Thursday, 1 May 2014

Bath & Wells: Church Commissioners lose their case

Updated again Tuesday morning

Press releases from Church House, Westminster:

New Bishop of Bath and Wells to live in cathedral city

Archbishops’ Council committee upholds objection to moving residence of Bishop of Bath and Wells

The Committee appointed by the Archbishops’ Council to hear an objection to a Church Commissioners’ decision to move the residence of the diocesan bishop of Bath and Wells has upheld this objection from the Bishop’s Council. This means that the the exchange of residence from the Palace in Wells to The Old Rectory in Croscombe will not now go ahead.

The committee, which met in Wells from 28-29 April, issued its ruling today, having considered the grounds of objection, and all relevant circumstances, to the Church Commissioners’ decision to move the residence.

It was for the Commissioners to satisfy the committee that the objection should not be upheld and the ruling today stated that the Commissioners failed to do so. “The Old Rectory cannot be considered as providing accommodation which is reasonably suitable as a residence for the Bishop, even on a temporary basis.”

But in its determination the Committee stated it did not accept that the relevant legislation required a presumption to be made in favour of the status quo - living in the Palace. It simply stressed that the overwhelming weight of evidence showed that it is necessary for the Bishop to live in the City of Wells in order to exercise his ministry effectively…

Joint statement on the housing of the Bishop of Bath and Wells and this can also be found here with the title: Bishop of Bath & Wells to live at the Bishop’s Palace

The Church Commissioners for England and the Diocese of Bath and Wells have today issued a joint statement following the publication of the decision of the committee of the Archbishops’ Council…

The full determination with reasons can be found here.


The Bishop’s Palace website had this:

An historical day; Church Commissioners’ decision to re-house Bishops of Bath & Wells overturned

The Palace Trust, who manage The Bishop’s Palace, is delighted with today’s news that the Archbishops’ Council have overturned the Church Commissioners’ decision to house the next Bishop of Bath & Wells outside of the Palace.

The decision made by the Church Commissioners in December 2013, was met with immediate public outcry and the subsequent development of Diocese opposition reaching question time in the House of Commons.

“The decision delivered today to allow the next Bishop of Bath & Wells to reside on site is very welcome” says Rosie Martin, Chief Executive of The Bishop’s Palace.

“This reversal of such a major decision is unheard of, it’s a first, and there is a palpable sense of excitement this afternoon at The Bishop’s Palace. We can now plan a very warm and very genuine welcome to Bishop Peter Hancock and his wife, Jane when they arrive in June at their new home; The Bishop’s Palace. We sincerely look forward to our on-going and future relationship with the Church Commissioners”…

The Telegraph has this report: Bishop restored to palace after downsizing debacle

Church of England officials are facing humiliation after controversial plans to stop a bishop living in the medieval palace occupied by his predecessors for centuries were overturned…

The Church Times has this: Joy in Wells as decision to move bishop is reversed

Law & Religion UK has Accommodating bishops and the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure 2009

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 5:36pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Sorted that for you:

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 6:17pm BST

As Maggie once said "Rejoice, Rejoice". Now we need to restore Dunelm to Auckland Castle and Carliol to Rose. Arise, ye Northern people, the people of Somerset have led the way, now let's see what the folk of Durham and Cumbria are made of!

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 1 May 2014 at 6:56pm BST

What now is the future for the Old Rectory, Croscombe which the report describes as "an attractive investment asset"?

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 2 May 2014 at 10:34am BST

I remember in the 1980s my grandfather, an early example of a non- churchgoing 'spiritual but not religious' type (he was born in 1907), complaining that 'these bishops live like little lords in their palaces, you know'. He lived on Woodland Road in Leicester, a street that looked rather like Coronation Street, in a tiny industrial revolution row house. It was very much a working class area and we were solidly working class, and even then there was a real sense that people who lived in huge palaces were - well - out of touch. Grandpa used to shake his head and say, 'a bit different from Jesus'.

I often hear concern here at TA that in the area of sexuality the C of E is out of touch. Well, what image do bishop's palaces give of how 'in touch' Jesus' disciples are? 'To see ourselves as others see us'.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Friday, 2 May 2014 at 1:17pm BST

Tim, while English Bishops are still seated in the House of Lords, they will need the dignity of appropriate domestic arrangements. Mind you, when Disestablishment comes - which it might do if the General Synod does not do right by Women Bishops - there could be changes in the offing.

I know what you're saying, though, Tim. Jesus did say: "I came not to be served but to serve."

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 5 May 2014 at 2:07am BST


1. A minority of English bishops sit in the House of Lords.

2. Do prospective members of the House of Lords have to pass a housing dignity test before they can be appointed?

3. Should we really be basing decisions about episcopal housing on this sort of criteria?

4. When a (supposed) requirement related to an anachronistic holdover from Christendom conflicts with a gospel value, which one should give way?

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Monday, 5 May 2014 at 9:05pm BST

Sad when its a problem for someone to answer the door .....

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 6 May 2014 at 11:48am BST

Tim, if I remember correctly, the Church Commissioners were proposing spending something crazy, like 900,000 GBPs for "appropriate housing." Meanwhile, the palace is already owned, operated, and maintained.

The Church Commissioners were not talking about the fine digs that Susannah found for the bishop (looked good to me). Either way, we are not talking about Jesus like accommodation.

I'm not taking a position, I'm just observing with great interest, as we don't have historic palaces for our bishops.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 6 May 2014 at 5:13pm BST
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