Thinking Anglicans

Bishops of Maidstone, Ebbsfleet and Oswestry

Press release from the Church of England

Bishops of Maidstone, Ebbsfleet and Oswestry
30/06/2022

A series of changes have been announced to the names of bishops who offer extended episcopal care to parishes that cannot accept the priestly or episcopal ministry of women.

Under these changes, now approved by the Dioceses Commission, the Bishop of Maidstone Rod Thomas’s successor will now be known as the Bishop of Ebbsfleet.

Meanwhile the role of the previous Bishop of Ebbsfleet – whose ministry was to traditional catholic parishes – will move to become that of the Bishop of Oswestry in the Diocese of Lichfield.

Bishop Rod, who will retire in October, has had a special national ministry since 2015 providing a voice in the College of Bishops and advocacy for those who cannot, on the grounds of complementarian evangelical theology, accept the priestly or episcopal ministry of women.

The future Bishop of Ebbsfleet, who will take on this responsibility when Bishop Rod retires, will live either in London or the M4 corridor for ease of travel and will minister nationally to complementarian evangelical parishes.

The combined effect of these changes means that the See of Maidstone will become vacant and could potentially revert to local use within the Diocese of Canterbury in the future.

Up until now, Bishops of Ebbsfleet – one of the Church of England’s three ‘Provincial Episcopal Visitors’, who minister to traditional catholic parishes – have been responsible primarily for churches in the western half of the Church of England’s Province of Canterbury.

Consultations on a successor to Jonathan Goodall, the previous Bishop of Ebbsfleet, strongly suggested that it would be helpful for the new postholder be rooted in a diocese.

The Dioceses Commission has therefore agreed that Lichfield provides a good location for this ministry to this part of the Province and that Bishop Jonathan’s successor should therefore be designated as the Bishop of Oswestry.

  • The Provincial Episcopal Visitors – the Bishops Beverley, Richborough and Ebbsfleet – were created as part of the arrangements in 1992 which first enabled women to be ordained as priests.
  • The See of Maidstone was appointed in 2015 in accordance with the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests 2014 and associated guidance, to provide a voice within the College of Bishops for those within the Church of England who cannot, on the grounds of complementary theology, accept the priestly or episcopal ministry of women and to act as an advocate for those who hold that position.
  • The See of Oswestry was one of a number of sees created in the 19th Century but never filled.
  • Further information about the ministry of the current Bishop of Maidstone
  • Further information about The Society (more fully, The Society under the patronage of Saint Wilfrid and Saint Hilda).
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
50 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

‘The combined effect of these changes means that the See of Maidstone will become vacant and could potentially revert to local use within the Diocese of Canterbury in the future.’ No one can read that and be in any doubt that there will be a new suffragan for Canterbury Diocese within 12 months.

Anne
Anne
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

Yes. But why? It’s a smallish, mostly rural and contracting Diocese. Why add a suffragan now?

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Anne
1 month ago

There could be a few reasons, but whatever the particular needs of the senior leadership of Canterbury Diocese I believe we are watching the impact of a church overburdened by reporting to central offices/officers, and a greater proportion of time given to committees and compliance with new objectives. That workload falls in part to suffragans, archdeacons and their administrative teams. One solution, if one has the ear of the dioceses commission and the church commissioners, is to appoint your way out of trouble. The justification in Canterbury Diocese is easy to formulate if +Dover is the de facto diocesan bishop.… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

Indeed, and further to the other current thread about the Canterbury CNC, the rise of the suffragan see of Dover to the status of a virtual diocesan (and the effective removal of the archbishops from their own diocese) will have created a space for a revival of the see of Maidstone as a diocesan position. However, the diocese now has a mere 120 stipendiaries (plus about 60 non-stipendiaries) and a trifling asset base of £2.6m. On this basis, I would question the wisdom of reviving Maidstone, which has been extant only since the 1940s, and has been left vacant on… Read more »

Anne
Anne
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Where do you get the figure of 60 NSMs from? There were approx 20 NSMs based on a recent count – unless you are also including chaplains or PTO clergy?

Either way, it’s a small suburban-rural Diocese that is contracting, so it’s difficult to understand the rationale for this.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Anne
1 month ago

“Where do you get the figure of 60 NSMs from?”

From here: https://www.canterburydiocese.org/our-life/our-governance/our-finances/.

