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A "new relationship" with the Channel Islands

by Michael Ford last modified 09 Oct, 2019 11:08 AM

Bishop Nicholas has welcomed a proposal that would see episcopal oversight of the Channel Islands transferred to Salisbury.

A "new relationship" with the Channel Islands

The Dean of Jersey, Bishop of Salisbury, and Dean of Guernsey. Photo by Ash Mills

He said:

“Together we will explore the opportunities this new relationship brings. I look forward to getting to know the people of the Channel Islands and when we agree the next steps will welcome them into our Diocese. We will want a partnership in the Gospel that is good for all of us. A new chapter is opening in our shared life in Christ.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on the relationship of the Channel Islands to the wider Church of England started its work last year and today (Wednesday) it publishes its final report which allows for the continued flourishing of parishes on the Channel Islands, within the wider life of the Church of England.

The Report includes the recommendation for episcopal oversight of the Islands to be transferred to the Bishop of Salisbury.

The Archbishop’s Commission visited both Guernsey and Jersey, meeting with a cross-section of civic and church representatives in addition to meeting with a range of other stakeholders, including representatives from the Dioceses of Canterbury and Winchester.

The recommendations of the report will now go forward to the General Synod and the Island authorities for consideration, and recommendation to the Privy Council. Should the proposals be approved, the earliest that the attachment to Salisbury could take formal effect would be the autumn of 2020.

Until arrangements are finalised, Bishop Trevor Willmott will continue interim episcopal oversight of the Islands.

In a letter to the Diocese, Bishop Nicholas said:

“Salisbury is a Diocese that benefits from a variety of strong partnerships which illumine and strengthen our Christian life. I know we will do all we can to further the mission and ministry of Christ in this new partnership.”

The Dean of Guernsey, Tim Barker, said:

“We look forward to exploring with the Bishop of Salisbury and his colleagues the development of our mission and ministry in Guernsey, once the Channel Islands deanery synods have accepted the Commission’s recommendations and the legal processes are under way. I am grateful to the Commissioners for their report and to Bishop Trevor Willmott and the Diocese of Canterbury for their much-valued support in recent years.”

The Dean of Jersey, Mike Keirle, said:

"We are grateful for the work of the Archbishop’s Commission and we welcome their recommendations in this report. We thank the Diocese of Winchester for their care over the years and, subject to approval from the respective Synods in the Islands and Salisbury, we look forward to building new relationships with the wider Church of England and to the future flourishing of the Church in Jersey".

Bishop Nicholas laid out the timetable going forward:

“On 16th November our Diocesan Synod will have an opportunity to discuss the Commission’s report. I hope that Synod will join me in welcoming its recommendations which we expect to be cost neutral to the Diocese.

“In late November and early December it will be discussed by the Deaneries of Jersey and Guernsey and by the Archbishops’ Council. If there is a willingness to proceed, we will begin to build relationships and work on the detailed practicalities. Nothing formal can happen without the recommended Measure being approved by General Synod. It is hoped this will happen at the Synod in February and July 2020 and then it will need to be forwarded by the Islands States to the Privy Council for approval."

He added:

"Once the various parties have indicated their willingness to accept the Commission’s proposals, I very much look forward to getting to know the people of the Channel Islands so that we will be able to welcome them into our Diocese when the time comes and find ways for the Church to flourish in their own particular contexts."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, also welcomed the report and its recommendations:

“I am grateful to all in the Channel Islands and further afield who have given of their time, energy and prayer during the consultation.

“The aim of this Commission was to identify an environment in which the church and all who worship in the Islands can flourish together in Christ and within the wider life of the Church of England. I believe the recommendations of the report can allow for this to happen.

“My thanks also go to those who have served on the Commission chaired by Lord Chartres, and especially to Bishop Trevor Willmott for his episcopal oversight of the Islands while the Commission was concluding its task.”

The Report (which can be accessed here from 11am Wednesday October 9th):

The report offers a thoughtful and constructive away forward and the Commission has made clear recommendations that will allow the continued flourishing of parishes on the Channel Islands within the wider life of the Church of England.

The Commission was clearly drawn to Salisbury as the Diocese to which the Islands should be attached as our Diocese and its Bishops have strong historical links with the islands.

In 1496 Henry VII obtained a Papal Bull Prior transferring the Islands from the French Church to Salisbury. Ironically it was a former Bishop of our Diocese who was the first to visit the islands from England in 1818

We also have our links to the Channel Islands first through the port of Weymouth and later via Poole, which is still a ferry port for travel to Jersey and Guernsey.

We even share the same Diocesan Registry for our legal services and the Channel Island churches have links to both Salisbury Cathedral and Sarum College.

Read the Bishop's letter here

Since 1569 the Channel Islands – comprising the Deaneries of Guernsey and Jersey – were attached to the Diocese of Winchester.

Since 2015 the Diocese of Canterbury has provided support services for the Deaneries in respect of the payment of parochial stipends and associated costs, safeguarding and ministerial training, but with legal services remaining with the Winchester Diocesan Registry.

The Church of England is the Established Church in the Islands. The two deaneries are made up of parishes which have historically been largely coterminous with the civil parishes which form the basis for local administration in the two Islands.

In Jersey, there are 12 ancient parishes; there are also 7 district churches, 2 daughter churches, 2 chapels of ease and one proprietary chapel. In Guernsey there are 10 ancient parishes and 4 parishes which were created in the 19th century. There is also one daughter church (operating under a separate trust deed) and 2 further chapels – one owned by the States of Guernsey and managed by an ecumenical trust, and a chapel owned by a private trust within the parish of St Andrew but used for Anglican and other services. There is also one parish in Alderney and one in Sark.

In the ancient parishes, the church building belongs to the (civil) parish and, in both islands, these churches are maintained from secular rates.

In Jersey, the rectories in the ancient parishes are also owned and maintained by the civil parish. This is the case in eight of the ancient parishes in Guernsey (but three of these rectories are not occupied by the rector). The rectories in the other two ancient parishes in Guernsey belong to the rector and churchwardens. In the newer parishes in Guernsey and Jersey, the parsonage house is owned by local trustees. There are no parochial church councils, nor any church schools.

In March 2014, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Winchester, the Bishop of Dover and the Deans of Jersey and Guernsey signed an agreement to give effect to arrangements by which the Rt Revd Trevor Wilmott, then Bishop of Dover, would assume interim oversight of the Island parishes. Following this, an Archbishop’s Commission would look at the longer-term relationship between the Islands and the wider Church of England. This followed a breakdown in the relationship between the Islands and the Bishop of Winchester.

The Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin, said: “I’m most grateful to the members of the Archbishop’s Commission for their work and their recommendations. In particular, I welcome the proposal for the Island Deaneries to be given a fresh start with the Diocese of Salisbury. I remain committed to the flourishing of the churches in the Islands, and shall continue to pray for God’s richest blessing and his grace to be known in the Islands and among their churches.”

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