Bath and Living Room and Attic and Wells
How does one house a Bishop?
It’s not my intention to rehash the arguments on the plans to move the residence of the Bishop of Bath and Wells to a nice rectory five miles away. But this morning the Church Commissioners have issued this statement.
In light of such activity it is right and proper that considerations such as appropriate privacy for any new Bishop are considered and whether it is sustainable for a diocesan bishop and his family to live in the midst of an increasingly busy tourist attraction. The Commissioners believe that it is not. Inevitably such decisions are hard choices and in this instance the Commissioners are aware that their decision has not been popular. It must however be balanced against wider considerations, not least where the welfare of those who by virtue of their calling find themselves in demanding positions of responsibility.
The Commissioners believe that by living in the palace the Bishop will in practice find it very difficult to avoid devoting significant amounts of time to its maintenance, operation and upkeep. The experience of the last bishop bears this point out. It remains the commissioners view that any incoming bishop should not find his ministry restricted in this way before his ministry commences.
The new Bishop played no part in the decision with the consultations with the senior leadership team taking place before the bishop’s appointment. Going forward the issue of the Bishop’s housing is not something which should overshadow the Bishop’s ministry. We agree with the diocese that it would be unhelpful for this issue to be one in which the Bishop himself is expected to become involved.
So let’s run through that again. The Commissioners are concerned that living in the palace the Bishop will have to spend time maintaining the building. What? Seriously? Are the expecting him to get out the rollers and touch up the roof? Have the Commissioners not heard of decorating firms? Surely the job of maintaining the building is the job of the Commissioners? Or is the raising of issues of maintenance a way to warm people up to the idea of selling off the building because an independent and impartial inquiry is being setup which will report that the palace is too expensive to keep?
But the most egregious part of the statement is this.
The new Bishop played no part in the decision with the consultations with the senior leadership team taking place before the bishop’s appointment.
Right. We’re concerned that the Bishop might find the running of the Palace will be a burden too far, but heaven forbid we actually talk to the Bishop involved and see whether he thinks it’ll be a problem. “We’ll decide what’s best for you – don’t worry your pretty head about it”.
Typical Church of England hierarchy – not actually interested in caring for it’s pastors or even talking to them about things that affect them, but rather concerned with how to balance the books.
There’s a great interview with Andy Piggot, Archdeacon of Bath, in this week’s Sunday programme.