on Tuesday, 7 September 2021 at 12.08 pm by Peter Owen
categorised as Church of England
The Rt Revd Alison White is to retire as Bishop of Hull in February 2022. There are more details on the York diocesan website.
Bishop Alison’s impressive CV in the mission field sadly has not had any significant impact upon the Statistics for Mission for the area of Hull and the East Riding. There has been a significant retrenchment of the CofE here during her six years as the Bishop of Hull. I wonder if bishops ever reflect on their time and think that they failed or do they reframe it and think it would have been even worse without me at the helm.
As a vicar I wonder the same thing, but the decline around me has, generally speaking, been one that the parishes I serve have kept pace with.
A friend of mine, applying for a new job, was told by the suffragan Bishop interviewing him his application was unsuccessful due to his inability to illustrate growth in his present parish. Since then the diocese over which she partly presides is in serious decline. Time for her to go, I think.
A good leader hires people better than themselves – sounds like there were superior people to your friend!
Good leaders should know when they are being hypocrites.
“Time for her to go, I think”
With the frequency and ferociousness of your denouncements of others, perhaps we are left wondering who the hypocrite actually is?
Or maybe the bishop was just making an excuse because she preferred the look of someone else.
Yes of course we all question our role as the church dies around us, but surely the senior clergy ought to take ultimate responsibility for over promising and under delivering? Bishop Alison has spent the bulk of her career as a mission expert, and has been employed passing on her expertise in the subject to others.
I am possibly at the other end of the spectrum from Fr Dean, but what I hear is just a subjective assessment lacking in any rigour or accountability
Allan I think that the Statistics for Mission are as about as objective a criterion as you’re going to get.
Three comments if I may. I have worked with +Alison a number of times over the years in different contexts. She is a profoundly wise, pastoral and godly leader. I am grateful and wish her a blessed and long retirement. A bishop seeking to appoint to a parish who did not look for clear evidence that a candidate has the gifts required to enable churches to flourish and grow would be failing in their duty. The Church of England has been in steady numerical decline since the 1920’s. The reasons are complex and the solutions, so far, elusive. And here,… Read more »
I would suggest that part of the problem is defining the criteria that demonstrate a church has flourished and grown. Numerical growth is one thing, and tends to dominate the discussion. The ordinal describes a faithful ministry and should perhaps be used more by bishops in the appointment of clergy. Similarly the ordinal should be used by the clergy to assess the faithfulness and achievements of their bishops. If the write up that accompanies the appointment of a bishop is going to stress his or her expertise in a particular area of ministry or mission it is fair to comment… Read more »
Loren Mead, of the Alban Institute in the USA, identified four different kinds of growth that are important for parishes. I got these via Harold Percy (former director of the Wycliffe College Institute of Evangelism), so they may be redacted a bit from Loren’s original outline. Organic Growth – building a healthy church community. Maturational Growth – helping our members grow as disciples of Jesus Incarnational Growth – living out the life of Christ in our neighbourhood, in word and deed. Numerical Growth – adding new members to our congregation. Harold’s recommendation was that if we want church growth with… Read more »
David it is tough at the top, but a headteacher with poor results would be expected to do just that, an MD of a loss making firm is expected to do exactly that. However personable Bishop Alison is, she applied for a senior post and her CV on the York diocesan website makes much of her illustrious missionary work, nonetheless she hasn’t made any impact on the decline of the church in the city of Hull or here in the East Riding.
I often wonder if Archbishop Francis Wagstaffe and the Old Northern Catholic Church of the East Riding is doing any better than us Anglicans. I hope so.
I am in York Diocese and have heard nothing but good of Bp. Alison. But, as you say, the Church has been in steady numerical (and moral?) decline for a century, for multiple and complex reasons. It’s unreasonable to expect a bishop to turn that round in her/his patch in 6 years, as you say – but why is it then reasonable to expect parish clergy to turn it round in their patches? There are all kinds of reasons why a parish church may not grow, including population shifts, vandalism to parked cars, and unwelcoming congregations opposed to any kind… Read more »
An archdeacon now a bishop said to me that the principal reason people don’t go to church is those that do.
If someone were appointed in business or commerce on the basis of their claimed ability to produce growth, it would not be unreasonable to ask to see evidence of their success. If they failed, being “profoundly wise” is hardly a justification for subsequent decline. My friend’s inability to produce evidence for something that has proved elusive “since the 1920’s” is like the better-paid boss blaming her employee for not solving a problem for which she, herself, has no answer. No one expects a suffragan bishop in the north to turn around the CofE in 6 years. It is annoying when… Read more »
David, you’ve become something of an apologist for bishops and that’s understandable. As someone who is married to a bishop you no doubt see at first hand the spiritual labour and emotional burden of episcopal ministry. But I wonder if you are in danger of developing a blind spot about the wider issues ie what are bishops for and what is it that we expect them to do. You say that +Alison was wise, pastoral and godly. But as ‘just’ a suffragan, in the (gulp) ‘North’ for ‘only’ 6 years, it’s unreasonable to expect that her mission credentials could have… Read more »
Ah. Well if that is how I am being heard here I have to take it on the chin. But quite why my comments on the thread have triggered your observation I am not sure. I don’t need to be married at all to offer a commendation from my own direct, professional experience; make a surely common sense observation about clergy appointments, or, having taught church history, suggested the need for some historical perspective. And respectfully I hope.
Does this suggest that the north of England is the problem?
My comment, as a foreigner, would be this. If you are a parish priest wanting to lead your congregation into mission and growth, there are some well-trodden paths to help you do that. You will need patience and tenacity, the ability to get your parish leadership on side, a lot of prayer and (above all) a real gospel to proclaim. It’s not easy, and in some settings it might be impossible, but it has happened, more frequently than we might think. But I think it’s far more difficult for a bishop to make this happen in a diocese. You need… Read more »
Tim, I agree with you wholeheartedly, with one modification.
A bishop can either be supportive of the clergy, creating an environment where clergy are free (and encouraged) to nurture transformational growth in their parishes as they see appropriate given culture and context, or a bishop can create an environment where adherence to a particular program is more important than actually doing mission.
I was at the Vicar Factory in Durham when Bishop Alison was on the staff. Then – 20 years later – she became my Bishop and remained so for the next six and a half years, until retirement. The truth is that she was given an impossible brief, i.e. being made responsible for numerical growth across the Diocese of York, in addition to being the Bishop of Hull, which – in effect – is the Bishop of the East Riding of Yorkshire. This (the East Riding) is a diverse – mainly rural – area of over 900 square miles (larger… Read more »
Why should one expect a suffragan bishop to do MORE than her diocesan in the extension of God’s Kingdom in her/his episcopal area? When the Church herself fails to grasp the spiritual imagination of her flock – as the Church may possibly have done – e.g., in her struggle with a just and proper outcome for the lengthy process of “Living in Love and Faith” – individual bishops rarely have sufficient influence to turn the restrictive processes of institutional injustice around, to the point where society, once again, can recognise God at work in the Church? Faith is ‘caught’ more… Read more »
In what way, practically and, even more, theologically, is the church for comparing with commercial business practices as folk are doing here? And isn’t a quite frequent (and I think justified) concern expressed on TA precisely that the church is too in thrall to secular management approaches?
Businesses measure their success on their ability to “grow and flourish”. You said a bishop would be failing in their duty if they did not not seek evidence that someone could promote such expansion. If a bishop appoints only “employees” who can promote growth, it seems not unreasonable to suggest you are comparing a bishop as a manager who wishes to drum up more business.
Businesses measure their success in terms of profit and loss actually. That is very different.
Oh dear. The CofE has lost an awful number of members, thus reducing the revenue.
