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Bishop’s Council recommends parish reorganisation plans
OUR Bishop’s Council has recommended plans for a reorganisation of parishes to inspire deeper discipleship, have greater impact on local communities and increase church attendance in south-east Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Members voted in favour of proposals to reorganise parishes in three separate areas of our diocese. The Bishop’s Council has asked the bishop to recommend the plans to the national Church of England, and he will now do so.
If approved, new teams of ministers, including both clergy and lay people, will be created in central Gosport, Newport and the Leigh Park estates to plant new congregations, inspire and deepen discipleship, promote evangelism and improve church buildings – as well as maintaining traditional worship. The aim would be to grow the church in terms of its depth of discipleship, engagement with the wider community and the size of congregations.
This decision came after a period of formal consultation between the end of January and the end of March with clergy, PCCs and other interested parties from all three areas.
During this formal consultation process, several issues were raised relating to group ministries, the structure of new PCCs, parish share, legacies, the recruitment of clergy, timescales, parsonages and other aspects of the proposals.
Bishop’s Council members met individual clergy, PCCs and deanery synods during this formal consultation period, and provided an opportunity for those clergy involved to address the Bishop’s Council directly at its meeting on April 3.
At the meeting, members considered the matters that had been raised in turn, looking at concerns about the process to date, team ministries versus group ministries, the designation of clergy posts, and the value of traditional parish ministry.
Bishop Christopher said: “The Bishop’s Council members took their responsibilities very seriously and wanted to examine each issue in detail, and each area in turn. They were very aware of the uncertainty that this process has caused to clergy and parishioners in each of these areas since October.
“There was also understanding that, especially in the initial stages of this process, there were things that could have been done differently to make it easier for those affected. Although the legally required process was followed, this has not been an easy process for anyone to experience. For the distress that has been felt, we are genuinely sorry.
“After a very lengthy and thorough discussion and debate, Bishop’s Council members ultimately decided that they were in favour of a new parish structure in all three areas. They have recommended these proposals to me, and I have agreed that they should be sent to the Church Commissioners to consider.
“The legal proposals recommended by Bishop’s Council are intended to provide only the minimum number of clergy in each area. We hope to work alongside people in those parishes to consider further lay or clergy appointments we might make alongside these clergy to address the specific needs of each locality.”
Bishop’s Council members will offer to return to those parishes they visited during both the informal consultation period – from October to December – and the formal consultation period. They want to talk through specific points made by clergy and PCCs in their responses to the proposals and to consider a way forward that might address some of those concerns.
The proposals recommended in Gosport include the creation of a new team ministry covering Bridgemary, Elson and Rowner; and a new team ministry covering Forton, Christ Church and Holy Trinity. The suggestion from the PCC of St John’s, Forton, that its building should become a mission hub for Gosport cannot be considered by the Bishop’s Council until June, when a report has been received from the national C of E’s Church Buildings Council.
The proposals recommended in the Havant deanery are for a new team ministry covering West Leigh, Leigh Park and Warren Park. And the proposals recommended on the Isle of Wight are for a new team ministry covering Newport Minster, St John’s, Carisbrooke and Barton. Its clergy would also have responsibility for the separate parish of Gatcombe.
These formal proposals for parish reorganisation will now be considered by the Church Commissioners, who are responsible for changes to legal structures in parishes across the Church of England. They will also consult with the clergy, parishes, residents and other interested parties over the next few months before making a final decision.