I appreciate their own information may not be accurate.

Anne
Anne
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Thank you… yes, it’s not up-to-date. The 2020 Ministry Statistics had 141 stipendiary (incl. senior staff, Incumbents, curates), 27 NSMs and 60 LLMs. Not sure of the latest exact figures, as it’s always in flux, but I’d estimate that it’s now slightly lower for all categories (approx. 22 NSMs).

But I am not aware of there being a sudden dramatic decrease of NSMs, so I don’t know why there’s such a discrepancy? Unless the number for the website includes PTO clergy (retired). Canterbury (the city, especially) has a good number by comparison to most places.

David Green
David Green
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

To Froghole’s point about a united diocese, I have said as much in Rochester Diocesan Synod several years ago. It wasn’t a point warmly welcomed by many! But it makes no sense to me that we have two administrative bases in Kent, with all the resulting cost of running those two separate systems and the duplication of staffing. As a nearby Incumbent in the parish of West Malling, I could easily see Kings Hill being a base for both dioceses. Close to the M20, good facilities, reasonably central. West Malling Abbey with St Augustine’s Theological College (which serves Canterbury, Rochester… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  David Green
1 month ago

Many thanks! I attended services at West Malling and Offham during Dr Stevenson’s time, in 2009-10, and was impressed by the turnout (if I recall he was one of the few surviving bona fide Oxford BDs serving in parish ministry by that time). In 1901, for example, Canterbury diocese had 310 freehold clergy plus 152 assistant curates. There were two suffragans (Dover and Croydon) and two archdeacons (Canterbury and Maidstone). Rochester had 210 freeholders and 175 assistant curates. There were no suffragans and two archdeacons (Rochester and Tonbridge). 827 stipendiaries in total. The numbers of stipendiaries are now far lower,… Read more »

Anne
Anne
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

“Why on earth does Canterbury now have three archdeacons?”

One of these (Ashford) was created when it was decided not to appoint Maidstone.

There are currently (or soon to be) four Archdeacons: Canterbury, Maidstone, Ashford. The fourth was created in 2020, when the former Archdeacon of Maidstone was appointed to be Senior Chaplain to the Bishop of Dover and (as an Archdeacon without territory) and also as Acting Diocesan Secretary.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Anne
1 month ago

Many thanks for both your messages – yes, I recall Ashford was that nice Australian, Philip Down (I remember attending a service at Tilmanstone where he was barracked by one member of the congregation using stage whispers, and he took it all like a real trouper). As to the pending fourth appointment, the creation of an ‘archdeacon at large’ or ‘archdeacon without portfolio’ is not, I fear, a positive development: it’s just the sort of thing to put wind in the sails of STP. Also, none of the current archdeacons have their own parochial cures; given the vast reduction in… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Your comment about Archdeacons requires some context – the Church is not blessed with many “middle managers” but is finding itself burdened with compliance infrastructure and cost, and the burden of that is falling upon Archdeacons and Bishops who are ill-equipped for that component of their role. So long as the compliance requirement keeps increasing, it will have to be resourced. Whether Archdeacons are the resource on which the compliance burden should be loaded is another question. But compliance does cost money.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Mark Bennet
1 month ago

Many thanks. I agree. Synod, and to some extent, the secular authorities continually produce legislation which tends to increase costs. When I look at many Measures I shake my head and wonder why it is necessary for so much to be made of so little, and why so many mountains yield forth so many mice. My argument has been that it would be best (or less bad) for that administration to be taken away from hierarchs (who presumably did not take orders to become bureaucrats), and for it to be vested in a cadre of professional officials at the centre,… Read more »

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
Reply to  Mark Bennet
1 month ago

Surely compliance posts do not require the appointees to be ordained? Let alone archdeacons?

Nick
Nick
Reply to  Mary Hancock
1 month ago

But (if they were appropriately skilled and remunerated according to the secular employment market), would require a lot more in terms of pay than that of an archdeacon…

A former colleague noted that they did similar work as a parish priest to that they did many administrative tasks that were a feature of their previous secular career whilst receiving less that 50% of the remuneration.

Similarly, the headteacher of a reasonably sized secondary school might expect a salary of £80-120,000.

