Jeremy Fletcher's Blog

Replacing Bishops


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?