Thursday, 27 March 2014

Vicars or Bishops - some initial thinking

When I joined my current diocese there was a motion before the Diocesan Synod to abandon all sector ministry posts so that the money could be used 'where the need was'! This was one of those issues that drew a raggedy line between the two camps and left a few in the no man's land that appeared between them.

I, fortunately, didn't have anything to do with the discussion and watched with varying degrees of horror as slips (and prejudices) were displayed, often in the most unappealing and attractive of ways, leaving me dismayed and rather disappointed with the whole sorry episode. Since then I have seen the same awfulness inflicted on a number of occasions and on a number of issues (women in ministry, homosexuality, women with pointy hats - to name just three) and none of the three sides (for, against and 'who cares) have emerged unscathed or mentality secure!

But I digress, let us get back to the letter and the situation before us for in it I see a few interesting considerations:

i. There is a fair amount of duplication in that every diocese does the same thing. Is there potential for some of the core services to be amalgamated such that areas like personnel (which I'm told we must have because of Common Tenure) and many of the administrative and ministry areas to be removed to regional centres?

ii. Could we bring about the situation whereby those who are engaged in sector ministry might also be given a church to run too? Now this might be a bit of a challenge for those who find themselves out and about every week but some roles - Hmmm?

iii. What about reverse engineering it and making those who have jobs and are up to the task (and I mean 'up to' rather than desirous, for the church has many inept wannabees who seek positions  of power) sector minsters?

iv. It does seem odd that in an apparently constricting organisation the senior management is left in the ivory palaces whilst those on the high street are reduced. Surely the answer is fewer, smarter (that means able and called), pointyhats and more people out there growing the business and bringing in the money and the members (I apologise for the commercial tone of this - I do think we're a spiritual entity really!!!).

v. If a pointyhat really equates to four 'on the ground clergy' do we need to ask ourselves how many we need to function effectively (and where we need them). Now this is an emotive issue because like the military who have realised that despite 'the Few' and the Dambusters, there might be less case for an Air Force than some might think, feelings run high. But the questions need to be asked - don't they?

Now forty-four diocesan bishops makes sense on the grounds that we have (I assume) forty-four areas know as a diocese. The sixty-nine suffragan (or area) bishops make sense if they are all doing valid and effective ministry.


Has the time come to rethink the diocesan boundaries and structures and the way that they are services and supported?

Clergy are judged by many things I'm sure (so why does everyone, including 'Rev' assume it's merely about the ability to pay?) and as the apparent attitudes amongst some of 'train up, train out' policies as found in ministerial development reviews seem to make me feel I'm back in the City of London I wonder who assesses and rationalises/shapes those top layer of the Church.

Goodness me, what a challenging piece of writing that letter is - I've only splurged for ten minutes but my head is buzzing with questions, thoughts and confusions.

How you doing with it?


UKViewer said...

I still can't get my head around the need for area Bishops and three or four Arch Deacons in some dioceses?

Why not the Deaneries as the building block with full time, area deans reporting to the Diocesan, through one Arch Deacon?

A realignment of Diocese on County lines would make more sense, cease overlap and reduce the need for so many additional posts.

Large urban areas could operate on similar lines with Does London need two diocesans and 6 area bishops?

Sharing resources across dioceses is becoming more common. Take the example of Kent and Essex Polices which share Major Crime services, HR and work across operational boundaries when needed. Rochester and Canterbury dioceses share some services as well.

Off course, we could do away with some of the staff at Church House as well, why not a small central staff at Lambeth Palace. Somehow organisations seem to breed more and more need for people to work in them.

The flattened hierarchy has worked in business, why not across the management and administrative functions of the church?

Emma said...

Good article Vic but I don't understand what Sector Ministry is?

Vic Van Den Bergh said...


Sector ministry is people working in chaplaincies and the like - some think that when this is a diocesan appointment it should be binned or have a church added to the post. Some still think that (but fortunately - not all!).

Steve said...

Isn't this already starting to happen, in Yorkshire for example? The nature of the Church of England makes it very difficult, too. When they tried to rationalise the Ely-Peterborough boundary (which is daft at the moment) it was parishes who kicked off because it would have meant (for some) paying more money...

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Steve, I think it is - but I was asked what I thought and I think the issue is more interesting, and challenging, than the mere act of exchanging one for the other suggests. I also think we might be more creative in the way that we pooled roles. As for costing more - Duh!

Pooling some fixed base roles and establishing them into a centralised (regional rather than nation) location should bring about a saving (and that's a start).

Moving diocesan boundaries is always fraught with increased parish shares for some. Here we had a proposed move from on to the other until they realised we paid more parish share than them

That some can afford to pay more than others is a fact of life - that they don't want to is a state of mind