Simon Sarmiento
Admin
1 month ago

The Society website has further comment on the Oswestry part of this: https://www.sswsh.com/fullposts.php?id=330 Now that the proposed revival of the See of Oswestry has received the approval of both the Dioceses Commission and the Lichfield Diocesan Synod, The Society’s Council of Bishops would like to record its gratitude to the Bishop of Lichfield, the Bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and their staff for their hard work to get us to this point. The Society expects the new arrangements to operate in a broadly similar fashion to how the existing Provincial Episcopal Visitor (PEV) arrangements have operated up to now in… Read more »

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
1 month ago

Titanic… deck chairs… rearranging??? And all a vastly disproportionate amount of work and angst for a vastly diminishing minority.

Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
1 month ago

With the expansion of the Ordinariate, have the ‘Flying Bishops’ now become a ‘Dead Duck’ – or is the C. of E. still divided on the efficacy of the ministry of women?

rural liberal
rural liberal
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
1 month ago

the answer to that should be obvious – there are sufficient parishes (whether because of the incumbent or the church attending parishioners themselves) who are signed up to the oversight of a PEV compared to when the scheme started that there would be little reason to suddenly abolish it now as a numbers/dead duck game rather than at any point beforehand. I.e. only a minority of the FiF crowd (I can only speak to that wing) actually went to the Ordinariate and most of them are still in the CofE. That’s obviously a totally different question to ‘should such provision… Read more »

William
William
Reply to  rural liberal
1 month ago

I’m wondering if this has something to do with the appointment of the next Archbishop of Canterbury who will most likely be a woman. This would cause problems for a PEV whose authority comes from Canterbury.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
1 month ago

All chaff being thrown up into the air to distract from the CofE’s decline.

Simon W
Simon W
1 month ago

My conversations with people in churches under the current Bishop of Maidstone in recent years have revealed that women bishops and priests was not the ‘issue’ that prompted them to sign up for his oversight. It is a convenient fig leaf. Their real motivation is their fear that the C of E will start blessing and offering same sex marriage. That’s what I’ve been told on a number of occasions.

Last edited 1 month ago by Simon W
Jane
Jane
Reply to  Simon W
1 month ago

I’ve heard the same from a number of churches under the current Bishop of Maidstone. They also cite the women bishops and priests as a concern, but what prompted them to make the move was hearing their Bishop being openly inclusive, or attending Pride etc

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Simon W
1 month ago

That is my impression too.

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Simon W
1 month ago

That sounds very likely, and could soon result in a much higher workload for the next Bishop of Ebbsfleet. ‘The future Bishop of Ebbsfleet, who will take on this responsibility when Bishop Rod retires, will live either in London or the M4 corridor for ease of travel and will minister nationally to complementarian evangelical parishes.’ I’ve never heard the M4 corridor described as handy for West Cumberland. Any sees left in the north which could be revived?

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

Barrow in Furness would do the trick, Stephen. Created 1889, in abeyance 1944 I think. Or why not a complementarian diocesan? We have Chichester at the other end. Carlisle itself perhaps – there are now no catholic parishes in the diocese: there was only child of the catholic revival, Skirwith, and that was neutered years ago. My prediction is that the complementarian constituency will grow.

Clifford Jones
Clifford Jones
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
1 month ago

Why not revive the see of Whalley, which has been in abeyance since 1936? As with Kirkstall there would be an abbey of the same name.

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Clifford Jones
1 month ago

Someone remind me: where’s Whalley?

Clifford Jones
Clifford Jones
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

‘A large village and civil parish in the Ribble Valley on the banks of the River Calder in Lancashire, England’ (Wikipedia).


Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
1 month ago

A northern province complementarian Bishop of Barrow with a parish thrown in sounds ideal. Who knows maybe the C of E can hit 200 suffragans before the whole thing melts down.

Clifford Jones
Clifford Jones
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
1 month ago

Another current strand of TA discussion is concerned with exchange of episcopal personages between New Zealand and England. The second of the three Bishops of Barrow-in-Furnace, Campbell West-Watson, was translated to Christchurch and ultimately became Archbishop of New Zealand.

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Clifford Jones
1 month ago

Another good reason to revive the see. If the Anglican Communion was run by the people at the edges rather than at the ‘centre’ we would all be a lot happier.

