Monday, 16 December 2013

Jersey and Winchester: The Debate in 1973

In the 1973 December edition of "The Pilot", followed by the January 1974 edition, there was a brief debate about whether Jersey and Guernsey should remain part of the Diocese of Winchester.

Our two protagonists in this debate were John Hitchcock, Churchwarden (of St Simon's Church) and the Dean, Tom Goss. Goss had been a chaplain in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and later was a Japanese Prisoner of war from 1942 to 1945.

Hitchcock cites the Isle of Man as an example and the way in which the Channel Islands are on the margins because of their geographical isolation, and hence often get left out of the Diocese's reckoning when decisions are being made.

Goss, on the other hand, counters with tradition, and suggests there would not be the anticipated savings if matters were costed; he may have been thinking of the larger funding from the quota paid to Winchester part of which goes towards clergy pensions. But he does think the Deans could be assistant bishops, not unlike Suffragan Bishops in England, who support the Diocesan Bishop.

Nothing came of this debate, perhaps because there was not the acrimonious conflict between Winchester and Jersey which now seems to prevail. There were no copies of the Diocese in Europe on the table in the Town Church. And the Bishop was John V Taylor, a liberal Evangelical in the Church of England, who was very popular, and whose theology was very inclusive; he was very supportive of Communicare and joint Anglican Methodist confirmations there.

But it is interesting to notice that, as Ecclesiastes puts it, "there is nothing new under the sun", and this matter has been raised 40 years ago!

Letter to the Pilot, December 1973
Dear Sir,

Are the Channel Islands part of the Diocese of Winchester? Most people will immediately say yes and dismiss the question as irrelevant. The lawyers and the historians can be relied upon to produce factual evidence to support the affirmative. The Bishop or his suffragans pay periodic visits for Confirmations, etc. Every parish pays its diocesan quotas, levied annually at the request of the Diocesan Finance Board. The local Synod spent quite a proportion of its time debating whether to send twelve people about four times a year to Winchester, eventually deciding to reduce the numbers in view of the enormous expenses involved. Enclosed in The Pilot is a copy of The Winchester Churchman which frequently refers to the Channel Islands.

In October the Bishop of Southampton drew attention in an article on Pastoral Reorganization to the fact that the Deaneries were examining this problem, by means of Working Parties. Further on one reads: "Hand in hand with this the Incumbents and Churchwardens have filled in an elaborate questionnaire". So it would seem that unquestionably we are part of the Diocesan Organization, and the purpose of this "elaborate questionnaire" was to assist the Bishop in preparing an overall plan for the needs of the diocese.

As I and my fellow Churchwarden had not heard of this important scrap of paper, inquiries were made as to what we .were alleged to have imparted. In reply we are informed "that the Pastoral Reorganization scheme in hand at the moment only concerns parishes on the mainland, and no questionnaire forms were sent to the Channel Islands". Why not? The total population is not far short of 150,000 souls served by40 churches, almost 15% of the diocesan resources.        How then can an overall plan becompiled without this information? These are questions to which every Anglican and especially Churchwardens (whose chief responsibility it is to raise money for their parochial needs as well as missions) require an answer.

I therefore propose, Mr Editor, that the problem of Pastoral Reorganization in the Channel Islands be conducted by the Decanal Synods of both Islands and that the time is long overdue for these Islands to become a separate diocese. This was aired long ago in Dean Falle's period of office, but was not deemed expedient. The Isle of Man is a case in point consisting of only 27 parishes with a population of 54,000. It would not be necessary to build a new cathedral, an existing church such as the beautifully spacious and noble edifice of St Simon's could well be adapted for this. Neither would it be necessary to import another person to be Bishop. Surely it is not beyond the resources of the present manpower situation for both Deans to be elevated to episcopal status; then the Chief Pastor would be seen and heard far more frequently and to greater effect in fulfilling the Mission of the Church in these Islands, which far too often receives very little attention within the confines of the Palace, the Close and Church House at Winchester, no doubt largely due to our geographic remoteness.

The financing of this proposal could easily be solved by the considerable amount sent to Winchester, annually, being retained within the Islands, and by this means our present ever-dwindling congregations would see for themselves where their money is going and to what purpose, and this would create a chain reaction inspiring people to do even more.

