Grassroot unrest prompts review of bishops' role

Church of England wards off calls from priests to cut jobs at more senior levels

For years it has been the grumble of the vicarage. Why, the grassroots clergy asked, did they have to bear the brunt of cutbacks and redundancies from falling congregations while their bosses, the bishops, remained virtually untouched. Yesterday in York, the Church of England took a first tentative step towards closing that gulf by ordering a review of the bishops' role.

The review is expected to last at least two years but will go some way to addressing concerns among the parishes that senior clergy have yet to accept a fair share of redundancies and cost-cutting measures. Demands for a cut in the numbers of bishops were sidestepped but critics were promised a wide-ranging debate on what should be expected of the diocesan leaders.

Reverend John Hartley, of the diocese of Bradford, led the calls at Synod for the Church of England to do unto senior clergy what it was doing to priests. He was driven by a sense that parish clergy were being treated unfairly and were having to accept a disproportionate number of job losses.

In the last 50 years, Dr Hartley pointed out, the number of stipendiary clergy has been slashed by almost half whereas less than 10 per cent of senior posts had been lost. "I believe that in a situation where we have to make cuts we do have to start by saying cuts have to be made right across the board. You can't say one particular type of clergy is immune," he told The Independent. "It's not just bishops. It's the number of bishops and senior clergy – the managerial layer of the Church."

Dr Hartley accepted that it would be impossible for senior staff to be cut back in exactly the same proportion as lower grade clergy but said measures could be taken to make sure the burden was spread more fairly. To identify how cost cutting could be better managed, he called on Synod to order a report to be completed within three years to provide "a bird's eye view" of how many senior clergy are needed.

"There is a problem that needs to be addressed in the way the Church of England is staffed. Why does it seem that the top end of our Church is resistant to this type of change and reorganisation?" he said at Synod, suggesting that bishops could take on two diocese just as other clergy have to take on multiple parishes.

The Reverend Charles Marnham from London, told Synod: "It's about doing at senior level what we are doing at local parishes. There has been a squeak from the local parishes – they have taken a lot of the pain."

There was, however, recognition by Dr Hartley and his supporters that re-organisations within some diocese have already begun to improve the imbalance – even though from 1990 to 2006 almost all cut-backs were made in parish posts.

Among those opposing the demand was Dr John Saxbee, the Bishop of Lincoln, who said: "The present number of bishops just about delivers the levels of oversight, care and leadership the ministry and mission of the Church requires. If the number is reduced, the capacity to deliver to a standard that clergy, congregations and community are entitled to expect would be compromised."

Despite the refusal to accept that future cuts should be shared equally between parishes and dioceses, there was sympathy for Dr Hartley. Amendments were put forward during a debate to block "the numbers game" but to offer the olive branch of a review.

Wages of virtue

*A newly appointed assistant bishop earns £29,460.

*Suffragen bishops, the next rung up, get £30,440.

*A diocesan bishop, the most senior in a diocese, gets at least £37,320

*The Archbishop of Canterbury gets £69,820.

*Parish clergy start on £19,640.

*The average parish stipend is about £21,500.

*All clergy are provided with homes; senior bishops can live in palaces.

*All clergy can qualify for loans of up to £9,820 to buy a car.

*Bishops get 36 days of annual leave.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform