THE diocese of Lincoln, in which clergy feel "undervalued" and
regard the diocese office as "remote, autocratic, indecisive and
lacking in transparency" should make wholescale changes including
reducing its suffragan bishops from two to one, a report published
today (Friday) suggests.
Commissioned by the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher
Lowson, after his appointment in December 2011, the Central
Services Review paints an unflattering picture of the diocese.
Parishes feel that they are "presiding over decline", and that a
lack of stipendiary priests and low levels of giving have resulted
in a "downward spiral of despair".
It makes 51 recommendations, including the replacement of the
post of chief executive with a diocesan secretary, the appointment
of an extra archdeacon (the current two are "grossly overtasked"),
and the creation of a £5-million Diocesan Mission Fund to
"pump-prime a new cadre of stipendary deanery clergy".
The Bishop should assume "the authoritative leadership role" in
the diocese, and the diocesan office, which should revert to being
a "service centre", must adopt a "can do" attitude.
The review committee comprised Canon Air Vice-Marshal Paul
Robinson, a lay canon at Lincoln Cathedral; a Canon of Chester
Cathedral, Canon Richard Bowett, former diocesan secretary in
Norwich; and Keith Robinson, general secretary of the diocese of
London until 2009.
During the course of the review, the committee interviewed all
members of the Bishop's staff, four canons, committee chairman,
Church House staff, and 18 clergy and laity.
In a forward to the review, the committee said that it had gone
beyond the original remit of the review because it "uncovered other
issues that needed to be addressed". It acknowledged that some of
the recommendations "may be controversial", and that there was
"much that was excellent" in the diocese, but urged that the report
be spared "dilution".
Since the drafting of the report, the chief executive of the
diocese, Max Manin, has left his post. It was announced in June
that the Bishop then discovered information that led to enquiries
by the police (News, 22
June). Interviewees in the report criticised Mr Manin's
leadership style and habit of "acting independently, often outside
his terms of reference".
In 2010, a Formal Area Scheme was established in the diocese, in
which various powers were delegated from the Bishop, who had
commitments in London, to two suffragans. The report suggests that
this arrangement should now end, as the new Bishop has no outside
responsibilities, and interviewees had expressed concern that "in
the absence of comprehensive direction", the diocese would divide
into two entities "with the concomitant dangers of overlap,
misunderstanding and divergence".
Giving in the diocese is among the lowest in England, and the
review suggests that this is because the provision of stipendary
clergy and support to parishes has "declined so significantly that
they see no point in giving more".
A lack of "consistent strategy and policies" had led to
"systemic failings", namely a lack of "motivated and well-trained
ministers". It is recommended that a Director of Ministry, with
archdeacon status, be appointed to address this.
The report also notes "widespread dissatisfaction" with the "New
Era approach", whereby stipendary ministers were replaced with
voluntary lay ministers; and also warns that the decision by some
deaneries to undertake "aggressive fundraising" to fund stipendary
clergy "could lead to a bourgeois church functioning only in areas
which can afford to pay". A new model should be addressed, it said,
to provide mutual support to less prosperous areas.
The review also suggests that the Bishop consider creating
combined departments to serve both the diocese and the
Bishop Lowson, who will now ask the diocesan synod to consider
the report, welcomed its publication.
"There is a lot of good work being done in the diocese, by
dedicated and talented people, and the aim of the report is to
ensure that those excellent resources are being used in the right
way," he said. "The review group took a snapshot of the diocese at
a particular time, but what they didn't get is the reason for
things being as they are, and that is now where we need to do some
work with the help of people from the diocese on small panels
examining particular areas."
It is intended that nine panels will be established to undertake
the work recommended in the report.