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. On Wednesday, the diocese announced
plans to recruit 100 new clergy and to make Lincoln "the best
environment for personal, professional and spiritual development
for its clergy".
On Saturday, delivering a presidential address to the diocesan
synod, 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 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), which warned that clergy felt "undervalued", and
regarded the diocesan office as "remote, autocratic, indecisive,
and lacking in transparency".
Bishop Lowson has visited all the stipendiary clergy in their
homes for one hour during the last year. This was described in the
report on the implementation of last year's review, published last
month, as "very reaffirming". The great majority of people in
authorised or licensed ministry in the diocese are volunteers or
non-stipendiary, 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). There was
now "a bigger sense that those people are there to serve ministry
and mission at a local level", he said.
The review's recommendation that a £5-million Diocesan Mission
Fund be established 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. Justin Allain
Chapman. Permission has been granted to recruit a new Bishop of
Grimsby after the retirement of the Rt Revd David Rossdale. 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 budget of £5.5 million). The implementation
report envisages that giving will be restructured in the next four
years, and that many parishes will see 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 "kick-start 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. . . We need to be those three words that
the Bishop is talking about [as set out in his vision: faithful,
confident, and joyful], or we will not attract other people. They
need to be encouraged and excited about coming to a diocese where
we are encouraged and excited about sharing the work of the
The Archdeacon of Lincoln, the Ven. Tim Barker, said that the
review of the diocese had been "a slightly unsettling process,
because one is continually asking questions"; but it had given the
diocese a "pretty clear sense of direction. . . I really am
very, very hopeful and confident about the way we are going." Of
the task of filling posts, he said: "I just hope clergy will be
willing to take the adventure of coming to somewhere not known to
them, as it is a diocese being seriously honest about where it is,
and committing itself to going forward."