This is in tended to be a serious attempt to set about the gigantic task of Mission to the inhabitants of these Islands, to counteract the current endless talking about services, the emphasis on building luxurious
vicarages, and all the other totally irrelevant factors, none of which either individually or collectively does anything to bring people in touch with God. Is it too much to expect the next Decanal Synod to set up a Working Party to examine, at all possible angles and with speed, the pros and cons of such a proposition?

John S. Hitchcock

Where are the luxurious vicarages? - Editor.

Letter from the Dean (Tom Goss), January 1974
My dear Friends,

I was fascinated by Mr John Hitchcock's letter in last month's issue of The Pilot, in which he made a plea for the Channel Islands to become a separate diocese. I assume he means two separate dioceses, since if there were but one bishop for all the islands there would be endless arguments about where he should live and where his cathedral should be. (Perhaps Sark is most central and would cause least friction between
Jersey and Guernsey!)

On the whole I am against it. I am a died in the-wool traditionalist and value the ancient association with the diocese of Winchester which we have enjoyed for over 400 years. I believe we should be diminished without it and suffer a sense of isolation. I am also unconvinced that the proposal is economically advantageous. Mr Hitchcock speaks of the vast sums of money we send to the diocese as though we received nothing in return.

Independence would, I am convinced, cost us very much more and we should also be the losers in. what I might call "invisible imports".

On the other hand I do think there is something to be said for the deans of the islands being consecrated as assistant bishops within the diocese of Winchester, retaining of course the ancient title of dean. This would enable confirmations to be done by the deans and as well as saving money on travelling and other expenses would be a great saving of time and effort both for the extremely hard-pressed mainland bishops and ourselves. We would hope, indeed expect, our Diocesan Bishop to make regular visitations, but he need not necessarily spend so much of his time on what must be the very exhausting duty of nightly confirmation services. It has always worried me that we make such heavy demands upon our visiting bishops.


James said...

The argument about the continued existence of the Diocese of Sodor and Man is an interesting one, but the history of the Isle of Man is rather different to that of the Channel Islands (it having passed from Norse to Scottish to English control at various points in its history, and only having come under Crown influence as late as 1765).

The original diocese of Sodor and Man extended as far north as Lewis in the outer Hebrides, and included all of the western islands, Arran, Bute and the Mull of Kintyre. Maintaining the rump of something sizeable because of the legislative complexity of merging it into (say) the Diocese of Liverpool is one thing: creating a new structure for a micro-diocese in 2014 is another.

While the debate on a new diocese is being fired up here, the Church of England is currently in the process of merging three dioceses in the north of England (Ripon, Bradford and Wakefield) into one new diocese. They deny it, but it is apparently a cost-cutting measure. I rather think that the idea of creating one or two new bishoprics to serve the Channel Islands would be laughed out of court at synod, and would cause serious questions to be asked about equity in wider British society.

Interestingly, the appointment of the Bishop of Sodor and Man is made on the advice of the Prime Minister of the UK, the only point at which Downing Street has direct influence over Douglas...

James said...

There were no copies of the Diocese in Europe on the table in the Town Church

There was no Diocese of Europe in 1973 - it was still the Diocese of Gibraltar at that point.

TonyTheProf said...

Well there were certainly no copies of any booklet about that at the time! But there were Anglican churches across Europe; I remember visiting one in Rome around 1973.

TonyTheProf said...

On a lighter note, Sodor, of course, is the fictitious island on which Reverend Wilbert Awdry set his Thomas the Tank engine books.

TonyTheProf said...

Where is the real Sodor though, James?

James said...

"Sodor" is supposed to derive from the Norse "Sudrejar" - "southern islands", as distinct from the "northern islands" of Orkney and Shetland. So it's the archipelago, rather than a specific island.

James said...

The Diocese of Gibraltar was created in 1842 and at that time covered all Anglican chaplaincies from Portugal to the Caspian Sea. In 1980 the diocese was amalgamated with the Jurisdiction of North and Central Europe - which until then had been exercised by the Bishop of London, latterly through the Suffragan Bishop of Fulham - and renamed the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe.