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Dear Bishops, Synod is broken: have you got the message yet? November 23, 2012

Posted by Phil Groom in Christianity, Church, Watching and Waiting.
Tags: , , ,

THANK YOU to everyone who has signed my petition, No Confidence in General Synod: Calling for an Urgent Review: 50 signatures in the first 24 hours and still gathering momentum, approaching 90 as I write. I’m aiming for 500+.

All the distress notwithstanding, the more I reflect on this situation, the more I think the way things have panned out is actually for the best. Daron Medway hits the nail on the head in this twitter exchange:

Not so much a tragedy, then, as an opportunity; but in the meantime, Synod is broken and thousands of people, men and women alike, feel severely bruised and battered by that discovery. We have a voting system that is not fit for purpose — but which can be fixed very simply without compromising on the two-thirds majority principle: 2/3 majority overall backed by a simple majority in all three houses. This retains the 2/3 majority protocol but ensures that a minority can’t hold the whole of Synod hostage yet still allows a majority objection in any single house to veto a motion.

All we need, Right Reverend gentlemen — yes, that’s you I’m speaking to, your Bishopnesses — is for you to make it happen. Call an emergency session or whatever it is you have to do, and fix it. Don’t faff about: just “get with the programme” as a certain other gentleman has expressed it, and mend the broken pipe before it floods us all with despair. In the meantime, I look forward to the day I can address a paragraph such as this to “Right Reverend ladies and gentlemen.”

If my little petition isn’t enough to persuade you that urgent action is needed, please see these other petitions:

Thank you.



[…] Dear Bishops, Synod is broken: have you got the message yet? (philgroom.wordpress.com) […]

2. John Campbell - December 11, 2012


we need to downsize the dioceses system; more mergers.

Great to see the plan to merge the dioceses of Ripon & Leeds, Wakefield, and Bradford. My understanding is that some dioceses may possibly soon also be merged in the Midlands – very good news.

But we need to go further.

Diocesan model – is it right for the UK CofE church in 2030?

If we did not have dioceses, would we invent them and put them in place now? If we were starting with a blank sheet of paper (rather than the accumulated cultural baggage of centuries of history), what central structures would we design as optimum for the church now?

The Anglican diocesan model results in massive ‘re-inventing of the wheel’ by each diocese, and outputs such as training and worship materials, and environmental policies, that churches could find elsewhere.
Examples I have come across recently are
reinvention of the wheel on mental health; various dioceses, parishes each trying to produce own ideas, policies etc ; similar happens on environmental policies etc; this uses massive resource ‘re-inventing the wheel’, and slows down best practice transfer; why not have one CofE policy in these sorts of areas? It may be motivating to be able to develop a local policy to fit local people, but I’m not sure that’s a huge gain (it’s only a negative hit if popel have been expecting that ‘right’ and it’s taken away). There may be cases for different policies for say ‘city’/suburban/rural areas, but not different policies for each diocese/parish.
diocesan demands on the parishes to run fund-raising campaigns, which often look to me like the centre trying to create money to support its own existence (not focused on outreach etc, but on self-preservation)
diocesan magazines, which seem to be to again be exercises in trying to justify and broadcast the dioceses existence.
Whilst many/most dioceses have worked hard to pare each branch of cost right down, and some are beginning to share some projects with other dioceses, they are not good at digging up and throwing out entire bushes of activity. I know many diocesan teams constantly ask themselves what level – parish, deanery, Diocese, nationally – resources and services are best located (some of the different components in the mix are: economies of scale (=> centralise), information costs and incentives for the parish (=> local) and need to cross subsidise (=> some form of centralise)), but they are not able to question the overall structure they are part of.

Theology, policy, training, cross-subsidies, asset management, financing, property management could all be handled from the centre. Candidate selection and pay could be done by parish, with guidance and help from centre.

Dioceses are not a Biblical model. For instance New Frontiers and Baptist Union operate successfully with a central group of leaders who mentor individual churches, and the individual churches employ directly their own workers, giving accountability; the Acts model.

My discussions with other denominations (New Frontiers, Catholic) on these themes produce some genuine hilarity at the size of Anglican central cost structures, and some despair about the Anglican church’s inability to change except in direst circumstances. The human cost of future last-minute job losses would be much higher than managed central cost reductions now.

If the parishes paid much smaller net sums to the centre (the New Frontiers churches tithe where possible to the centre to fund conferences and church-planting), more money could be spent on front-line workers, e.g. a living wage for vicars, and employing part-time local youth workers.

How to make progress?

Organisations, once created, fight for their own lives – and one can see this for instance in diocesan fund-raising drives to help preserve themselves. As a result an interim stage may be humanly required; e.g. mergers to give fewer, much larger dioceses (i.e. East Anglia). Eventually the large combined diocesan operations could then be merged back up into the CofE centre.

The Leeds merger is looking for 3% cost savings (p13, http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1574318/ydcr5-report.pdf) whilst seeming to maintain lots of activities; much, much more could be achieved if ineffective activities (use Jesus’ test; judge a tree by its fruit) were also eliminated.

It may be that you do not have the tools to appraise strategy in this form. My suggestion would be to ask for pro-bono work, e.g. by management consultants, so you equipped to help Justin Welby when he starts in 3/13.

Just say it, you know you want to...

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