Thinking Anglicans

Channel Islands

There is a proposal before the Church of England General Synod this week to transfer the Channel Islands from the diocese of Winchester to the diocese of Salisbury. This follows from the recommendations of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on the Relationship of the Channel Islands to the Wider Church of England (GS Misc 1241) which was chaired by Richard Chartres, the former bishop of London. This requires a Church Measure (the Church of England’s equivalent to an Act of Parliament) and it is intended to take all stages of this before Synod closes on Thursday. The first stage will be taken this afternoon and this will primarily deal with the principle.

Not everybody agrees with the proposal. One such is Simon Cawdell, a Synod member from Hereford. He has written a paper which has circulated amongst some Synod members and this has prompted a response from the Deans of Guernsey and Jersey (the senior clergy on the islands). With permission I have copied the texts of both papers below the fold.

The text of the draft measure is here and the explanatory notes are here.

Simon Cawdell’s paper

The triumph of management theology: Why we should not transfer the Channel Islands to Salisbury

General Synod is being asked at this set of sessions to expedite an extraordinary Measure to transfer the jurisdiction of the Channel Islands from the Diocese of Winchester to the Diocese of Salisbury. This is suggested as an expedient proposal to move matters forwards after the unfortunate recent history of dispute between the Islands and its Bishop over a safeguarding matter, and subsequent and related issues.

Theological & ecclesiological concerns:

1. Firstly having read +Chartres magisterial canter through the history of the Channel Islands relationship with the Diocese of Winchester among things that stand out to me is the unwillingness to enter into a process of reconciliation with the present Bishop of Winchester. It is abundantly clear is that this issue is fundamentally personal (see §34 of GS Misc 1241) and that this is dangerously clouding the underlying issues of Church governance in the Islands which require addressing. This is no basis for national legislation, but is a reason for a proper process of reconciliation to be held, as some continue to urge (see §34), and indeed robustly insisted upon. A failure to do this is a failure of mission by the Church and bodes very badly for any other case where a bishop and parishes fall out over some issue or other.

2. Personal relationships must not be allowed to interfere with the ongoing institutional relationships or the issues will simply re-emerge at sometime in the future between different personalities, and in different ways. It is not a solution simply to pass all matters on to the Bishop and Diocese of Salisbury on a permanent basis. On the other hand it raises the question why the Bishop of Winchester could not simply delegate his functions in relation to the Channel Islands to the Bishop of Salisbury (who uses the same Registrar) in a way which preserves the dignity of the Bishop of Winchester into the future.

3. There is a fundamental issue here which also affects other mattes within the Church, not least that when the Measure to enable women to be consecrated bishops was passed considerable efforts went into preserving the authority of the diocesan bishop in cases where a parish exercised its ability to request alternative episcopal oversight. The office of the bishop is in no less need of being upheld in this case, notwithstanding the best administrative solution may be to request another bishop to receive delegated authority in a personal capacity.

4. It seems to me to that there are fundamental ecclesiological objections to transferring two deaneries from the jurisdiction of one bishop to another on the basis of personal objections between characters. Notwithstanding the peculiar arrangements for the Channel Islands the jurisdiction of a bishop cannot be separated from the entity of the diocese over which that bishop holds authority. It sets up an exceptionally poor principle that an area in dispute with a particular bishop is being transferred PERMANENTLY to the jurisdiction of another office. By analogy what happens if parishes in Wales fall out with the Bishop of Hereford, or Berwick upon Tweed is in dispute with the Bishop of Newcastle. Do we attempt reconciliation or transfer them to another province!

5. Deaneries can be, and from time to time are, transferred between dioceses for good missional reasons, but this is not that case. As stated previously it seems the Islands fail to understand their position within the Diocese of Winchester. Transferring them to Salisbury does not resolve this problem. It merely shifts it elsewhere and stores up the same potential difficulties for another time, another bishop and another diocese. As the report (GS Misc 1241) eloquently states the present arrangements have served well enough for 450 years often on the basis of benign neglect. Would it not be better simply to weather the storm until there is a new Bishop of Winchester is in place and either work for reconciliation in the present case, or continue to make provisional arrangements in the meantime. It would be cheaper too as it would not require legislation.

