Monday, 13 July 2009

Fewer Bishops - more clergy?

There is a big debate in the press at the moment about suffragan bishops and this debate has drifted down to daily mail reading church members. The argument being put forward is that we have too many bishops and they cost too much. If we got rid of all the extra suffragan and assistant bishops we would have more clergy. I decided to look at the numbers to see what would happen if we followed the sage advice being offered...

Point 0ne: There are 77 suffragan and assistant bishops in the Church of England. If we got rid of them all, we would save a small amount of money, which would be nice, but money isn't the big issue when it comes to appointments.

Point two: The big issue about clergy appointments is the number of clergy available to appoint. It takes at least five years to train a vicar and we are not training new full-time clergy as quickly as the baby-boomers are retiring. According to figures that I have heard, we will have lost another 20% of full-time clergy by 2013 due to retirement. This means we will 2730 fewer clergy in 2013 than there were in 2000 when I started work in Milton Keynes. That's an overall drop of 29%. This is not policy, it's demographics.

Point three: Our suffragan and assistant bishops are very busy and are probably working too hard. In theory, their work could be taken on by a team of clergy who share their responsibilities, but this means taking more time from the local church. Assuming that four vicars could do the work of one bishop by giving 25% of their time to the role - which is probably unrealistic - we could cover their work, but this would result in more stress for local clergy and less time for parochial work.

Conclusion: Yes, we could sack suffragan bishops. This would provide 77 extra vicars - which would not quite replace the 2730 we're loosing because of "natural wastage". We would also increase the stress of at least 308 clergy and loose at least 77 vicars worth of time for the local church...

These are just the numbers. If you think it makes sense, that's up to you.


Alastair said...

Good post Tim, have tried to comment on this before but Firefox keeps crashing!

so will just say, I think suffragans are invaluable, more accessible and pastorally aware than many Diocesans and cutting the number of Bishops who serve our Dioceses is shortsighted and seems more like cutting off the nose to spite the face!

Eccentric Paul said...

Is the Daily Mail required reading for the clergy?

Do the suffragan Bishops read it?

Or, do they regard it as a the bell wether of public opinion?