is argued that Bishops as they exist in the Church of England
today are simply Presbyters (priests) who are set aside
(consecrated) for a wider area of ministry.
in Scripture and the Nature of Christian Leadership
On the above page it
is argued that:
is to be modelled on Christ
are to be servants
leader is also a teacher
Leaders are to govern as stewards
Leaders are also to discipline
Leaders must bear the
Within an institution such as the church there will always
be a need for leadership with a wider sphere
of operation. This can take on many varied and different forms
but for many in such wider leadership
there is a problem that contact with people is decreased. Such
a leader will usually meet and have
contact with far more people but for much less time and in
a much shallower way. This factor affects
all sorts of leadership and can be a problem in a single congregation
but I want here to focus on the
ministry of Bishops as it has developed. Parish clergy often
complain that they don't get much care
from Diocesan leadership, yet this is largely the nature of
the thing, it is not the fault of the individual
Bishop or Archdeacon. In the wider sphere leadership becomes
more remote, but not removed.
In Scripture there is no distinction drawn between the office
of a Bishop and the office of a Presbyter, they are the same.
However, at the same time we can see in Scripture the seeds of
later development and simple organisational dynamics make it more
or less inevitable that some sort of wider leadership should emerge.
The formularies of the Church of England recognise this fact because
they seek to do justice to our heritage without saying more than
scripture allows. Thus as they developed Bishops were Presbyters
who were confered with or set aside for a wider area of ministry.
This distinction is
also reflected in the primary titles used in the Book of
Common Prayer were we find the 'making or deacons', 'ordaining
of presbyters' and 'consecration of bishops'. Consecration
means to set apart for a special use.
This being so the Bishop
faces some particular problems in exercising a presbyteral ministry:
leader is a servant. It is much more difficult to serve people
in any tangible way if the leader has
so little contact with them. Titles such as 'the servant of
the servants of God' sound grand but they are
difficult to model.
The leader is a shepherd.
The bigger the flock the more difficult the shepherd finds it
to pastor, he
simply cannot do it himself. The sheep do not know the shepherd
well and do not easily follow the
The leader is a teacher. Whilst
Bishops and others have the immense opportunity of teaching large
numbers of people it is difficult to teach in depth. They cannot
follow up one to one, they rarely teach
one group more than once or twice and they cannot know their
hearers so well. There are some
advantages in these things but overall the role of teaching
becomes more difficult. That is the nature of
the task, not the fault of any individual.
If these things are problems, then so too are the roles of
governing and discipline.
These tasks still fall
to the wider leader and sometimes it is an advantage. Sometimes
a decision has to be taken which is
hard to take when we are close to those whom it affects. However,
more often for government and
discipline there are potentially serious problems. In the case
of discipline, when it is exercised by a
local leader it should be an act of love, of pastoral concern.
For the wider leader, the desire may be
there, but it is far more difficult to do this, so it is easy
for it to appear as discipline without love.
In order for them
to be exercised properly the roles of government and discipline
must be set in the
context of loving service. For this reason we should be concerned
about moving these functions too
easily away from the local leaders in the Church. In an episcopal
church, which recognises and values
the role of Bishops we must nevertheless ensure that as far
as possible leadership remains local. We
should remember that the Church of England is not simply an
episcopal church, it is more than that a
national church and a parochial church. To use the buzz word,
we need subsidiarity, if it can be done
locally, it should be done locally.
It is often said that a Bishop is a focus of unity, and there
is truth in this.
First, the Bishop
is a focus of unity in that he is given the task of preaching
'the faith once
revealed' to all the people whom he oversees.
is a focus of unity since he is given the
special role of defending the faith against error and disciplining
those who teach error.
when a Bishop himself teaches falsehood or accommodates error
then he becomes a focus of disunity.
Sadly this is becoming increasingly the reality. No amount
of purple, fancy titles or exaggerated claims
can make up for the divisions caused by Bishops who do not
uphold the faith.
Church Society articles on Episcopacy
The Sacred Regiment of Bishops - Towards an Anglican Understanding. Churchman article by F. J. Taylor (1948)
The Anglican Pattern of Episcopacy. Churchman article by Rt Rev. J. W. Hunkin (1948).
Cranmer's Attitude to the Episcopate: Bishops, Priests and Deacons. Churchman article by Maurice Elliott (1995)
2. Should women