Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 1 January 2022

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Diocese of Winchester: Questions about the Future

Paul Hackwood Church Times C of E’s crisis is about more than money
“Behind financial problems lie existential questions about purpose and vision”

Simon Jenkins The Guardian Churches could double as banks, or even serve beer. We can’t leave them empty
“These mainly listed buildings sit at the heart of almost every community – we are squandering a precious legacy”

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love The True Wilderness: Harry Williams’ guide to living from within the depth of experience

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Froghole
Froghole
21 days ago

The Hackwood and Jenkins articles touch on different sides of the same coin. I know I am repeating myself. One the Church lost it taxing powers (1836, 1868, 1936 and 1977) it was dependent upon its own resources, which were always going to be insufficient relative to its overheads since its endowments were inadequate in the aggregate and spread very unevenly. Save the Parish is calling for a return to parochial autonomy; that is a chimaera, and it was sustainable before 1976 only when the Church could fill voids left by uneven endowments via taxation. Like it or not, the… Read more »

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
21 days ago

I was expecting Simon Jenkins’ piece to pop up over here. Part of me thinks he makes a very good point. Churches are in most places our longest unbroken architectural and organisational history, and many of them are listed with very good reason. The loss of the buildings — merely being Grade 1 listed does not protect buildings from decay, arson or damp, doubly so for lesser listings — would be a tragedy, even before you consider their equally unbroken continuity of worship and community. But, but, but. State funding for churches qua buildings is incredibly hard to separate from… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Interested Observer
21 days ago

Many thanks. The state has provided considerable support to the Church via VAT relief and direct subventions, such as the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund (2016), directed overwhelmingly at the Church of England. The reduction in HLF support is currently leading to the mass sell-off of churches (many of which are of ancient provenance) in Scotland, often for comparatively paltry sums. The bill I drafted in 2016 was intended to vest all pre-1829 foundations and post-1829 Grade I and certain Grade II* foundations in a national agency as an emanation of DDCMS. I felt that 1829 was an… Read more »

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
Reply to  Interested Observer
18 days ago

Many church buildings are completely unsuitable for secular use – no heating, no toilets, no disabled access, no parking etc., and if they are listed then getting permission to make changes is very difficult. The C of E hierarchy might be better off lobbying for changes in planning law to make disposal/demolition of listed buildings easier.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Sam Jones
18 days ago

GS2222 is intended to make the process of closure (and, therefore, of disposal) easier. The Church already benefits from the ecclesiastical exemption: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/77372/OPSEEguidance.pdf There is no obligation to maintain a listed building. What you are suggesting is that the Church incurs the cost of demolition. Why should it even do that? Why not just ignore the recommendations made in quinquennial inspections and let the buildings rot and fall down? The only basis on which owners are obliged to maintain listed buildings is if the local authority issues an urgent works or building preservation notice, but such a notice will have… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Sam Jones
16 days ago

My personal opinion is that church buildings with no toilets, no heating, no disabled access and parking are not only unsuitable for secular use but for use as church buildings too! I used to be the rector of a three-point parish in northwestern Alberta. The smallest congregation in my parish had a clapboard building erected in 1939 (old in western Canadian terms) with no electricity, wood stove heat, no facilities for Sunday School, and an outhouse toilet positioned over a pit, with no running water for washing afterwards. Several of the (elderly) members couldn’t understand why their children and grandchildren… Read more »

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
21 days ago

Regarding Winchester- prompted by the appointment of Tony Blair to the Most Noble Order of the Garter I note the position of Prelate to the Order, as reported by Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Dakin

I am sure others will be much better informed regarding such positions.

Which prelate currently ‘speaks for the Church’ on matters related to education (including Christ Church, Oxford?) in their lordships’ house?

