THE diocese of Lincoln, in which
clergy feel "undervalued", and regard the diocesan office as
"remote, autocratic, indecisive, and lacking in transparency",
should make wholescale changes, a report published last Friday
suggests. These changes should include reducing its two suffragan
bishops to one.
Commissioned by the Bishop of Lincoln,
the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, after his appointment in December
2011, the report, 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
The report 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".
Bishop Lowson welcomed the report.
"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 on Friday.
On Tuesday, the Bishop of Grimsby, the
Rt Revd David Rossdale, said that the report had captured a
"snapshot of life in the diocese". The diocese had seen a
"wonderful burgeoning of lay and ordained ministry", and it was
important to "see how best to use the episcopal ministry to support
the self-supporting ministry which is being offered in the
The Archdeacon of Lincoln, the Ven.
Tim Barker, said on Tuesday that the report "doesn't make
comfortable reading", but that the findings "resonate clearly with
my own observations, and with concerns expressed by many clergy and
lay people in recent years". The diocesan council had met on Monday
evening, he said, and had "warmly endorsed" both the report and the
Bishop's response to it, including the recommendation that three
archdeacons operate in the diocese, taking responsibility
respectively for buildings, ministry for mission, and discipleship.
Bishop Lowson was to be congratulated on having "grasped the nettle
quickly" after his appointment, by commmissioning the report.
The level of giving in the diocese is
among the lowest in England. The review suggests that this was
because the provision of stipendary clergy and support to parishes
had "declined so significantly that they see no point in giving
more". A lack of "consistent strategy and policies" had led to a
lack of "motivated and well-trained ministers". There is
"widespread dissatisfaction" with the "New Era approach", whereby
stipendary ministers were replaced with voluntary lay ministers;
and the report 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 that can
afford to pay". A new model should be addressed.
Canon Christopher Lilley, a Prebendary
of Lincoln Cathedral, said on Tuseday that "an important element of
the review is the proposal to invest a substantial part of our
diocesan financial reserves into implementing the proposals,
including recruiting more stipendiary clergy."
Susan Slater, a lay representative of
the diocese on the General Synod, said on Tuesday that she hoped
the response to the report would include affirmation of Readers and
lay ministers, because "particularly in villages, lay people are
keeping the church alive. . . There is bit of a feeling that you
need stipendary clergy to get things done, which I think is
sometimes not fair on the contribution made by unpaid clergy."
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 inquiries 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". The report recommends that the Bishop
should now assume "the authoritative leadership role" in the
diocese, and that the diocesan office, which should revert to being
a "service centre", should adopt a "can do" attitude.
The review committee consisted of Air
Vice-Marshal Paul Robinson, a lay Canon at Lincoln Cathedral; the
Revd Richard Bowett, a Canon of Norwich Cathedral and former
diocesan secretary in Norwich; and Keith Robinson, who was
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 chairmen, Church House
staff, and 18 clerics and lay people.
It is intended that nine panels will
now be established to undertake the work recommended in the