Thinking Anglicans

Bishop of Oxford to retire in the autumn

John Pritchard, the Bishop of Oxford, has announce that he will retire on 31 October 2014: Bishop John announces his retirement.

My list of current and forthcoming vacancies in diocesan sees is here.

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Father DavidJohn RochEdward PrebbleAnthony ArcherFather Ron Smith Recent comment authors
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Father David
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Father David

With Bishop John announcing his retirement that makes eight dioceses currently vacant, almost one fifth of the total! Perhaps it is now time for more amalgamations in order to reduce this number, especially now that the pool of those papabile is so very shallow.

John Deacon
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John Deacon

Retiring at 66!! Makes you wonder if we need as many of the ‘pointy hats’, especially when there’s more and more priests on part time hours because we can’t afford to pay them.

Concerned Anglican
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Concerned Anglican

Yes, John Deacon indisputably we are top heavy, no pun intended, with bishops in the Church of England both diocesans and their various suffragans and assistants. In all the schemes for reduction in the number of clergy, there are almost never any commensurate reductions in the number of bishops. The new super diocese in the north is one example, the Diocese of Southwark another. Then we are still supporting the ‘flying’ bishops. In any other similarly staffed organisation there would be a cull of senior management. Still look on the bright side all of the bishops claim to be extraordinarily… Read more »

David Walker
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David Walker

I’m interested in these calls for fewer bishops. Alongside an implicit suggestion that “pointy hats” are per se a bad thing, the only argument put forward yet is about the ratio of bishops to full time stipendiary clergy. Even if bishops spent most of their time overseeing licensed ministry, which they don’t, reducing the latter to full time vicars would seem to be a fairly poor reflection on the increasingly rich and diverse pattern of ministry in the C of E, as would assuming the full time vicars “manage” the rest. A better question is whether removing an episcopal post… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

For years the debate in the Oxford diocese has been whether or not to have three counties within one diocese or split the diocese into three – Bucks, Berkshire and Oxon. as there are already three Area Bishops do we actually need to replace Bishop John? Surely one of the three Area Bishops could change his title and instead of being Bishop of Dorchester or Bishop of Reading, he could become Bishop of Oxford? I hesitate to suggest that the current arch liberal Bishop of Buckingham take the Oxon title ( if that were the case Soapy Sam would turn… Read more »

Jonathan Clark
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Jonathan Clark

Just one further point to add to David’s contribution. At the recent conference in Canterbury for ‘new’ bishops from across the Communion, the vast majority I met, from across the whole world, had far fewer congregations and clergy under their care than any CofE bishop. There may of course be good reasons why the number should be reduced, but international comparison is not one of them, I think.

Samuel Denyer
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Samuel Denyer

The Bishop of Oxford oversees 626 parishes (and obviously a smaller number of licensed ministers, but it’s still a lot). If comparisons to other industries are the order of the day, that is a bizarrely and impractically flat management structure, not a top heavy one. The comparison is skewed by the complex slicing and dicing of roles and responsibilities that are interleaved between diocesan bishop and parish: Area Bishops, Archdeacons, Area Deans, etc. To my mind it is a problem that there are too few diocesan bishops to have a meaningful pastoral relationship with their clergy. At a strategic level,… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
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Sorry, but if your bishops in the C of E are just area managers, then your theology of the threefold ministry is seriously skewed and you may as well go to some standard Protestant system with far more modest theological claims for what bishops are actually about (most of them cost less, too). I think we need to get back to the origins of the episcopacy – one of the college of presbyters becoming the lead pastor in what was essentially one extended congregation in a city and the surrounding region. I think that model needs to be revisited, and… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

Well written, Tim Chesterton, this Blog has had more than a few comments referring to modern day bishops as “company men” which to my way of thinking misses the point completely as to the real function of bishops within the Church, Bishop Walker’s comment about bishops exercising guidance over “strategic change” underlines just how much we have erred and strayed from the real and true function of bishops in the Early Church. The sooner we get back to the Scriptural understanding of what bishops do and what bishops are for then the sooner we start to grow again as a… Read more »

Tim Barker
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The number of archdeacons in the Diocese of Lincoln has indeed increased to three (reverting to the arrangements between 1933 and 1994). But the number of suffragan bishops has reduced from two to one and the archdeacons also carry diocese-wide responsibilities (discipleship, ministry and church buildings/parish operations) that might otherwise have required staff appointments.
The intention of this is simple: to strengthen and support the front line ministry of the parishes. And there is also a clear commitment to increase the number of stipendiary parish clergy.

Father David
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Father David

Thank you Tim for updating us on the current situation in the diocese of Lincoln. However, I think it rather unfair that Grantham is losing its Suffragan Bishop and Grimsby is retaining theirs. Would it not have been wise and thus avoid any north/south rivalry within the diocese to reject both Grantham and Grimsby and have a completely new title for the next Suffragan Bishop? A couple of suggestions spring immediately to mind. How about the Bishop of Boothby Graffoe or maybe the Bishop of Carlton Scroop. Or if the diocese is the first (as it is with regard to… Read more »

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

The CNC is taking the view (correctly) that it cannot consider women candidates for a diocesan see until the law is changed. Oxford joins at the back of the queue, and will be lucky to have its CNC meetings much before Easter 2015. However, it is now one of three dioceses that should be able to consider women candidates, the other two being Southwell and Nottingham and Gloucester. In a diocese like Oxford with a really strong area scheme, the inherent lack of episcopal experience will not be an issue. A woman priest with good pastoral experience and an affinity… Read more »

Commentator
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Commentator

I wonder that nobody has suggested that this gives the CNC a chance to right an historic injustice and offer the See to the man who was forced out of Reading.

