Saturday 1 July 2023

"A Recipe for Red Tape" - the New Church of England Dioceses

A frenzy has broken out over secret Church of England plans to reduce the number of dioceses from 42 to 10.
Each diocese currently has its own head bishop, with staff covering training, administration, the bishop's diary, safeguarding and so forth.
But under the new plans savings will be made by cutting these to just 9 head offices, plus a so-called "Diocese of the Internet" based on the Island of Sodor.
It has been known for a long time that some dioceses are oddly shaped, and some of the cathedrals are at the extreme ends - Carlisle for instance is nearly in Scotland. But under the new scheme, where the people of Aynho in Northamptonshire had to travel all the way to Peterborough to be ordained, now instead they only have to go to Lincoln.

The Diocese of Sodor and Man is to be abolished. Not least as the Island of Sodor, being a giant train set, was far too attractive to male clergy approaching retirement and reducing the numbers applying for Houses for Duty elsewhere. Instead the Isle of Man is to be incorporated into the Archdeaconry of Liverpool, while the independent Diocese of Sodor will exclusively produce online services in a variety of churchmanship.

Some have seen the plans as a Remainer Plot. The Regional Dioceses are suspiciously similar to the former European Parliament constituencies - suggesting the Church of England is preparing for a push to rejoin. The Diocese of Taunton, for instance, looks suspiciously like the old Great Western region. And the location of the new cathedral for South East  England at the Ashford Railway Station suggests preparation for the Channel Tunnel to get back to full operation.

The reduction in the number of required cathedrals is seen as a big benefit. The Church of England Go-Ahead Groovy Thoughts Department envisages their use as shopping centres, John Lewis department stores, and electrical retailers, which they see as "modern reteail opportunities", as well as the locations for more traditional cathedral actitivities such as crazy golf, funfairs, and dinosaur parks.

But the bigger concerns are about the size of the dioceses. The report envisages that having one diocese running from Marlow to Lowestoft, for instance, may be on the cumbersome side. Which is why it is proposing making sure there is a new Self-Supporting Bishop in every market town. Giving everyone access to ecclesiastical support three Sundays a month and Tuesday evenings.

The issue of congregations not wanting women priests, man priests, gay priests, cat priests, etc will be resolved more simply than the current schemes. They will just be able to pick a bishop they like.

It is certainly a brave new vision. But will the new Church of England ever see the light of day?