6. Secondly the peculiar history and legal status of the Islands has led to a situation where there is a frankly unholy sense of independence from the whole body of Christ within its diocese. The suggestion of some that they could ‘contract into as they felt appropriate'(§33) is ample testimony to this. Of course there need to be special arrangements, but it is clear to me that the Islands do not feel part of the diocese from conversations which I have had, and clearly within the report. It is not possible ecclesiologically to be under the authority of a bishop unless part of the diocese. Furthermore the Channel Islands (Representation) Measure 1931 makes it clear that the Islands are part of the Diocese of Winchester and send representatives to its diocesan synod.

7. Prior to any new arrangement being made it seems essential to ensure there is an understanding of the place of the Islands within diocesan life, albeit with special arrangements, and that as far as possible the Island must ‘feel’ that place.

8. The report at §22-23 proposes a memorandum on understanding between the offices of Bishop and Dean. This is wise and should be brought forwards as soon as possible, but it is putting the cart before the horse to suggest that such an arrangement cannot be put in place until they know with which Bishop they are negotiating. This is not a personal matter, but pertains to the respective offices indefinitely, and if it cannot be mediated between the present bishop of Winchester and the Deans presently then it should be mediated by the Office of the Archbishop as Metropolitan prior to the consideration of any transfer.

9. A failure to resolve this matter before a transfer raises the real danger that personality trumps ecclesiology and that raises the prospect of each new office holder seeking to renegotiate the settlement according to their whim, and the likelihood of conflict in the future.

10. The failure of the Channel Islands jurisdictions to pass into law the Measure permitting women to be bishops is raised at a number of points in GS Misc 1241. This is not a minor omission. Both the Dioceses of Winchester and Salisbury presently have women serving as suffragan bishops, and their place within the jurisdiction of the Islands is therefore anomalous. Prior to any consideration of a transfer this issue must be resolved by the authorities in each Bailiwick, or we simply import a difficulty in one diocese into the life of another. There is no legal impediment to this happening at present, even if the mechanism under the Channel Islands (Church Legislation) Measure 1931 is somewhat cumbersome. (The Church of England is perfectly adept at resolving cumbersome processes at a national level on a regular basis, so suggesting this is somehow exceptional is difficult to understand.)

11. Prior to further consideration of this matter the Bailiwicks need to resolve the issue of the position of women appointed as bishops in the Islands. Not only would any hesitation in doing this be an embarrassment to the Diocese of Salisbury, but also raises the issue of the role of any future diocesan bishop with oversight should that person be a woman. If the matter is not resolved a priori there is the potential it may remain unresolved indefinitely.

Administrative objections:

12. Firstly the very obvious one is that the Islands have been pleased to benefit from the permanent position of +Winchester in the House of Lords (see §36). The same is not true for +Salisbury. The islands will lose that the moment +Holtam retires, unless Salisbury receives a woman as bishop, which raises the issues in the previous paragraphs.

13. The Islands have admitted to embarrassing failures to pass the necessary legislation not only with regard to the recognition of women as bishops, but also safeguarding, clergy discipline and the compliance of their code of canons with human rights legislation, notwithstanding concerns having been raised. Transferring their jurisdiction at a rapid pace does little or nothing to resolve this. The Islands should be invited to set these matters straight before this matter is considered further.

14. §32 makes reference to a proposed method for expediting legislation in the Islands outlined in Annex 6. Whilst on the one hand this is to be welcomed that particular model suggested contains too great an emphasis on the role of the Deanery Pastoral Committee, in effect giving it a veto over Church of England Measures. The matter of whether Measures are expedient for the Channel Islands is already considered at General Synod, where the Channel Islands are formally represented, and where it is so provisions are made so that the legislation may be extended. It is unfortunate that perhaps this gives the impression that such Measures can be attended to on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis, whereas this should be regarded that the matter MUST be put to the civil authorities in a manner analogous to its presentation to Parliament in England.

15. Any simplification should surely mean a process where one of the Bishop, the Dean or the registrar acting on their behalf should lay an instrument before the authorities for their consideration in a manner they deem appropriate. If there is likely to be any difficulty the time to raise this is during the progress of a Measure through Synod, and the Islands’ Deanery Synods can certainly make representations at that point through their elected General Synod members.

16. Last, but by no means least, the particular issue arose over the handling of a safeguarding case. It could be argued that we are throwing +Winchester under a bus for his attempts to challenge and support the updating and improvement of safeguarding arrangements on the Islands, for which they have as difficult a record as the Church at large. This does not fit well with our present attempts to ensure best practice throughout the Church.

17. This draft Measure has the wrong cause at its root, and as a result has the wrong solutions which are dangerous in their theology and ecclesiology which raise wider issues for the church, create practical principles which run counter to good practice, are administratively inefficient, and fail to resolve at this point the underlying issues, so creating the likelihood of further difficulties in future.

18. Even if the Measure is considered by General Synod to be appropriate consideration should be given to postponing the later stages of the Measure the testing whether it can be improved by Revision.

In general members with concerns may wish to raise any or all of the points above, but specifically (and in no particular order):

over whether it is wise to transfer oversight when issues of authority and relationships remain unresolved;

over why there has been no progress in the enactment of legislation for women bishops;

over the ecclesiology of allowing a deanery transferring a deanery over adisopute with its bishop;

over future safeguarding plans and reassurances on the progress of legislation regarding both that and clergy discipline;

over the efficacy of the proposed simplification of the Islands process to adopt church measures, and the role of the deanery in that over the unseemly and unnecessary haste with which this process is taking place.

Simon Cawdell GS127
Bridgnorth 1st February 2020.

The response of the Deans

The Channel Islands Measure [GS 2152]
A note from the Channel Islands deans

We have seen various comments on social media about the Channel Islands Measure, which General Synod will be considering this week.

We are disappointed that those with concerns about the proposed Measure did not see fit to engage directly with us or the members of the House of Laity who represent the Channel Islands.

The Channel Islands are not, and never have been, part of the United Kingdom. They are Crown Dependencies, aligned with the Crown since 1204. With the exception of overseas representation and defence, they are self-governing. The Bailiwick of Jersey is a single jurisdiction. The Bailiwick of Guernsey has three jurisdictions: Alderney, Guernsey and Sark. Their legal systems and their culture are still more Norman than English.

One of the most significant reasons for the estrangement with the Diocese of Winchester in 2013 was a series of misunderstandings about the culture and identity of the Channel Islands. It is most unfortunate that these misunderstandings are being perpetuated in various comments.

The Archbishop’s Commission took a great deal of trouble to understand that culture. It is to their credit that they succeeded in doing so.

We ask the members of General Synod to give due consideration to the painstaking work of the Commission over a year (and which included visit to both bailiwicks and engagement with a number of parties in England, including the Diocese of Winchester), and to the welcome that the recommendations in their report (GS Misc 1241) have received from a wide range of interested parties. Their proposal to attach the two Channel Islands deaneries to the Diocese of Salisbury was agreed unanimously in the two deanery synods and the Salisbury Diocesan Synod.

We are as frustrated as others over the delays in adopting the women bishops and safeguarding measures. Even before the formal adoption of the safeguarding elements of the 2016 Measure, we operate as if it were adopted. Guernsey Deanery Synod agreed to adopt the women bishop legislation in December 2014, with Jersey following a few months later. The highly regrettable delay in implementing this decision was in part a consequence of both the break with Winchester, which paralysed the normal process for adopting such measures, and the expectation that the Archbishop’s Commission would begin its work sooner than it did.
We assure Synod that work is in hand to apply the measures. The fastest and most efficient way of progressing this work would be for Synod to pass the Channel Islands Measure without delay.