Clifford Jones
Clifford Jones
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

The sole Bishop of Whalley, A.G. Rawsthorne, worked in South Australia in early ministry. After he returned to England he was Commissary to successive Bishops of Adelaide including John Harmer, who in 1905 was translated from Adelaide to Rochester.

Stephen King
Stephen King
1 month ago

The role of the PEVs, as I understand it, is to enable parishes opposed to the ordination of women as priests to seek the ministrations of a bishop also thus inclined. It is not – and please correct me if I am wrong – so that evangelical parishes to circumvent an anglo-catholic bishop (or vice versa). Currently in the dioceses of Blackburn and Chichester, +Lancaster and +Horsham, are women, whilst +Burnley and +Lewes are anglo-catholics who do not ordain women priests. So whilst parishes in the Lancaster and Horsham areas may request a male bishop, surely it should mean that… Read more »

William
William
Reply to  Stephen King
1 month ago

‘Please could someone confirm’

Do you want a simple evangelical confirmation or an elaborate Anglo-Catholic one?

Stephen King
Stephen King
Reply to  William
1 month ago

I don’t mind either way, as long as I get a clear answer to my original question!

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  William
1 month ago

My recollection is that evangelical parishes don’t bother overmuch with confirmation as a rite and certainly don’t see it as a sacrament.

Jane
Jane
Reply to  Stephen King
1 month ago

Interesting question. Looking at Bishop of Maidstone’s website https://bishopofmaidstone.org/parishes/ there are definitely parishes in those areas, but unclear whether they’re under formal episcopal oversight

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Stephen King
1 month ago

My impression is that the two constituencies are rather closed off from one another. But there may be examples of cross over. I’m not sure a Society bishop can pull off an ordination of presbyters in convocation robes. But a coalition is not impossible if the stakes are high enough.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

A Society Bishop when in post was happy to ordain in choir dress where this was the wish/ tradition of the parish.( I was the DDO)

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 month ago

Good to know. I think the answer to Stephen King is that both constituencies will continue to have episcopal ministry specific to their tradition, but that some overlap is possible. It will be interesting to see what the report makes of dioceses that don’t or won’t use Maidstone/Ebbsfleet for petitioning parishes.

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Stephen King
1 month ago

It is much to be hoped that the new bishop of Ebbsfleet will not espouse subordinationism: https://bishopofmaidstone.org/belief/ – see point 8. American evangelical complementarians have rowed back from subordinationism – even Wayne Grudem!

Simon Sarmiento
Admin
1 month ago

The vacancies in both Oswestry and Ebbsfleet are advertised in this week’s Church Times.

Screenshot 2022-07-01 at 17.48.18.png
Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
1 month ago

There can be only a very small number of men appointable as +Ebbsfleet, probably in single figures. The number of conservative evangelicals who have had experience of General Synod, or a senior diocesan post, or even a diocesan committee are few. Perhaps that’s an advantage to episcopal ministry. And of course a good conservative evangelical sees local church leadership as the ultimate calling. I don’t think Margaret Cave’s inbox will be overwhelmed.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

Presumably Bp Rod Thomas knows the field and can encourage applicants and make suggestions.

Simon Sarmiento
Admin
1 month ago

It’s difficult to see why the logic being applied here, to move “old Ebbsfleet” to Oswestry, should not also be applied to moving Richborough away from Canterbury diocese, when the incumbent retires, say to St Albans diocese where he currently resides.

The Richborough role serves Canterbury, Chelmsford, Ely, Guildford, St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, Leicester, Lincoln, Norwich, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Rochester, St Albans, Winchester and Gibraltar in Europe.

Dave
Dave
1 month ago

It would be very helpful, I think to have some statistics.

  1. How many parishes are under the care of these travelling bishops?
  2. How do current figures compare with those of ten years ago?
rural liberal
rural liberal
Reply to  Dave
1 month ago

page 28 was an eye-opener:

‘It has been reported to the Group that the workload of the PEVs has grown significantly, not least because of the declining number of suffragan bishops who are able to provide extended episcopal ministry, while the number of parishes seeking it has remained relatively stable or even has grown slightly’

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  rural liberal
1 month ago

I would hazard a guess that what this means is that most suffragans in most dioceses are either women or else they are men who ordain women as priests and who may have participated in the consecration of women as bishops. Without using the t-word, that makes them episcopi non gratae in some parishes, regardless of their willingness to minister there.

50
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x