Row over appointment of Commons chaplain

The House of Commons is set to receive its first female chaplain after John Bercow, the Commons speaker, snubbed the Church of England’s choice for the role.

Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin has been appointed to the centuries-old position after three weeks of occasionally “bruising” behind the scenes discussions between Mr Bercow and the Dean of Westminster.

The 49-year-old Jamaican born vicar, whose views have been described as “left of centre”, has been ministering in a deprived inner city parish, and supports the homosexual ‘rights’ movement within the church.


Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, favoured the appointment of Canon Andrew Tremlett, but his choice was opposed by Mr Bercow.

A source close to Mr Bercow explained his opposition, saying: “We did not want yet another predictable, middle-aged, white man who is like a mini Archbishop of Canterbury.

“Many MPs went to the Chaplain for advice and comfort over the expenses affair or the Iraq War. They need someone they can talk to, not someone who can quote theological texts to them.”


By custom the Commons Chaplain also serves as the Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey and the Rector of St Margaret’s Church, the parliamentary church controlled by Westminster Abbey.

But Revd Hudson-Wilkin’s appointment has ended this link, and now Mr Tremlett will become both the Canon of St Margaret’s and the Sub-Dean at Westminster Abbey.

Critics have questioned the Speaker’s actions and Revd Hudson-Wilkin’s suitability for the role.


One senior parliamentarian said: “It is a tragic mistake for the Speaker to cut the ties with the Abbey.

“He seems to have done it on a whim because other people did not think Mrs Hudson-Wilkin was the best candidate.”

And a source within the Church of England said: “This is a shame. This post may seem to some like a historical anomaly but it has survived and it works.


“It would be better if it was not split in two. Modernising everything is not always a good thing. Sometimes it is the result of someone throwing their weight around.”

Revd Hudson-Wilkin has been widely tipped to become the Church of England’s first female Bishop if the Church’s stance on this issue changes.

She also intends to retain her current parish in Hackney, London.


Earlier this month it was revealed that the Church of England is planning to allow divorced clergy to become bishops for the first time.

However, the news was greeted with alarm by critics who described the move as “utterly unacceptable”.

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was in favour of relaxing the rules, but Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, is believed to have strongly opposed any change.

The Church of England currently has a ban on divorced clergy, and those married to divorcees, becoming bishops.