Retiring: Stephen Lowe
THE POST of the Suffragan Bishop of Hulme has been axed, on the eve of a motion at the General Synod next month which could pave the way for cuts in the number of bishops and senior clergy within three years.
The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, announced this week that he would tell his diocesan synod on Tuesday that he would not seek a reappointment to the suffragan bishopric, after the Rt Revd Stephen Lowe retires next month. Bishop Lowe has been seconded for the past three years to be Bishop of Urban Faith and Life.
The cut follows the recommendations of the Bishop of Manchester’s Council Working Group in 2005, a spokesman said: “This will reduce the cost of suffragan bishops from three to two.”
The General Synod motion, which originates from the Bradford diocesan synod, seeks to balance the loss of stipendiary clergy in the parishes by cuts in senior posts. The Revd Dr John Hartley, Vicar of Eccleshill, who will propose it, said this week that his hope was that “we can ask whether we can find a new way for the hierarchy of the Church of England working.”
“Should we have archdeacons at all, or would it be better to make them all bishops?” he continued, “instead of us simply continuing with the same number of chiefs, when the indians like me on the ground are being reduced.”
The motion calls on the Archbishops’ Council to “formulate proposals for reductions in the numbers of Episcopal and senior clergy posts, taking into account the reductions for the number of stipendiary clergy since 1979; and submit a report with recommendations to the General Synod within three years”.
A briefing paper by the diocesan secretary, Malcolm Halliday, to accompany the motion, asks whether the time had come to have more “part-time or self-supporting dignitaries”.
There was a widespread feeling in the Church “that as the number of parochial stipendiary posts reduces, so the number of extra-parochial and ‘senior’ stipendiary posts should also reduce in proportion”.
The maintenance of the episcopal apparatus, its support services and expenses, produced a Church that appeared “top heavy”, Mr Halliday says. Last year, the Church Commissioners spent £7.3 million maintaining diocesan bishops’ houses, and £14.5 million in grants for bishops’ support staff and working costs. This is the equivalent of 20 clergy stipends per diocese, he says.
Mr Halliday quotes figures that say that between 1990 and 2007, full-time stipendiary clergy numbers fell from 11,076 to 8304. This figure is projected to fall to 7920 by 2012 — a reduction of 3156, or about 28 per cent on the 1990 total. In 1959, there had been 14,380 full-time stipendiary clergymen, of whom 377 were “dignitaries”, in senior diocesan posts. By 2007, there were 8304 full-time stipendiary clergy, of whom 347 were dignitaries.
Dr Priscilla Chadwick, who chairs the Dioceses Commission, which reviews the size of dioceses and delegation of functions by diocesan to suffragan bishops, writes in another background paper to the motion that bishops now had increased responsibilities. It did not make sense to cut their numbers.