Date set for enthronement of Brighton and Hove's new bishop

Posted On 31 Aug 2012 at 9:29 pm

A date has been set for the enthronement of the new Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner.

Dr Warner will formally take up his new job, which includes responsibility for Brighton and Hove, on Sunday 25 November.

He is likely to be the last bishop – or one of the last bishops – to be enthroned by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

The news comes as one of the leading figures in the Church of England diocese that governs Brighton and Hove, the Bishop of Lewes Wallace Benn, was due to retire today (Friday 31 August).

Bishop Wallace Benn

Earlier this year the bishop announced that he would step down at the end of August as he would be 65 years old.

An event to celebrate his birthday and retirement was held earlier this month.

His retirement was due to come the day after the publication of a critical report commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The report can be read in full here.

It examined issues around child protection and paedophile priests and described the diocese of Chichester as dysfunctional.

The Bishop of Lewes and the recently retired Bishop of Chichester John Hind were both the subject of criticism.

The report said: “Rightly or wrongly the outgoing bishop told us that he felt that he is leaving the diocese with less authority in the east of the diocese than when he first came in whereas, rightly or wrongly, the Bishop of Lewes feels that the outgoing bishop had a lack of engagement with the East Sussex area and an unwillingless to talk to him about issues.

“Another senior member of the clergy team described the diocese as having no drive or direction from the top.

“There have been, and as a consequence still are, deep problems within the diocese.

“Indeed, we were deeply concerned to be told by the outgoing diocesan bishop, speaking of the year 2010, that the diocese was ‘dysfunctional’, a description with which others within the senior team have agreed either expressly or by implication.

“Moreover, we have no doubt that this dysfunctionality continues to impinge upon the adequacy of safeguarding within the diocese.

Bishop John Hind

“In addition, this dysfunctionality is underlined by the facts that a decision was made (rightly or wrongly) by some or all of the diocesan safeguarding advisory group to commence the procedure to lay a complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 against the Bishop of Lewes and that the latter has felt not only that he has been consistently kept out of the loop but that he has been made the scapegoat for systemic problems within the diocese.

“Unfortunately, subsequent to the period following the historic cases review in the diocese a mutual lack of trust and confidence occurred between the safeguarding advisory group (including the safeguarding officer) and the bishop’s senior team.

“This in its turn brought about weaknesses within diocesan safeguarding.

“In our view the combination of the change of person and approach of the last bishop from his predecessor (whose long episcopate had profoundly shaped the diocesan culture), the dysfunctionality that subsequently arose within the diocese as a whole, and the breakdown of relationships with the safeguarding group have together proved to be disastrous.

“Indeed, the diocesan bishop told us that he felt ‘paralysed’. In our view, once this feeling manifested itself, an impossible situation had transpired as it affected the person who had the overarching responsibility for safeguarding of the diocese.

“If final responsibility for safeguarding rests finally on the diocesan bishop – involving as it does appointments, the conduct of clergy and the policies in the parishes – it is essential that the bishop’s authority is both recognised and effective throughout the whole of the diocese.

“We welcome the present changes of leadership at the head of the diocese.”


Bishop Martin Warner

The new Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner said: “It is very clear that there is absolute determination in the diocese of Chichester that we should engage fully and seriously with the recommendations that relate to us locally.”

He accepted the need for transparency about child protection and the safeguarding of vulnerable adults and he agreed with the need for a radical review of the way that the diocese is run.

He added: “We are determined that this is a diocese in which the vulnerable will feel safe and will be safe. A new era has begun.”


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