Thursday, 27 March 2014

Vicars or Bishops?

I've been passed a photocopy of a photocopy that someone has photocopied and it makes quite interesting reading as it contemplates the question of the most effective disbursement  of the churches' money. But I guess I'd best let you read it for yourself:

'The dispute over the residence for the new Bishop of Bath and Wells typifies much that is wrong with the senior management (if it can be described as such) of the Church of England. Crucially, no one seems to have asked if a new Bishop is even necessary.

According to the most recent Church Commissioners annual report, there are 44 diocesan and 69 suffragan bishops, costing £25 million a year. There doesn't seem to have been any significant reduction in their numbers since the mid-Eighties, despite the substantial fall in churchgoers. Conversely, the number of parochial clergy seems to be undergoing almost constant reduction.

The Commissioners support for bishops and cathedrals in 2012 was £34.9 million, while support for parishes was £42.5 million: arguably, far too much concentration on the 'chiefs' at the expense of the 'indians'. All these bishops incur office costs on top of diocese and support staff: why aren't these back office functions combined? What are all these bishops doing? Much of their duty seems to be administrative and can be done better at lower cost by people trained to such roles.

I'm a regular churchgoer and treasurer of my local church, which is served by a priest who has five other parishes. All Six have grade 1 listed church buildings with their attendant maintenance issues. The local communities over which the priest has responsibility for the cure souls are spread over 80 square miles, served by poorly maintained, unlit, narrow, rural roads.

Many churchgoers would gladly swap a couple of bishops for seven parochial clergy, which seems to be the exchange rate. A local priest, available and accessible to the community, is much more use than an occasional visit from a bishop who knows very little about local people and their lives.'

Michael Price, Burstwick, East Yorks

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