To quote from our letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury in January 2018, ‘We look forward to … finding a resolution of the current and interim arrangements that will best allow the flourishing of the deaneries of Guernsey and Jersey and their parishes and an appropriate relationship with the wider Church of England, so that we can be places of growth in discipleship and life-enriching engagement with God whom we know through Jesus Christ.’

Tim Barker GS236 Dean of Guernsey
Mike Keirle Dean of Jersey


  • John Wallace says:

    Notwithstanding what Fr Simon (from my birth Diocese) says, we need to be pragmatic. Any organisational structures must be totally and utterly subservient to the preaching and spread of the Gospel. In my town 8 or so years ago we moved an adjacent parish from diocese A to diocese B as it would enhance and support the Anglican witness and make it easier to work together – now a team ministry. God forbid we should quibble about Diocesan oversight, in my view puerley adminstrative, helpful but not in tablets of stone. After all, I assume and prayerfully hope we are proclaiming the same Gospel. Totally in frustration at this yet another – just like boring sexuality debates is, if I believed in a personal Devil -is exhausting is and detracting us from declaring clearly, in word and sacrament, the saving love of God in Christ.
    Frustrating having to engage in this barren debate – but some poor soul has to.

    John (at 75 getting frustrated with all this extraneous nonsense which detracts from the Gospel – not an evangelical, but a liberal Catholic)

    • Kate says:

      Certainly, John, there are many more important things on which Synod could, and should, be spending its time.

      • Rowland Wateridge says:

        Kate: Omit the word “more” and your comment is appropriate.

        This whole debacle arose from a safeguarding issue, a subject on which most, if not all, TA contributors are rightly concerned and very articulate. It’s said that the Bishop, newly in post, and with no previous episcopal (or parish) experience, was heavy-handed in dealing with the matter, in particular, in his suspension of the former Dean of Jersey. I gather that there were other causes for dissatisfaction in the Channel Islands, but, nevertheless, the former Dean apologised and surely, at that point, as Father Simon suggests, the parties ought to have become reconciled.

        The urgency of the business arises from the appointment of Bishop Rose as Bishop of Dover. Her immediate predecessor had spiritual oversight of the Channel Islands under a temporary arrangement. Contrary to a widespread misunderstanding (and inaccurate press reporting) the Islands remained, and remain, in the Diocese of Winchester. But it is considered that to continue oversight of the CIs by the Bishop of Dover would be placing an undue burden on Bishop Rose who will be effectively undertaking most of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s diocesan functions.

        Lord Chartres and his colleagues have proposed the ‘solution’ which Father Simon dislikes, but it seems that the majority in the CIs favour the arrangement. It’s a very important matter, and only Synod can legislate on it.

        • Kate says:

          Bishop Rose is new in post so there is no reason for her to take on the Canterbury duties ab initio, someone else could

        • Anthony Archer says:

          This was a personal delegation which was only ever regarded as temporary. It was not an ex officio role to be attached to his successors. As the Commission report recites: [this was] “an interim arrangement formalised on 25 March 2014 by which delegated episcopal oversight of the two Deaneries was granted by the Bishop of Winchester to the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott (Bishop of Dover until May 2019). As a former Bishop of Basingstoke, he has acted as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Winchester.“

          • Rowland Wateridge says:

            Agreed. Having reminded myself (paragraph 36 of the Commission’s Report) the possibility of continuing “the current arrangements” was considered and rejected by the Commission.

