on Sunday, 13 December 2020 at 2.40 pm by Peter Owen
categorised as Church of England
The Rt Revd Christopher Foster announced today that he will retire as Bishop of Portsmouth in April 2021.
A lovely man – and another liberal disappearing from the bench.
The perfect opportunity to reunite the Diocese of Portsmouth with the Diocese of Winchester. Having just retired myself after 43 years in the ordained ministry I can thoroughly recommend it! I wish the Bishop of Portsmouth a long, healthy and happy retirement,
Good opportunity for the Dioceses Commission to get to work- Portsmouth Diocese small and not of long-standing; no huge Gothic pile of a cathedral . Best wishes to +Christopher.
Surprising comments given the broad theology of followers of this site (and comments on Jeffrey John). The mainly liberal catholic Portsmouth, with its openly gay Archdeacon Peter Leonard, has ample reason not to want to be swallowed up by the evangelical Diocese of Winchester. Take care what you wish for on the basis of what feels logical from a distance.
Putting aside questions of theological flavour, I would be interested to see what evidence there might be for the success (or otherwise) of the merger of dioceses – both the West Yorkshire dioceses, but also in other parts of the communion / other denominations. Of course, we might not even be clear about what qualifies as “success”! But it would be good to have some criteria to test whether such mergers are worthwhile, both generally and when applied to specific circumstances. If a merger were contemplated, I also wonder – people closer to the area might be able to shed… Read more »
Well, Winchester in the first quarter of the 20th century contained all of Guildford and all of Portsmouth and, not much earlier than then, parts of Southwark! My father was confirmed by the Bishop of Guildford when that bishopric was a Suffragan to Winchester. As to the logistics, or desirability, of these possible changes, those are matters, I suggest, in which the views of the good people of Portsmouth and of the Isle of Wight should be paramount. My impression (from Winchester!) is that Portsmouth is a happy place. Historically there is no connection with Chichester Diocese and ‘ease of… Read more »
Too true. Winchester used to contain all of Southwark, excepting those parishes which had been taken from Kent upon the formation of the county of London (1889), including North Woolwich on the Essex side. Another other ‘notional’ part of the Winchester diocese that lay outside Hampshire and Surrey was North and South Ambersham, an eight mile long strip of land running north-south to the east of Midhurst, which was a detached portion of the parish of Steep. In 1832 and 1844 the Ambershams were put into Sussex, and in 1913 North Ambersham was united with Fernhurst and South Ambersham with… Read more »
Further to the comments made about the future of the Portsmouth diocese, the best recent study on the origins of the current configuration of the Church in Hampshire remains this: http://www.hantsfieldclub.org.uk/publications/hampshirestudies/digital/2000s/vol63/Gilliat.pdf 1923 was probably the last gasp of what Arthur Burns described as the ‘diocesan revival’ of the Church. The prime movers in the separation of Portsmouth from Winchester were Edward Talbot, the 2nd earl of Selborne (a prominent politician and high commissioner in South Africa in the lead-up to dominion status) and his son/heir, Wolmer. This was an aristocratic ramp which believed in small dioceses as being more organic;… Read more »
Perhaps the big problem in the UK is that there is expectation of so many diocesan staff. My previous diocese of Athabasca in northern Alberta had 18 parishes made up of about 30 congregations. Diocesan staff consisted of the Bishop, the Archdeacon, and the diocesan secretary. Here in Edmonton we have about 55 parishes, Synod Office staff consists of bishop, treasurer, part time exec archdeacon, and three secretaries. Financially we’re doing fine. And real episkopé is possible when numbers of parishes are more realistic. Otherwise episkopé becomes a theological fantasy.
As in Ireland, Tim. For example the whole of southeast Ireland, counties Wexford, Carlow, Waterford, Kilkenny, Laois, Tipperary, part of Offaly, historically six dioceses (Cashel, Ossory, Ferns, Waterford, Lismore, Leighlin) is served by one bishop and one diocesan secretary. The Archdeacons are parish clergy, and other functions such as safeguarding supervision are in the hands of designed trained clergy. The C of E has much to learn about economy.
Exactly. Same in NZ dioceses.
And Exeter and Truro. Cornish romantics may object but, tell it not in Gath, N & E Cornwall and N & W Devon are culturally indistinguishable. In any case, nationalist sentiments could be assuaged by Truro remaining as a pastoral unit.
