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Freeze the sees

16 December 2009


From Captain Philip Johanson CA

Sir, — The Winchester diocesan synod has recently approved budget cuts of £1.6 million (Letters, 4 December; Letters, 11 December). Included in those cuts were the posts of the chaplains at South­ampton University, Southampton Solent University, and Bourne­mouth FE/HE College (News, 27 November).

All three are front-line mission posts where the post-holders work with young people, many of whom probably never have any other meaningful contact with the local Christian community.

Last week, you carried an advert­ise­ment regarding the two vacant suffragan sees in the diocese of Winchester. It is hard to understand how the diocese can agree to cut front-line mission posts and yet con­tinue to fill vacant suffragan sees. Surely, in a time of cutbacks, an obvious cut would be at least one of the two suffragan sees rather than all three chaplain posts.

Back in July, the General Synod had a debate regarding the number of bishops in the Church of England. The Synod was urged to leave this debate to the Dioceses Commission, chaired by Dr Priscilla Chadwick. Should not the Arch­bishops’ Council freeze all vacant bishoprics until this work is com­pleted? Several opportunities have already been lost, and others will follow.

The diocese of Peterborough has been vacant this year, and the neigh­bouring diocese of Ely becomes vacant early next year. Peterborough has been filled; so the opportunity to review those two dioceses and to explore the possibility of one diocese rather than two is lost. In Kent, too, Maidstone has been vacant for several months, followed by Dover and then Rochester. Dover has now been filled, and work has begun on filling Maidstone and Rochester — another opportunity for reviewing boundaries lost.

The see of Portsmouth is currently vacant, as are Basingstoke and Southampton. On the basis of the age of the current post-holders, Winchester and Salisbury will both fall vacant in the next three years. It makes sense to review the boundaries of those areas now, before appointments are made.

All of this leaves me wondering whether the Church of England is really serious about reviewing and planning ahead. Is tinkering at the edges all we can expect?

10 Ditton Lodge
8 Stourwood Avenue
Bournemouth, Dorset BH6 3PN

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