It’s hard not to peep over the hedge sometimes to see what the neighbours are talking about.  Some are mooting  a sort of episcopal cull to match the diminishing numbers of clergy.

Which is interesting, of course because, if the CofE had as many bishops as we have per Piskie, as it were, they would have hundreds and hundreds of them.  And that in turn brings us back to that ever-pressing question, ‘So what do you do all day?’

I am still at heart the parish priest that I was for almost thirty years.  So I’m not a great fan of bishops as a class. I suspect that good parish priests will get on with it – others will flounder – and a bishop or fifty more or less won’t make a whole lot of difference.

And yet, as a paid up member of the Anglican Gamekeepers’ Association, I can see that we are no longer living in the relative simplicities of christendom.  No I know it wasn’t simple … but let that pass for a moment.  These are difficult times for the church and for clergy and people need more support than they did in the past.  I hope our clergy feel that in some kind of way I’m in the trenches with them – but you’ll have to ask them that yourself.

For what it’s worth, I’m more and more inclined to feel that there are only two things that matter much at present.  I’ll settle for leadership and holiness.  Any offers?


  1. Financial implications aside I am a fan of Ricardo Semlar’s approach to organisational structure.

    For those who haven’t encountered him he set about changing the family business he took over in Brazil, against a difficult political and commercial climate. He wrote about the changes in his book Maverick – not a stuffy business book but a very readable account of a series of organic changes within the business.

    Over time he completely demolished the hierarchy within the business and rebalanced the management:staff ratios. It was not a quick fix and I suspect the Church needs to expect change to take time and be organic if it is to make a lasting difference … the important thing is to avoid changes for changes sake and knee jerk reactions.

    from a financial point of view can we justify more bishops in the current economic climate? I am confident that ours is not the only congregation facing shortfalls in the cost of keeping our church a living, worshipping community and I am sure they would struggle to see more Bishops as a step forward … unless there is a clergy supermarket offering BOGOFs!

    1. That makes sense to me. But of course it’s hard to make any response to the question, ‘How many bishops?’ when there is no single picture of ‘So what do you do all day?’ Assuming, that is, that it is about ‘doing’

      1. One of the problems of any time and motion study is asking people what they do and then quantifying it – how do we know that the quantity is right? people work at different speeds; some tasks (sowing seeds) maybe done fast and well, whereas the person who grows the plants on can only achieve what the speed of growth allows – their strength then is quality (ensuring appropriate nourishment and care) to get the most return.

        So the church can see how fast the clergy are sowing (by the number of new churchgoers in annual returns) but assessing the quality of nurturing the faith of our congregations is much harder …

        I would suggest bishops are about “being” rather than “doing” and I believe a quantative assessment is neither achievable nor sensible.

        Take for example what you said at Randal’s funeral – which is more important – that what you said was true, was good and brought comfort or the length of time you spent writing it?

        If it helps what do I expect from any member of clergy? that they are faith leaders living the best Christian life they can (lead by example), that they are available in times of doubt or trouble, that they listen to the congregation’s needs, that they are honest and open and that they take an holistic view of the entire church body and not just their parish. For bishops I would expect them to add mentoring and coaching the parish clergy and that means they may be less ‘hands on’ with congregations or may not.

        I do not think expecting clergy and bishops to be managers is a good step – parishes should be encouraged to find good professionally skilled people to assist in a voluntary capacity running the business matters of their church and the diocese should look to retain a suitable level of professional management to run the diocese.

        Maybe your best guide as to “how many bishops?” is do you receive feedback from the clergy that they feel unsupported and vulnerable? If not and you are confident that they are being open and honest with you (ie not suffering in silence because they hate to rock the boat) then the balance is probably about right – if on the other hand the clergy tell you their bishop is never off the doorstep – you have too many perhaps?

        Hope this helps a little …

        1. Cathy – I think I agree with most of that – thanks for it. I suppose the thing that gives me pause for thought is that the response of the clergy might lead first to a rebalancing of my work programme rather than to the provision of more or fewer bishops [can’t remember the difference between less and fewer – but there you go] As with what I did today, a fair bit of my programme is determined by outside influences rather than my choices

  2. ……. though there is the old saying, ‘Too many chiefs and not enough Indians’, which may, or may not, have relevance, depending on where one is standing.

    1. Yes I’d go for a necessary minimum of chiefs. I used to say that one of the great strengths of the church – in terms of the clergy – was that [with the exception of the bishop] we all knocked doors. It kept our feet [literally] on the ground.

  3. Although I;m not a great fan of hierachy, I am actually, for more bishops not less… perhaps then the percieved gap between the grass roots and the “leadership” would be less…

    1. ‘thick and fast they came at last
      and more and more and more’
      Lewis Carroll

      Some here also talk about more bishops. I just don’t get that – all sorts of non-stipendiary options and things like that. In Irish political circles, they used to talk about ministers as being ‘car’ or ‘half car’ – in terms of full-blown Minister or merely ‘Minister of State’ I find my task difficult enough as it is – I need to muster all the authority I can to exercise an authoritative leadership. Anything less doesn’t meet the needs in my view.

      In purely practical terms – whatever members of congregations feel – I know that clergy like the bishop to turn up but not too often. It needs to be something of an event. Too many bishops and it becomes not an event.

  4. Educate me please: ‘piskie’ ? I can’t find any meaningful explanation using Google.

    1. Strange – Google is usually omniscient. Piskie is the [usually affectionate] name for a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church – used, I suspect, only in Scotland. Sorry for being a bit ‘in house’

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