THE Bishop of Leicester sought the General Synod’s permission to petition for a new suffragan episcopal see at Loughborough. Under the Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure of 2007, the Bishop requires the permission of Synod before he could petition the Queen in Council for a new suffragan bishopric.
“This petition does not increase the number of bishops in the Church of England,” he said on Wednesday morning. “This is simply a proposal to replace a stipendiary assistant bishop with a suffragan bishop.”
There would be “no significant increase in cost”, because “as a diocesan bishop, I receive a block grant from the Church Commissioners which currently pays for two bishops’ stipends. . . The block grant will continue and it contains enough flexibility to cover any variance in cost.”
He said that the appointment of a new Suffragan Bishop of Loughborough would be of somebody “who will help lead our diocese, and play a part in leading the national Church, in evangelism, nurture, and growth among black, Asian, and minority-ethnic people. I hope that he or she will provide both a role-model and a prophetic challenge to our Church, which has for too long talked a good talk, but failed to act on God’s calling.”
He described the proposal as “a unique moment of opportunity”.
In 1986, the Bishop of Leicester had sought to create a suffragan see for the diocese, but “the then Archdeacon pulled the rug from under the feet of its proposers,” the Archdeacon of Leicester, the Ven. Tim Stratford, said. The former Archdeacon Silk was now a retired Roman Catholic bishop. “Times have changed, and in these changed times I can reassure you that this Archdeacon of Leicester is fully behind the proposal.”
Leicester was a diocese focused on growth, he said, with a commitment to building new ecclesial communities. It had made a commitment to creating, by 2030, “as many fresh expressions of church as we have inherited expressions”. Seventy, of a target of about 330, had been started so far. While there had been a “gentle reduction” of nine stipendiary clergy since 2010, during that period 140 new lay ministers had been licensed, and 40 lay employees appointed.
John Freeman (Chester), an alumnus of the University of Loughborough, welcomed the proposal. When he met the Vice-Chancellor next month he would “commend to him that he establishes early good relations with the new Bishop”.
Shayne Ardron (Leicester) said that a bishop had the ability to open doors and ears that might otherwise stay shut. “There is a desire [among people, parishes, and groups] to meet ‘the Bishop’ and have ‘the Bishop’ visit them,” she said. “‘The bishop’ is a title that is known and respected and valued – people like meeting ‘the bishop’. The office brings value.” People felt that their work was “given a broader stage when ‘the Bishop’ comes to see it.”
The Chair of the Dioceses Commission, Professor Michael Clarke, said that he was “delighted” to support the motion. The Commission was required to comment on the financial implications and whether it fitted within the diocesan development strategy. “We are satisfied on both counts,” he said.
The proposal was “the tidying up of an anomaly”. The diocese could not re-establish an abeyant see, as had been done with Berwick for the diocese of Newcastle, as it didn’t have one.
The Synod approved the motion:
That this Synod approve the proposal to petition Her Majesty in Council to direct under the Suffragan Nominations Act 1888 that the town of Loughborough be taken and accepted for a see for a suffragan bishop as if it had been included in the Suffragan Bishops Act 1534.