Replacing Bishops

November 9, 2010 § 3 Comments

The Dioceses Commission is doing an in depth study of the Yorkshire Dioceses, and will report in December. One of the bits of speculation is that Bradford Diocese might be amalgamated with, say, Ripon and Leeds. There’s a follow up to it, with links to the original article, here.

The reason to do the study is to see whether we can streamline things, save money, do mission better, etc. An analogy would be the Lincolnshire Police Force, which is getting rid of its internal divisions and stripping out some duplication of senior officers. The killer statistic in the C of E is that, in 100 years, the number of stipendiary priests has halved and the number of Bishops has tripled.

The resignation of three serving Bishops surely gives an opportunity to do some nifty footwork and save a post. The Bishop of Fulham is a suffragan, working across the Diocese of London among parishes and people opposed to women in priests orders. Quite a luxury for a single diocese to have someone like that.

And Fulham is within a Province which has two Bishops (Ebbsfleet and Richborough) whose only role is to minister among those opposed to women in priests orders. Now, the grand total of parishes who have made any kind of resolution about this kind of thing is just under 1000. Only 363 of those have petitioned for the oversight of a ‘flying bishop’ (figures are here).  A good number of those are in the Province of York, where the Bishop of Beverley looks after them.So the south has a lot of provision for the people who need it.

When you take into account that the temporary arrangements being made to care for the ‘resolution C’ parishes in the Province of Canterbury involve three current Bishops, two of whom are suffragans in southern dioceses, you have to wonder whether the two PEVs have to be immediately replaced, and whether there absolutely has to be another Fulham too.

Why not save at least one post? Why not designate the serving suffragans in Chichester and Exeter as acceptable Bishops for the resolutions parishes in their own and neighbouring dioceses. Have Fulham (if a Fulham there must be) to do the same not just for London but for other agreed dioceses. And have one PEV for the rest.

The whole of the C of E is looking to make staffing cuts. My own parish has lost a full time stipendiary post this year. Dioceses are looking to save, and Yorkshire Dioceses may well be given options to reorganise which will involve a reshaping of episcopal roles. So why not use this opportunity to reshape a particular kind of episcopal provision? Surely it can be done in such a way as to assure that constituency that they have a place in the future of the C of E? And surely that constituency would understand that it’s not personal?

§ 3 Responses to Replacing Bishops

  • Will Cookson says:

    Jeremy, The opportunities should be so much bigger than this. I was struck in the original press release by the CofE by this quote:
    “The Commission is embarking on its review work with an open mind and a willingness to think radically, as well as an awareness of the need to be realistic,”
    Classic Anglican quote, everyone bound to be disappointed!
    If the church keeps looking one post at a time then it may well miss the much bigger picture. I posted a couple of weeks ago an article about this and I think that the main opportunity is with the bureaucracies behind the dioceses.
    When Tom Butler retired earlier this year he told how when he came into the diocese the previous bishop had told him that there was nothing to do because of the area system!
    Due to changes in employment legislation I am sure that we will find it very difficult to reduce the overall numbers of bishops but we could change the type that they were (one bishop for London with 6 suffragan?)and therefore one bureaucracy or we could keep the bishops and merge back offices as some London councils are planning.
    There is so much more we could do in this area reducing some of the burden on the parishes.

  • Anthony Archer says:

    I am sure you are right. It was a nonsense to appoint a new Bishop of Portsmouth (although I was pleased for +Chris Foster)and it might have been thought that +David James would have been the last Bishop of Bradford, but he wasn’t. It’s all happening too slowly. They will come up with an area scheme for Yorkshire, and the next Bishop of Bradford (after the one whose identity we don’t yet know!) will be a suffragan, thus saving all the diocesan office machinery.

    But on PEVs it’s just too controversial at this juncture not to reappoint; and anyway the Act of Synod kind of says the archbishop must fill a vacancy.

    Interesting times.

  • Philip O'Reilly says:

    The problem with the Southern Province is the vast distances inopvolved. Under Jeremy’s proposal the poor remaiining PEV in the south would have to cover an area stretching right across the country from London northwards to the Provincial border. He would also have to deal simultaneously with over twenty diocesan bishop’s and their staff meetings.As welll as offering a ministry of encouragement and pastoral and sacramental care in each diocese.Only a moments reflection will tell us that more than one PEV must be appointed in the Southern Province unless an increased number of traditionalist bishops are appointed as a matter of urgency.

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