Synod to debate calls to sack bishops

The Church of England is to debate proposals to axe bishops and other senior clergy posts as part of a series of cost-cutting measures.

Members of the Church's national assembly will be asked to back moves to draw up proposals for reductions in the number of episcopal and senior clergy posts taking into account cutbacks to the number of paid clergy over the last 30 years.

The proposals will be put by the Reverend Dr John Hartley, Vicar of Eccleshill, in Bradford, at a meeting of the Church of England General Synod at the University of York.

There are currently about 110 episcopal posts including diocesan and suffragan (assistant) bishops in the Church of England.

Other senior clergy posts include between 100 and 110 archdeacons and 42 cathedral deans as well as cathedral canons.

A briefing note prepared by the Bradford Diocesan Synod said the Church Commissioners spent £7.3 million in maintaining diocesan bishops' houses in 2008 and £14.5 million in grants for bishops' support staff, office and working costs.

But the newly-formed Dioceses Commission, in a note prepared for the General Synod, said overseeing paid clergy was not the only element in the work of bishops and archdeacons.

"They also oversee self-supporting and active retired ministers and Readers, and these categories have grown in number as the number of stipendiary clergy has reduced," it said.

"Furthermore, bishops are not just overseers of the clergy but also chief pastors and fathers in God to the people of their dioceses - including those who do not regularly attend church."

The move comes after the Church Commissioners, which manages the Church of England's investments, announced that the value of its portfolio shrank to £4.4 billion during 2008 compared with £5.7 billion the year before.