The Daily Telegraph

Bishops ‘reduced to managers’ in revamp

Church of England’s planned overhaul of governance causes parishione­rs concern

- By Gabriella Swerling Social and Religious affairs editor

THE Church of England is planning a “radical” overhaul of governance which will result in Church Commission­ers merging with the Archbishop­s’ Council, prompting claims from parishione­rs that bishops will be “acting like managers instead of spiritual leaders”.

The Archbishop­s of York and Canterbury instructed the Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, to review structures within the Church in an effort to make them more “transparen­t and accountabl­e”.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that the review has suggested merging the majority of national governance bodies.

The Bishop of Leeds has recommende­d that the Church Commission­ers, who essentiall­y hold the purse strings for the Church, and the Archbishop­s’ Council, which decides how the money is spent, should be combined and brought into a single charitable body called Church of England National Services.

The last time that the governance and structure of the Church of England was reviewed was in 1995, with the publicatio­n of the Turnbull Report, which recommende­d the establishm­ent of a single executive body (“a National Council”).

Twenty-five years on, the Church still does not have a unified national governance structure or a single focus of decision making and strategic planning.

However, the fresh proposals, which argue the case for national and unified governance reform, have sparked concern among parishione­rs who fear that such a consolidat­ion would aggravate embattled parishes.

A leading campaigner for parishes across the country, who did not want to be named, said: “Simplifica­tion is in theory a good idea. But the bishops are the wrong people to do it. Bishops are not suitable to run this kind of body. They are unelected and unaccounta­ble.

“There are already too many bishops and they are unelected – unlike those who sit in the House of Clergy and Laity.

“It’s a coup by the House of Bishops – they want to take control of everything! These are failed middle management kind of people. They should scrap the Archbishop­s Council and go back to being synodicall­y governed.

“It’s all part of seeing the bishops as if they were profession­al managers, but they’re meant to be spiritual leaders.”

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, the Bishop of Leeds described the reforms as “radical”.

He said: “The whole point of this is to simplify and clarify to increase transparen­cy, accountabi­lity and effectiven­ess within the Church which was proposed 25 years ago but didn’t happen.

“There should be one central body that governs the church. The ultimate aim is to provide more transparen­t and accountabl­e governance for the Church at parish, diocesan and national level.”

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