THE transfer of parishes in the Channel Islands from the diocese of Winchester to the diocese of Salisbury is on the verge of completion, after legislation to approve the move was rushed through the General Synod.
Although the Synod was still to vote on final approval after the Church Times went to press on Wednesday evening, the legislation had been introduced, debated, and revised in just a few days, with overwhelming support from members.
After leading a commission to investigate the fraught question, the former Bishop of London Lord Chartres told the Synod on Monday that he had concluded that the relationship between Winchester and the Islands had broken down so irrevocably that they should be moved permanently to the Bishop of Salisbury’s ambit.
“The break with Winchester was extremely painful for all involved,” he said. “We heard many calls for reconciliation, but we came to the conclusion that a fresh start with another diocese might lend to a fresh relationship.”
This would also end the “episcopal limbo” the Islands had been in for six years, during which time they had had the temporary oversight by the now former Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott.
The fallout with the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, was prompted by a bitter row over how a safeguarding complaint dating back to 2008 in Jersey had been handled (News, 15 March 2013).
The Bishop to the Armed Forces, and the Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, introduced the legislation by telling the Synod that the move to Salisbury diocese had the support of the Islands, the Archbishops’ Council, and the diocese itself.
The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nick Holtam, insisted that this was not a question of “choosing your own bishop”, but of how to rebuild the relationship between the Islands and the wider Church of England.
Some Synod members, however, opposed the proposals, arguing that it was not good enough simply to give in on reconciliation between Winchester and the Islands. But others backed the legislation on the grounds that it was time to move on. The lay chair of the Winchester diocesan synod, Alison Coulter, said: “be pragmatic for the sake of mission”.
After the legislation was approved on first consideration, it was then — unusually— brought back the next day for the revision stage, which was swiftly approved by the whole Synod, also. It was then due to be brought back for final approval yesterday.