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St Luke's Church, Eccleshill - The Link magazine
The Link is published monthly at 40p (Senior Citizens 35p), and we deliver free within the parish and post copies (at the reader's expense) to those who request it. Please contact us if you would like a free copy for a trial period.
August 2009, Page 8.
More bishops, not fewer?
To read the newspaper reports about General Synod, you could be forgiven for thinking the Bradford Diocesan motion about reducing the numbers of bishops and senior clergy was trashed by the General Synod, and they decided to do the opposite. But that’s not the way it seemed to me.
After I’d said roughly what I wrote in last month’s Link magazine, the debate got off to a good start with an amusing speech by “Archimandrite Ephrem”, the observer from the Eastern Orthodox Church. “You all remember Cyprus in 1192, where practically every village had its own bishop,” he said, with a huge smile behind his immense beard. “That’s what the church needs nowadays: more bishops rather than fewer.” He then said what a lot of people had said to me privately: that the big ceremonial things that bishops do should be done more locally by people who really know their own towns and areas. Somehow we need a local bishop in each community, but the present big hierarchy of diocesan bishops who cover vast areas, and archdeacons and offices and staff to support them, is too top-heavy and needs a big rethink.
Two amendments had been put down in advance. The first was basically a do-nothing amendment which welcomed the setting up of the Dioceses Commission last year, and asked for a progress report on various tinkering which is already going on. The second asked for a theological and biblical report from the Faith and Order Advisory Committee, to tell us what “senior leadership” was like in the early days of the Church and how we could get back to being more like that in the modern church. It was fairly easy to see that the Synod wouldn’t pass the Bradford motion unamended, not least because you can’t really vote for a cut without deciding which work you want scrapped. The first amendment was going to get passed anyway, and the real trick was to try to get the second one passed too.
In a way, the problem with the Bradford motion was always that its wording had lagged behind its vision. We in Bradford really wanted a big review of what kind of bishops and senior clergy the church needs, followed by action to get there. So the tactics were to welcome the first amendment in a way which made it clear that people should vote for the second amendment too; and to keep looking cheerful enough for everyone to vote the whole thing through at the end. And that’s what happened.
So will anything change? Not yet, but no-one on Synod praised the present system. There is real pressure for change: I think it will come in time.
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This web page was last updated on 16th October 2009.