            “We have given very careful consideration as to whether the current arrangements with Canterbury should be formalised and made permanent. In many respects this would be advantageous as it would build upon the relationships which have developed in all sorts of ways since 2014. Bishop Trevor, however, retired in May 2019 and his successor [Bishop Rose] has no previous connection with the Islands. Canterbury is also a diocese which relies very heavily on the ministry of the Bishop of Dover due to the Archbishop’s national and international responsibilities. When the Canterbury Diocesan Secretary came to see us, he ventured to suggest that the diocese needed to reclaim the suffragan see of Maidstone for its own use if future episcopal care of the Islands was to be sustainable in the future. We do not see this being a practical possibility at present. We therefore doubt, looking into the future, that there is sufficient episcopal capacity in the diocese to provide sustainable oversight to the Islands“.

            This also largely answers Kate’s point above.

      • David Lamming says:

        Kate – now that Synod has overwhelmingly approved the principle of the transfer of the CIs from Winchester Diocese to Salisbury Diocese, I would expect the remaining stages of the draft Measure (revision in full synod this afternoon, followed on Thursday morning by final drafting and final debate) to proceed in short order with very little additional debate or time taken. Very few voices in Synod yesterday were against the transfer, and it has the support of both the diocesan bishops concerned and the two CI deaneries.

        • Kate says:

          I am not surprised, David. It is hard to see most Synod members having strong views either way. But the time on the agenda could have been allocated to so many other things in the first place.

          • Rowland Wateridge says:

            The agreement of the Bishop of Winchester to the proposal has always surprised me, but it is a reality and the result is that very much less of Synod’s time is being taken up with this matter which can’t be dismissed as unimportant. The CIs have now been in a state of limbo for several years – not weeks or months.

  • God 'elp us all says:

    Whistling while Canterbury burns?

  • Austin Cooke says:

    It strikes me that, rather than shuttle the Islands from one English see to another, they simply regularize their situation and establish a Diocese for the Islands, extraprovincial to Canterbury (as with the Falklands, etc) and administered either by its own bishop or, as with the Falklands, by the Archbishop of Canterbury and a designated bishop. As the Islands are not part of England, there is no reason for them to worry about having representation in the Lords through the Bishop of Winchester, and they would be free to develop their own procedures and canons in line with their laws.

    • Rowland Wateridge says:

      This idea isn’t new and was debated on TA some months ago. Frankly, off the cuff ideas like this aren’t helpful in the context of a fraught and complex issue. The Commission itself also considered the possibility and ruled it out on the grounds of the Channel Islands population figures alone being inadequate for a C of E Diocese, and for other reasons.

      But, and probably more important, the Commission identified several matters of essential reform on the part of the Channel Islands, and indicated, politely but firmly, that the CIs must fall into line within the C of E. The present Deans of Jersey and Guernsey accept this and have confirmed that it will happen. We can only await the progress and outcome of the draft Measure.

      • Austin Cooke says:

        I do not think that the description of the idea as off the cuff was helpful either. I had seen the rationale in the Commission’s report, and I am one of those who believe that the population size of most CoE dioceses is unpastoral and at variance with the practice of the early church, and have made submissions in two cases of North American diocesan reorganization. There is a natural community in the Channel Islands, geographically, historically, culturally, and in the constitution of the British Isles, and to have this reflected ecclesiastically is not an unreasonable position to take. Perhaps the brevity of my post is partly responsible.

        • Rowland Wateridge says:

          I apologise if I caused any offence. We clearly take different views about this matter. I consider Father Simon Cawdell’s approach to be the correct one. Reconciliation ought to have been possible after the Dean’s apology and it reflects no credit to the parties that it did not happen.

          • Austin Cooke says:

            The web provides many challenges to communication and no offence was taken. We both likely agree on the importance of restoring/creating a situation where everybody concerned can focus on their work, to the good of all; its exact contours are likely adiaphora.

    • Rowland Wateridge says:

      As a post script to what I have just written, if the Channel Islands were “free to develop their own procedures and canons in line with their laws”, they would cease to be part of the Church of England. In any event, the CIs themselves have ruled out any such idea. The point about representation in the House of Lords does not arise (and again the CIs accept this) unless and until their new Diocesan (presumably Salisbury) becomes eligible to sit in the HL.

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