ONE year after a report that warned of a "downward spiral of
despair" in parishes, people in the diocese of Lincoln are
reporting a fresh optimism.
Delivering a presidential address to the diocesan synod at the
end of last month, the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher
Lowson, said: "We are a great ocean liner, and we in the diocese of
Lincoln are not abandoning ship. I and my colleagues on the senior
staff team are doing all that we can to plot the right course,
we're getting on track and the engine is running well."
He acknowledged, however, that confidence in the diocese had
been "shaken" in recent years, as a result of a shortage of
stipendiary clergy, morale among the clergy that was "among the
lowest" in the Church, and a drop in parish giving. These were
among the problems highlighted in the Central Services
Review published last year (News,
28 September, 2012), which warned that clergy felt
"undervalued", and regarded the diocesan office as "remote,
autocratic, indecisive, and lacking in transparency".
Bishop Lowson has visited every member of the stipendiary clergy
in his or her own home for one hour during the past year. This was
described in the report on the implementation of last year's
review, published last month, as "very reaffirming". Speaking
afterwards, he said that, besides increasing the number of
stipendiary clergy - by 50 in the long term - continuing
ministerial development and ministry development review was
"something we are trying to do much better". Most people in
authorised or licensed ministry in the diocese are volunteers, and
the Bishop emphasised on Tuesday that their contribution would
remain vital in the coming years.
He suggested that the characterisation of the diocese office in
the review had arisen from the style of the last chief executive,
Max Manin, who resigned last May (News, 22 June, 2012), and that
there was now "a bigger sense that those people are there to serve
ministry and mission at a local level".
The review's recommendation that a £5-million Diocesan Mission
Fund be estabished has been taken up, some of it earmarked for
increasing stipendiary numbers. But most will be used on "mission
and ministry development", such as starter grants for Fresh
Expressions projects, and socal justice programmes "caring for all
the people of our diocese, not just those who are coming to our
churches on Sunday".
The recommendation that another archdeacon be appointed has
already been implemented with the arrival of the Ven. Justine
Allain Chapman. Permission has been granted to recruit a new Bishop
of Grimsby after the retirement of the Rt Revd David Rossdale, and
it is hoped that a "half-time" bishop will be recruited to focus on
the south of the diocese.
The diocese of Lincoln has suffered a recurrent funding deficit
of £1.25 million (in a £5.5 million budget). The implementation
report envisages that giving will be restructured in the next four
years, with many parishes seeing a "significant change" in their
share. On Tuesday, Bishop Lowson said that he hoped that by being
"generous but not irresponsible" with the historic assets of the
diocese, it would be possible to "kickstart a culture of
On Tuesday, Sue Slater, a lay representative of the diocese on
the General Synod, said that Saturday's meeting had felt "like a
relaunch of the diocese".