little advance notice of the tenor of the Honourable Gentleman’s question! He’s absolutely right – for around 16 years between 787 and 803, there was an Archbishop of Lichfield. And this arose out of the fact that King Offa, in the Kingdom of Mercia, struck a deal with the Pope, requesting an archbishop to be named to serve in his Kingdom, but that deal involved sending an annual shipment of gold to the Pope for arms and supplying the lights in St Peter’s Church in Rome. So perhaps the Honourable Member for Lichfield might like to make a similar offer to the Archbishop of Canterbury!”
That offer was not forthcoming…….