Letter: Power to the parishes, and the flying bishops

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The Independent Online
Sir: Episcopal power does not depend upon financial weight, as stated in your leader of Ash Wednesday ('Vicars fed from the collection plate', 16 February). If bishops were free from the burden of administering a whole range of diocesan and synodical boards, organisations and committees, then they could begin to offer the kind of leadership you ask for to the church and country.

Diocesan organisations, run by numerous full- and part-time paid staff, absorb an increasingly unwelcome part of a parish's resources, especially when many of the services are unnecessary or can be provided within the community at large. They also absorb episcopal energy and vision.

Andrew Brown's article ('Parishes to pay price of church property debacle', 16 February) highlights a need for diocesan economy in addition to increased giving by the laity.

The clergy in Durham receive the minimum stipend of pounds 12,200, plus a free house, which is partly funded by the Church Commissioners. The 'poor parish' of St Giles, which he cites, already gives pounds 14,400 to the diocese.

Why then the 50 per cent increase demanded by the bishop? Is it because a bishop's 'weight' appears to be measured by the size of his ecclesiastical empire - surely a mistake in Bishop Jenkins's case]

More giving would surely come from church people if it were seen to be for the benefit of the local parish church and clergy.

Frank Field is correct ('Dear Dr Carey', 16 February) in seeing the influence of the Church of England as stemming from the parochial system and foreseeing the danger that the present crisis will undermine its influence further. By all means let us reform the workings of the Church Commissioners and the General Synod, but also let us prune the pretensions of the dioceses, give power back to the parishes and influence to our bishops.

Yours sincerely,

DONALD SHEPHERD

Rector,

Langtree Team Ministry

Checkendon,

Reading

16 February

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