While it’s true that there has been (and continues to be) sprawl across southern Hampshire, Solent City never quite happened. Greater Portsmouth continues to look into Portsmouth Harbour, whereas the lines of communication from Greater Southampton point much more naturally towards Winchester and London. The rural gap between the two, from Hamble to Botley to Bishop’s Waltham doesn’t look like being filled in any time soon. From memory, the possibility of putting the whole urban south of Hampshire in one diocese and the rural middle and north remaining in Winchester was considered at the time, but it was felt that… Read more »
Many thanks for these comments. I have made a probably tiresome shibboleth of the purported benefits of ‘economies of scale’, and of course there is the counter-argument, made most famously by Fritz Schumacher. Yes, Portsmouth has struck me as a relatively happy diocese (a propos the remarks made by Stuart and Rowland Wateridge), and I have been pleasantly surprised – when speaking to clergy who serve there, and who have served there and regret having left – that morale was quite good. A complete contrast to at least two neighbouring dioceses in that respect. However, attendance patterns along the rest… Read more »
Meanwhile, to the west, unlikely as it was once thought, the conurbation of Poole-Bournemouth- Christchurch, is now united under one local authority known as ‘BCP’.
Out of two ancient ports and one newcomer in the middle, it’s created a ‘city’ with a larger population than Portsmouth city.
Hampshire CCC stopped playing at Dean Park, Bournemouth, some years ago and the last remaining memory of the pre 1972 boundary changes is preserved by the continuing Salisbury-Winchester diocesan boundary dividing parts of Bournemouth and Poole. What’s the point there?
Surely, the answer is the historic relationship of (most) dioceses and county boundaries before the latter were tinkered with. Although Bournemouth was a County Borough (and thus largely self-governing) it was staunchly both part of Hampshire and the Winchester Diocese, and nearby Christchurch with its outstanding Priory church possibly even more so. The 1970s local government reorganisation reversed centuries of history and local loyalties. These, even in the relatively dispassionate south of England, and while never attaining the considerable fervour of Lancashire or Yorkshire people, should not be under-estimated. As to the cricket venue, it would have been odd to… Read more »
My guess is that the point is that it was for want of anything better. Ancient county boundaries are also preserved elsewhere: for example, along the river Tyne, or the Kent/Surrey border up to the archdeaconry of Lewisham & Greenwich. Whilst I suspect people from Gateshead or Sunderland might mind very much being enveloped into Newcastle; however, I suspect denizens of Beckenham would care relatively little if they were to have an affinity with Penge (formerly a detached part of Battersea). The current diocesan boundary follows the pre-1974 county boundary and also the division between the ancient parishes of Holdenhurst… Read more »
Anomalies are rife. The Christchurch Museum was, seemingly, not wanted by Dorset when Christchurch was absorbed into that county from Hampshire. Locally, rightly or wrongly, Ted Heath (rather than Redcliffe-Maud) was blamed for this contraction of Hampshire; David Lloyd, co-author of the original Pevsner “Buildings of England” Hampshire volume objected to it strongly! To this day, the museum, next to Christchurch Priory, and now named “Red House Museum and Gardens” retains its Hampshire origins (albeit with an address in Dorset!) and, indeed, is under the umbrella of the Hampshire Cultural Trust. Notwithstanding the creation of this new super-city, I see… Read more »
I have previously advanced in these pages the case for abolishing Guildford diocese, based partly on the hope that Surrey University might take Stag Hill and the Cathedral off our hands. But I wouldn’t necessarily merge it wholesale with Southwark, I’d carve it up with bits (if they wanted) going to any and all of the neighbouring dioceses. Keeping a diocesan area intact in a merger seems to me to increase the chances of that area retaining suffragans, archdeacons, offices, etc, frustrating the potential benefits.
Similarly Derby. It has often been mooted that it should return to Lichfield whence it came (via Southwell), and that was voiced at a recent Deanery discussion. But these days, carving up the diocese makes more sense than merging in its entirety. Chesterfield looks to Sheffield. North west Derbyshire looks to Chester or Manchester. Derby city (10 miles from Lichfield) and south Derbyshire could indeed go to Lichfield, and east Derbyshire, Erewash, to Southwell (if that remains viable). This uncertainty does not seem to affect the grandiose plans for the future, however. Stipendiary clergy from (approx figures) 130 to 100… Read more »
Glad to have provoked an interesting thread, though it does make me wish, not for the first time, that some contributors would drop their pseudonyms. Coming from a small diocese (Hereford, now also only one bishop, etc) it seems to me that size in itself is immaterial to diocesan thriving. My outsider’s sense of Leeds is that it was a colossal disruption for rather limited benefits.