Are businesses so very different from the diocesan boards of finance? The equivalent of a business’s corporate social responsibility charter might be a diocese’s demonstrable effectiveness of ministry and mission, evaluated both qualitatively and quantitively, in its annual report. The value of DBF assets must always outweigh liabilities on its balance sheet, by maintaining a steady flow of liquidity generated from the parishes, and from historic endowments and glebe. The Commissioners are on hand to grant or loan funds to cover any unsustainable deficits or cash flow problems, in order to prevent liquidation. The stipendiary workforce (and retirees) may… Read more »
David, I think the commentary on TA about bishops tends to get stuck in a bit of a loop. Usual suspects: ‘Bishops! bah! boo! Away with the lot of them, including whichever one we are currently talking about because they are retiring or whatever’. Others: ‘Wait a moment, I know this bishop or have heard good things about them, they have the following gifts and qualities and are doing their best in our current adverse circumstances, therefore it is unkind and unfair to criticise bishops’. Neither of these approaches moves things forward very much. I don’t think many of us… Read more »
I’m not going to get into the question of how many bums bishops are putting on pews, because I imagine they are all pretty lamentable wherever – and whoever – they are. But… will Stephen Cottrell now do what his Ugandan-born predecessor failed (or refused?) to do and actively seek to appoint someone from an ethnic minority to his senior staff? The bishopric of Hull will be a tough call (we all know how places that have experienced relatively low levels of immigration tend to be the most xenophobic), but here is an opportunity to match his words with actions.
During his tenure as Bishop of Chelmsford
+ Stephen not only increased the number of Archdeacons from 4 to 7 but also appointed 2 ethnic Archdeacons one of whom became Bishop of Bradwell. So, he has a good track record in this regard and maybe the next Bishop of Hull may well turn out to be both female and ethnic. Time will tell.
Isn’t your depiction of attitudes of the people of the East Riding an example of the type of ‘Yorkshire caricature’ you criticize on another thread?
Its funny how we have gone from a bishop (who was outstanding, by the way) who has been slammed here for being rubbish at numerical growth and therefore a failure … to having a non-white/female successor.. who will presumably also now be the greatest evangelist in the North since David Watson or Paulinus.
How about we just say that Bishop Alison has been a fine and wonderfully pastoral bishop who has served well and faithfully?
How about we stop blaming bishops for everything?
Who said Bishop White has been “rubbish at numerical growth and therefore a failure”? That slur is a far cry from simply questioning church leaders who claim to have expertise in mission who can’t illustrate the supposed reason they were appointed.
The definition of ‘mission’ is not ‘bums on pews’
I agree. But the discussion here started with Statistics for Mission which is about numbers.
‘simply questioning’ does not really describe the language of some of the contributions here.
I think the more pertinent question is what are Anglican bishops for, or actually what are Church of England bishops for? We have a unique, historical, and now problematic parish system and Establishment to make sense of for today, and, even more difficult, to make sense of for tomorrow. Our Establishment privilege and responsibility makes ecumenism that bit harder. Our Heritage puts huge demands on the present custodians. Post-modernity or whatever we call it, delights in choice. Is there a secular image that helps us understand the tensions that bishops live with? The image in my mind is of a… Read more »
It was whilst Rt Revd Alison White was Bishop of Hull that the largest congregation in the area, St John, Newland, opted to leave the Church of England. I understand that it continues to prosper.
According to their website they are part of the Church of England and the diocese of York. Can you explain, please.
I think the congregation split. Thie section says it is part of the Anglican Mission in England..
The remaining section is still in the Diocese of York
I don’t see that Bp Alison can be blamed (as you imply) for an AME/Gafcon portion of a congregation splitting from a parish church and going their own way. Christ Church Newland’s own video explains they have left because the Church of England is failing to be ‘faithful’ to ‘the clear teaching of the Bible’ (i.e. their own interpretation). Bp Alison is hardly responsible for the direction of the whole Church of England.
I note that St Johns Newland livestream their Sunday worship, so I may join them tomorrow morning by way of support.
Janet, apologies if you did join the livestream to show your support (so kind!) that our wifi decided to be glitchy on Sunday and every so often jumped a few seconds
I am not a thinking Anglican (I was once an Anglican), but now a thinking Catholic, a Roman Catholic. Some of the things I have been reading on this page seem unkind to me. Via YouTube I saw and heard Bishop Alison deliver welcoming words to Fr Dominic Black on his arrival at Hull Minster almost two years ago. I was struck by her genuine, engagingly sincere and kind words of welcome to Fr Black. I do not know Bishop Alison in the sense that I have never met or spoken to her. Even so, I cannot relate to much… Read more »