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
Reply to  God 'elp us all
18 days ago

I think you will find that has been passed to Chris Cocksworth, previously Principal of Ridley Hall and now Bishop of Coventry.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Mary Hancock
17 days ago

Yes, that is correct. The Bishop of Winchester continues to be the Prelate of the Order of the Garter, and ex officio has always been so since the Order was founded. When I last looked, the Annual Garter Service was expected to take place in June of this year, having been cancelled for the last two years, and applications from public spectators to attend were subject to ballot. I don’t know whether this situation has ever previously occurred during an interregnum, but, assuming that this year’s service goes ahead, subject to correction, I assume that the Acting Bishop would officiate… Read more »

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
17 days ago

As Bishop Debbie is not actually Bishop of Winchester I doubt she would be Acting Prelate. I think David Connor, Dean of Windsor and Registrar of the Order might substitute for the Prelate. He is a former Bishop of Lynn and was Bishop to the Forces as well as being Dean of Windsor, He was Chaplain at Winchester College when Mr Smyth was visiting the College regularly. There are three Canons and a Minor Canon at St George’s. There is therefore no shortage of dog collars should one be required. I think the Prelate may read the admonition while the… Read more »

Father David
Father David
Reply to  Simon Bravery
17 days ago

If Willesden was Acting Bishop of London during the last vacancy which is the usual role for the longest serving suffragan to undertake whenever a diocesan retires. How come Grimsby or Grantham aren’t exercising that traditional role and Ely has been charged with overseeing two dioceses?

Simon Sarmiento
Simon Sarmiento(@simon-sarmiento)
Admin
Reply to  Father David
17 days ago

Grimsby is the senior of the two suffragans, and was the Acting Bishop throughout the absence of Bishop Lowson. To date, there has been no coherent explanation of why the Archbishop has decided (unilaterally?) to delay the CNC process for selection of the next diocesan. Which is the context for the appointment of the Bp of Ely instead.
As far as I have been able to determine, there are no rules about timescales for the CNC process. But I have been reminded that in previous centuries, huge delays were common, which enabled the Crown to appropriate the episcopal income…

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
17 days ago

I realise I may have missed some of the point of Simon Bravery’s post in our dual references to Bishop Broadbent. But, turning to Lincoln, did not the Acting Bishop hold a Visitation there? (My memory may be playing tricks today.)

Nick
Nick
Reply to  Father David
17 days ago

It is certainly not always the case that one of the suffragan bishops is appointed as Commissary (Acting Bishop) – in the last vacancy in the Diocese of Salisbury (i.e. after David Stancliffe’s retirement) another bishop (from memory Christopher Herbert, former Bishop of St Albans) was appointed as Commissary rather than one of the suffragans. I think there is at least one other recent example, but cannot dredge it from my memory. From memory, the powers of the Commissary (and those reserved to the Archbishop) are laid out in the relevant instrument when they are appointed.

Simon Kershaw
Simon Kershaw(@simon-kershaw)
Admin
Reply to  Nick
16 days ago

My recollection is that when Bishop Stancliffe retired, one of the suffragans, Ramsbury, was indeed made responsible. However, shortly afterwards his own appointment to Ely was announced, and it was only then that an external commissary was appointed. That bishop of Ramsbury was of course Stephen Conway, still bishop of Ely and now also acting bishop of Lincoln.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Simon Bravery
17 days ago

Thank you. I knew all of those facts already! What is not clear to me is whether you are right in assuming that the Acting Bishop would not carry out all of the Bishop’s functions, even special ones such as this. Bishop Pete Broadbent, who sometimes writes here, was Acting Bishop of London. I wonder whether in that capacity he was circumscribed in the way you suggest when it came to similar extra-episcopal functions – there are many attached to London.

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
17 days ago

I am always (usually?) grateful for the great insights offered by so many here into the machinations/ eccentricities of CofE polity/ policy/ practice(s), as per my ‘screen-name’ …

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
17 days ago

When Bishop Broadbent was Acting Bishop of London the retiring bishop, Chartres, was asked by the Queen to continue as Dean of the Chapels Royal, a function performed by the Bishop of London since 1748.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  T Pott
16 days ago

Well, possibly we might all be surprised in June, if the Garter Service proceeds as planned. I guess it is ultimately a matter for Her Majesty in that unique place.

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
Reply to  Simon Bravery
16 days ago

It was only speculation and excreta agitation by the right wing press. There was never a shred of a suggestion from anyone that it would happen. The arrangement was that Richard Chartes would do it. But, as they say, never let the facts…

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Simon Bravery
16 days ago

I have tracked down a copy of the Statutes of the Order, and on the basis of what I have read of what is to happen on the death of a Member, in the absence of the Prelate (i.e., Bishop of Winchester) that role does, indeed, fall firstly on the Dean as Register (the formal designation). I don’t have time to delve further. Relatively recently the office of Chancellor (previously the Bishop of Salisbury) has been laicised. Highly improbable, I would have thought, that Canons, still less a Minor Canon, of the august Windsor body would supplant a bishop. Your… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Simon Bravery
16 days ago

