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Lincoln see house was no longer suitable

17 August 2011


From the Chief Executive of the Diocese of Lincoln
Sir, — Anthony Jennings’s letter (12 August) suggests a remarkable lack of knowledge and understanding of his subject. He seems to be com­pletely unaware of the situation regarding the Lincoln see house, and, more worryingly, of the mission of the Church.

The diocese of Lincoln has an enviable record of prioritising the maintenance and improvement of its housing for clergy, and there is no question of our failing to keep clergy houses properly maintained. Similarly, the Church Commis­sioners (who are responsible for housing diocesan bishops) take their responsibilities very seriously.

The recently discovered state of the fabric of the see house would not be reason alone for its disposal. It is no longer the right house for a large number of reasons, some of which were reported in the Church Times article (News, 8 July) that Mr Jennings cites.

Mr Jennings should have been aware, too, before putting pen to paper, that this house was the see house for only 60 years. Had he sought any evidence for his asser­tions, he would have found that my comment about that house was particular, not general.

It is rather provoking to be characterised in this way when it is not long since I steered through a comprehensive refurbishment of the previous see house, such that the Old Palace in Lincoln is now a prime example of how the Church can use buildings for mission.

It is patently daft to suggest that the Church insults conservation charities when we dispose of a building. We are simply furthering our mission, just as those charities further theirs. The property specu­lator mentioned by Mr Jennings would surely laugh louder if we were to allow uninformed sentiment to sway decisions about how to achieve our purpose.

And this is the essential point. The Church must never lose sight of its mission — a mission that is about giving witness to God’s love for humankind and furthering the Kingdom here on earth. It is very difficult to see how that mission is promoted by forcing parsons or bishops to live in houses that were built for a different time and different circumstances.

In my view, Mr Jennings would serve his objectives better if he set about raising the money to acquire historic buildings and keep them as museum pieces, or by supporting, as I do, some of the existing conserva­tion charities. He could then let the Church get on with its work, which involves buildings only as instruments of mission, not as objectives in themselves.

The Old Palace, Minster Yard
Lincoln LN2 1PU

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