Won’t sack bishops to offset declining assets, says Church of England

Published September 1, 2009

Canterbury, England
Despite declining assets and congregations, and a 352 million British pound pensions deficit (US$570 million), the Church of England’s General Synod has rejected suggestions to consider cutting the number of bishops and dioceses.

The suggestions followed complaints from clergy who said the Anglican church was top heavy and out of step with the times. The church’s two most senior clerics – Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and Archbishop of York John Sentamu – put the ideas for reductions before the synod.

General Synod proposed that the archbishops of Canterbury and York examine ways and means of re-organizing the church’s 44 dioceses and their bishops, to update the Church of England and to help weather the financial crisis.

“We do not think the answer is having fewer people for the same job,” Rev. John Hartley, vicar of St. Luke’s Church at Eccleshill in Bradford, northern England, told the BBC.  “What we are really asking for is a new way of working the church.”

The number of deans and canons of cathedrals, as well as archdeacons, bishops and other senior positions, has remained unchanged for half a century. Over the same time, the number of junior clergy has fallen, and this has led to the merging of parishes.

The synod defeated the motion to reduce the number of bishops, and also stopped a plan by Archbishops Williams and Sentamu to abolish church bodies responsible for education, mission and finance.

In 1960, the electoral roll of the  Church of England contained 2.86 million names. In 2007, the number had fallen to 1.17 million. Full time stipendiary (paid) clergy in 1959 numbered 14,380, and had fallen to 8,304 by 2007. The number of non-stipendiary clergy rose from 6,958 in 1960 to 11,201 in 2007.


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