Further to Mr Wateridge’s last comment referring to the chancellorship of the order being vested in the see of Salisbury, it was argued by Neville Lovett (a historically minded bishop of Salisbury) in a petition to George VI in 1937 that letters patent of Edward IV dated 10 October 1475 had granted the chancellorship to the see ‘for ever’, and from 1476 the chancellor was to hold the seal of the order. The king therefore ordered Garter (the very diligent Sir Gerald Wollaston) to undertake a full investigation. It was noted that the chancellorship indeed dated to 1475 (and not… Read more »

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
Reply to  Mary Hancock
15 days ago
Kate
Kate
21 days ago

It’s easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than enter into the kingdom of heaven. That’s something that the Church of England ought to take into account. It has huge property riches it no longer needs. Like most rich men, it looks at the problem in financial terms. What it rarely does is think how it’s un-needed wealth can be shared with the needy. Long before churches are sold for redevelopment they should be turned into hostels for the homeless, or even just for travellers. (As a by-product that may also unlock other grants… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
20 days ago

I’m sure Canon Hackwood’s analysis is correct but I’m bemused that the bishops doggedly pursue a strategy that is manifestly not working. The endless stream of gimmicky mission ‘initiatives’ have made no impact on the rate of decline. Perhaps next week’s article may shed some light on the matter. Desperately sad that almost all commentators accept that the CofE in any recognisable form is finished.

A not so humble parishioner
A not so humble parishioner
Reply to  Fr Dean
20 days ago

Rearranging deck chairs. But it is actually worse than that as it has driven a wedge between the leadership of the church and those that do not subscribe to the narrow version of discipleship referred to in the article (evangelical Anglicanism). The plurality of the church, which could have be used to create authentic mission linked to place and community has been directly and mercilessly attacked in favour of a single type of “modernising” corporate evangelical Christianity. I feel we have yet to hit our nadir although it does seem that there are increasingly more and varied voices of dissent… Read more »

Father David
Father David
18 days ago

In his review of Richard Morris’ new book “Evensong” Quentin Letts writes “Today’s Church of England is such a shrivelled cucumber that one becomes nostalgic reading of the drive and prominence of its clergy in the mid-20th century. He goes on to describe how certain bishops at that time such as Leonard Wilson of Birmingham (1953-69) were “pipe-sucking thrusters” Mark Oakley in his letter to the Church Times states that nowadays he doesn’t come across many bishops who are happy. On the whole they are indeed a lack lustre lot. Perhaps what the “shrivelled cucumber” of a Church needs at… Read more »

Dave
Dave
Reply to  Father David
18 days ago

An interesting strategy Father David. I think the C of E is depressed and its clergy are not lethargic but rather exhausted.

Father David
Father David
Reply to  Dave
18 days ago

Yes, Dave, I think there is some truth in what you write but they are not only exhausted but also stressed! It would be interesting to know how many clergy are not currently exercising public ministry because they are presently on sick leave suffering from stress?.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Dave
18 days ago

Sadly, I agree with you. Many lay leaders are anxious about the future, with uncertainty about who will succeed them being a concern in many places. There are already parishes functioning without wardens and other key officers, and lack of such officers will hasten the closure of church doors as much as lack of clergy. By contrast, we see around us a whole host of independent churches which seem to spring up from nowhere and have great energy about them. Of course, those churches often don’t have their own buildings to worry about, and rarely have any responsibility for anyone… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Father David
18 days ago

There is this also today: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/01/03/exclusive-400-churches-close-decade-amid-shocking-threat-parishes/, which is a tad sensationalist, although the somewhat defensive remarks made by one senior cleric amount to a species of spin. The Morris book has received a number of plaudits, and it can be read in one sitting; I am much indebted to him for his ‘Churches in the Landscape’ (1989). ‘Evensong’ is really a series of vignettes, where Morris follows his father through his career, in the RAF, at Westcott, Longbridge, Sanderstead, Battersea, etc. Wilson comes up because of his father’s preferment at Longbridge. After a paragraph on Wilson’s pre-war experiences (including confinement… Read more »

Father David
Father David
Reply to  Froghole
18 days ago

I greatly admire the photograph of Leonard Wilson on page 39 of Evensong – a “pipe sucking thruster” if ever I saw one – Brilliant!

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