Father David
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Father David

Well suggested Commentator, it would be good for Oxford to have an academic bishop and Jeffrey John fits the bill admirably. It would also warm the heart of John Pritchard’s immediate predecessor, who wanted Jeffrey John as one of his Area Bishops originally but then, all he’ll broke loose, especially among the Evangelicals within the Oxford diocese.

Richard
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Richard

As a “trad Catholic” within the diocese, I was saddened to hear the rumours of Bishop John’s early retirement confirmed. I hope that his successor won’t be appointed for any sort of tokenism. Indeed, I rather hope that the Bishop of Dorchester will be translated. Very few of my hopes come to fruition, though.

Father David
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Father David

Richard, it is very rare for a Suffragan or Area Bishop to be preferred in order to become Diocesan Bishop within the same diocese. I can think only of Penrith to the present Carlisle and Stepney to the present London.

Edward Prebble
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Edward Prebble

“A woman priest with good pastoral experience and an affinity with higher education would be excellent. Ideas on a postcard please!” Well, Anthony, while it would greatly upset my friends in the Waikato Diocese (and let me assure them, I am not really serious here), the CNC might like to look in the direction of Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley. She has deep Oxford roots and teaching experience in two theological colleges. By the time the CNC get around to considering the matter, she will have had over a year as Bishop of Waikato, or rather more than Justin Welby had in… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Edward (Prebble). You just leave Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley precisely where she is, thankyou. Here in Aotearoa/New Zealand her spiritual and tutorial gifts are truly appreciated. That is why ACANZP made her Bishop of Waikato.

On the other hand, Edward, you could offer yourself!

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

Thanks for the last six posts on this important aspect of the impending vacancy in the See of Oxford. I take a particular interest, as it was my privilege to be a central member of the CNC when the then Bishop of Jarrow was nominated, and what an excellent diocesan bishop he will have been. Forgive my prejudice as to the identity of his successor but, stating the obvious, the current Dean of St Albans is a man, as is the excellent Bishop of Dorchester, both papabile. It would not be fair to either the Diocese of Waikato or its… Read more »

Edward Prebble
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Edward Prebble

Ron, I am touched that you would consider it appropriate for moi to offer myself for Bishop of Oxford, but I possess few of the attributes that Anthony Archer was asking for. I am not a woman priest, and I have negligible experience in theological education. What is more, I am only three years younger than John Pritchard. Still, I suppose I do have a pretty fair pastoral experience, and I have visited Oxford on at least two occasions, so if the Spirit urges you to offer my name to the CNC, then (to quote Pope Francis in a different… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

I don’t think that our six CofE female Deans and our numerous formidable female Archdeacons would smile favourably upon a young bright antipodean diocesan becoming the Established Church’s NĂºmero Uno female episkopos; they all having born the burden of the heat of the day in the long struggle to break though the stained glass ceiling. Besides, the smile on Justin’s face during the now infamous wireless interview when asked to give a name is an indication that he knows exactly who she is going to be but he ain’t telling! As for Father Ron’s final suggestion to fill the impending… Read more »

Edward Prebble
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Edward Prebble

Fr David
May I in all humility offer my services as patron of your ABP campaign?

Father David
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Father David

Fr. Edward, as a result of your recent comment I hear by cancel my ABP campaign (all cheques and cash so far received will be non returnable) because of your great expression of humility. That’s exactly what we need more of on the English Bench – Humility. So hopefully you will now apply for the soon to be vacant Oxford diocese and I will set up a new campaign VFP (Vote For Prebble). Apparently in the interviews (that it should come to something as vulgar as this, that prospective candidates are interviewed for vacant bishoprics. Far rather the Coptic way… Read more »

John Roch
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John Roch

Fr David 14 April “. . it is very rare for a Suffragan or Area Bishop to be preferred in order to become Diocesan Bishop within the same diocese. “ It’s happened twice in Wakefield. Campbell Hone was the first Bp of Pontefract 1931 – 1938, then Bp of Wakefield 1938 – 1945. From 1931 to 1968, Bp of Pontefract was also Archdeacon of Pontefract. Eric Treacy held four of the five senior diocesan positions – he did not become Provost of the Cathedral: he was Archdeacon of Halifax 1949 – 1961, Bp of Pontefract (and also Archdeacon) 1961 –… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

John, I didn’t know about Campbell Hone but I did know of Eric Treacy’s elevation. I also knew that Bishop Walsham How was offered Durham but opted to stay at Wakefield (I wonder what he would think about the disappearance of his diocese?). Although many of those who followed Bishop Eric went on to serve in other dioceses. Colin James to Winchester, David Hope to London, then York and Nigel McCulloch to Manchester.