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Whiff of scandal after surge of betting on new Anglican head

Did some Church of England insiders take advantage of their advance knowledge?

  • John Bingham
  • United Kingdom
  • November 9, 2012
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An MP raised the prospect of insider trading in the Church of England after a last minute flurry of bets with bookmakers on Justin Welby becoming Archbishop of Canterbury.

A string of bookmakers stopped taking money on the Bishop of Durham to succeed Dr Rowan Williams earlier this week after a sudden run of money on the favourite even before media reports that the decision was imminent.

It could suggest that figures within the Church decided to take advantage of information they had heard about the outcome of the long-running Crown Nominations Commission process to place a bet.

In a some cases, people with no previous history of betting opened new online accounts to place a wager on Bishop Welby.

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP and former Anglican priest, said it suggested “pretty shabby” behaviour and called for an overhaul of behind-closed-doors selection process.

“Then you would not have a situation where people know about the appointment and do this kind of insider trading,” he said.

A spokesman for Ladbrokes, which has already paid out to those who backed Bishop Welby ahead of the official announcement today, said there was no evidence of anything to “ring serious alarms bells”.

Graham Sharpe of William Hill joked that “nothing is sacred” after a run of last bets before the book was closed.

“There will come a point where, because of the nature of the beast, quite a lot of people have to be aware,” he said.

“If an appointment is to be made there is a lot of red tape and people to be told, it is just human nature that that information will go public but we accept it with good grace.”

News of Bishop Welby’s selection has delighted evangelicals and traditionalists.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury said the Crown Nominations Commission had “done its job faithfully and well”.

He added: “Nothing he has ever done before will have prepared him for this most challenging and exposed of positions, but he will never have a more wonderful opportunity to experience the amazing grace of God.”

It has also thrown the spotlight on the Holy Trinity Brompton the remarkable 5,000-strong congregation, in a well-heeled area of west London which is viewed as Bishop Welby’s effective spiritual home.

The church, of which he was a leading member before himself going into the ministry, has bucked the trend of dwindling congregations and helped revive struggling parishes across the country and beyond.

It now runs 10 Sunday services at three sites and has “planted” 15 other churches. But is best known as having invented the Alpha Course, the introduction to Christianity which has been followed by 19 million people worldwide.

Yet some in the Church of England are uncomfortable with the “HTB” style.

Members of the congregation practice speaking in tongues and it was the epicentre in Britain of the “Toronto Blessing”, the phenomenon in 1994 in which people began collapsing in religious ecstasy or laughing seemingly uncontrollably during worship.

Full Story: Claims of 'insider dealing' after run of bets on Justin Welby

Source: Telegraph
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