Bishop Martyn’s guide for the media
In order to clarify some of the incorrect assumptions circulating in the media following Harriet Sherwood’s article Church of England to create bishop for minority ethnic community in The Guardian on 27 March, The Rt Revd Martyn Snow, Bishop of Leicester, has posted the following clarification.
The Bishop writes..
It would appear that our proposal to appoint the first ever Bishop of Loughborough is attracting quite a bit of comment. The Guardian ran a story this week, picked up by most other national papers, about the Church of England creating “a bishop for minority ethnic community”, and others have assumed this means the bishop will travel the length and breadth of the county working only with black, Asian and minority ethnic people.
So, let’s be clear on a few points:
1. The Bishop of Loughborough will be a suffragan (assistant) bishop in the Diocese of Leicester i.e. they will work with me to serve all people in Leicestershire.
2. He or she may, in time, have some sort of national role but this could be related to our church schools, our hospital or prison chaplains, our Credit Unions or our Foodbanks – it will not be exclusively about BAME communities.
3. He or she will carry a particular brief for helping BAME Christians to play a full part in the life of the Diocese of Leicester – whether growing our numbers of priests, leading diocesan outreach projects or training others in sharing their faith.
4. This proposal does not increase the number of bishops in the Church of England. This is simply a proposal to replace our current Stipendiary Assistant Bishop (who retires in May) with a Suffragan Bishop.
5. There is no significant increase in cost involved in this proposal. We already have two bishops paid for by the Church Commissioners and this doesn’t change.
So why then are we doing this? During the ten months that I have been Bishop of Leicester, the Bishop’s Staff Team have been refreshing our diocesan strategy known as ‘Shaped by God’. Some existing areas, such as our calling to establish as many fresh expressions of church as inherited churches by 2030, are fairly well resourced (we have received Church Commissioners Strategic Development Funding to create three new diocesan posts to enable this work).
But other areas have been less well resourced. Most noticeable for me, on my arrival was the distinct lack of BAME Christians in our churches as well as in leadership roles. This will be no surprise to many, but I had genuinely believed that a city like Leicester might buck the trend. We were after all, one of the first majority BAME cities in the country. But the Anglican churches of Leicester simply do not reflect the communities in which they are set.
And this is not because all BAME people are adherents of other faiths. At the last count there are now over 100 BAME majority churches in Leicester – our issue is that only three of them are Anglican.
By God’s grace, we want to do something about that. I believe the Church of England has a unique gift to offer within the wider economy of God’s church in this country and I believe that gift should be offered to UK minority ethnic people just as to UK majority ethnic people. If we truly want to be inclusive of all who live in our parishes, then we have to heed the cultural changes and challenges within our cities.
So, I realise this is quite a bold step. The appointment of a new Suffragan Bishop of Loughborough who will help lead our diocese, and play a part in leading the national church, as well helping us develop our work among BAME people is both exciting and challenging. I hope that he or she will provide both a role model and a prophetic challenge to our church, which has for too long talked a good talk about diversity, but failed to live this out. This is a unique moment of opportunity.
In November 2016, we outlined the procedure for the creation of this new suffragan see for Loughborough. In February 2017, General Synod gave its support to a proposal from the Diocese of Leicester to request HM The Queen to create a new See to be called the Bishop of Loughborough; details were summarized in a Church of England Press Release which noted that this is the first such new episcopal position since the See of Brixworth was created in 1987.