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General Synod digest: Channel Islands

24 November 2023

Geoff Crawford/Church Times

THE General Synod’s final act in its November group of sessions was to approve the Vacancy in See (Amendment) Regulations, which provide for the Channel Islands to be represented on the Salisbury vacancy-in-see committee.

Episcopal oversight of the Channel Islands was transferred to the Bishop of Salisbury in 2020, after a breakdown in trust which followed controversy over the Dean of Jersey’s handling of a safeguarding complaint in 2008, and his subsequent suspension by the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin (News, 15 March 2013). The Archbishop of Canterbury took on temporary oversight in 2014.

Under the transfer, it was agreed that the Deans of Jersey and Guernsey would become ex-officio members of the Salisbury vacancy-in-see committee. The Archdeacon of Sarum, the Ven. Alan Jeans (Salisbury), said that the move was another step in the growing partnership between the Islands and Salisbury.

“I’m delighted to announce that our relationship is flourishing. . . There are significant differences between our two bailiwicks as well as between them and the diocese, and so we drafted a memo of conduct not unlike a pre-nuptial agreement,” he said, emphasising that lay representatives were already catered for in the current arrangements. “This will confirm our commitment to working together on shared vision and strategy, and support our mutual flourishing — shared living and learning together.”

The Dean of Jersey, the Very Revd Mike Keirle, described the eight years when the bailiwicks had found themselves with no spiritual home, after their departure from Winchester, as a time when they had turned inwards on themselves, questioning what it meant to belong to the wider Church. He was thankful for the “safe harbour”, he said. “The new regulation gives legal substance to our belonging, and cements our new relationship. It should sweep away any anxieties.”

Debbie Buggs (London) wondered whether it might produce a top-heavy committee, and the Revd Mike Tufnell (Salisbury) wondered whether it was “democratically entirely fair, with respect to the rest of the diocese”. Debbie McIsaac (Salisbury) gave assurance that lay representation had been sorted out internally in the diocese, six months previously.

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, a former Bishop of Southampton, declared his love of visiting both islands. “I want to put on record, as someone who saw with sadness all that happened, my joy at how it has been resolved. Congratulations,” he said.

The vote was carried by a show of hands.

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