Episcopal ministry in Lichfield Diocese

Published: 2nd March 2018

As we celebrate the first Bishop of Lichfield on St Chad's Day, a statement from the bishops of Lichfield Diocese on episcopal ministry:

Bishops are called to serve and care for the flock of Christ. Mindful of the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep, they are to love and pray for those committed to their charge, knowing their people and being known by them. As principal ministers of word and sacrament, stewards of the mysteries of God, they are to preside at the Lord's table and to lead the offering of prayer and praise. They are to feed God's pilgrim people, and so build up the Body of Christ.

They are to baptize and confirm, nurturing God's people in the life of the Spirit and leading them in the way of holiness. They are to discern and foster the gifts of the Spirit in all who follow Christ, commissioning them to minister in his name. They are to preside over the ordination of deacons and priests, and join together in the ordination of bishops.

As chief pastors, it is their duty to share with their fellow presbyters the oversight of the Church, speaking in the name of God and expounding the gospel of salvation. With the Shepherd's love, they are to be merciful, but with firmness; to minister discipline, but with compassion. They are to have a special care for the poor, the outcast and those who are in need. They are to seek out those who are lost and lead them home with rejoicing, declaring the absolution and forgiveness of sins to those who turn to Christ.

Following the example of the prophets and the teaching of the apostles, they are to proclaim the gospel boldly, confront injustice and work for righteousness and peace in all the world.

[Common Worship Ordinal of Bishops]

Collegiality and episcope: episcopal ministry in the Diocese

As bishops serving in the Diocese of Lichfield, we affirm the following principles which underlie our work together and with our colleagues within the diocese:

All bishops are consecrated to the same ministry a common calling worked out in different ways and in different roles. Under the direction of the diocesan bishop, the ordinary of the diocese, the bishops of the diocese form a college whose purpose is to serve the whole people of God within the diocese.

The diocesan bishop as chief pastor and leader in mission exercises his functions jointly with this college of bishops and shares the cure of souls with parish priests in order to equip the whole people of God for mission and ministry.

The diocesan bishop exercises the gift of episcope over the episcopal team, ensuring that all are given the opportunity to use their gifts to the best to serve the diocese, providing overall direction and coherence to the common endeavour

We are committed to developing the collegial model of working together as an expression of our complementary ministries within the episcopate. We regard this as supportive of the role of the diocesan bishop, and affirming also of the ministry of the area bishops. At all times, as bishops we exercise our ministry in conformity to agreed diocesan policies. Within this common framework, there is space for each bishop to contribute individual gifts to the diocese as a whole. The area system provides an essential framework for ensuring that the episcopal ministry is fairly distributed across the diocese, but it does not exclude the diocesan bishop from direct pastoral interaction with clergy and parishes; nor does it imply that area bishops have no role in relation to the diocese as a whole.

Having a common shared vocation, worked out in different ways under the leadership of the diocesan, relationships between bishops are of paramount importance. Essential to the flourishing of our episcopal team is a common life of worship, prayer and study. Bishops together are a college: a corporate body who share a distinctive identity, part of whose calling is to resource and support each other in our common vocation. Collegial work demands a personal commitment to the others well-being and flourishing which can only be expressed through relationships which go beyond the functional and task-orientated.

It will be appropriate for some responsibilities to remain under the direct oversight of the diocesan bishop. We do not attempt to list all of these, but note particularly the authorisation of ministries, clergy discipline and the oversight of safeguarding within the diocese. If the diocesan bishop wishes to delegate responsibility in relation to specific issues which are not normally delegated, this will be on a case by case basis.

In order legally to enable their ministry, under the Area Scheme the diocesan bishop delegates to area bishops the undertaking of certain responsibilities in their own name. This should not be taken to imply a rigid demarcation of responsibilities; the collegial pattern of working outlined above remains the key to episcopal ministry in the diocese.

The absence of rigid demarcations may from time to time create ambiguities. This possibility is, however, the inevitable cost of fostering a culture of collegiality, and this culture, if properly fostered, will also enable the free flow of information which will allow ambiguities to be quickly resolved.

The college of bishops has a particular responsibility to promote the sharing of episcope with others within the diocese without whose ministry the oversight of the diocese could not happen.

All of these principles should be held together with the established system of ordinary jurisdiction, which they are not intended to undermine.

These principles should be read as an integral part of the Area Scheme, rather than as a preamble. The specific delegation of functions is simply meant to give effect to these general principles of a collegial sharing of episcope. The implication of this is that the operation of the Area Scheme is more than a mere matter of rule-following; it is the cheerful acceptance of a distinctive way of collaborating which can never be fully specified, but must be modelled by the diocese as a whole. We believe that this is an important embodiment of the culture of generous sharing, mutual hospitality and practical co-operation which we are all to nurture as those called to follow Christ in the footsteps of St Chad the first Bishop of Lichfield.

Five Guiding Principles

  • As bishops in this diocese and in the Church of England, we are committed to the mutual flourishing of all faithful Anglicans as set out in the Five Guiding Principles.[1] We therefore welcome the provision of episcopal ministry by the Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Maidstone to those parishes which have made the relevant declaration, and particularly their shared commitment to pastoral care and to supporting and encouraging the churchs mission. Moreover, both these bishops serve as assistant bishops in the diocese, meaning that their episcopal ministry here is not limited to parishes which have specifically petitioned for their extended episcopal oversight. The diocesan and area bishops meet and consult regularly with both bishops.

+Michael Lich:

+Clive Wulfrun

+Mark Shrewsbury

+Geoffrey Stafford

2 March 2018

[1]In 2014, as part of the legislative process which issued in the consecration of women to the episcopate, the House of Bishops issued a declaration on their commitment to the mutual flourishing of all within the Church of England, whether supportive of or opposed to the ordination of women. This declaration established the following Five Guiding Principles, which - the bishops explained - need to be read one with the other and held in tension, rather than being applied selectively :

1. Now that legislation has been passed to enable women to become bishops the Church of England is fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, and holds that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience;

2. Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter;

3. Since it continues to share the historic episcopate with other Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and those provinces of the Anglican Communion which continue to ordain only men as priests or bishops, the Church of England acknowledges that its own clear decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God;

4. Since those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England remains committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures; and

5. Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England.

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