BY A STAFF REPORTER
THE first moves towards the biggest organisaA. Lion shake-up of the Church in England and Wales for over a century are likely to be made this year.
Diocesan, deanery and parish boundaries are eventually likely to be reorganised to coincide with civic and geographical boundaries. A national committee set up by the Conference of Bishops 18 months ago is awaiting the report of the Government's Maud Commission on local government boundaries before attempting its own detailed recommendations.
The Commission is expected to report in May.
On the diocesan level, opinion now appears to be in favour of appointing many more auxiliary (assistant) bishops with responisibility for specific areas. Those who support this scheme point out that it avoids the expensive process of setting up a separate organisation for each of a large number of small dioceses.
This trend has already been implemented in three dioceses: Westminster, where Bishop Butler is responsible for Hertfordshire and Bishop Casey looks after Middlesex: Lancaster, where Bishop Pearson has care of the Lakeland diocese: and most recently, Liverpool, where the newly-consecrated auxiliary Bishop Gray has been allocated the areas of Ashton, Chorley, Leigh, Leyland and Wigan. Archbishop Beck of Liverpool has already spoken out strongly in favour of dividing his diocese into five or six such units, and it is understood that similar wide-ranging changes are contemplated for the Northampton Diocese and the Thames Valley area.
There is also support for an even more radical proposal that a network of reorganised deaneries should be raised to the level of bishoprics under the control of a super-diocese. Bishop Pearson. Auxiliary of Lancaster with special responsibility for the Lakeland district, commented this week on the system of appointing more auxiliaries: "The great advantage of it is that the people can come into constant contact with you," he said, "and at The same time there is no need to set up a separate administration such as tribunals and curial offices."
Deanery reorganisation Many dioceses are also examining their present deanery structures. Last October the Southwark Archdiocese reorganised its deaneries in a borough boundary basis, and a Senate sub-committee in the Brentwood Diocese has presented a report for discussion.
This report proposes a complete reorganisation of the deaneries similar to that undertaken by Southwark. An alternative proposal is that the deaneries could be left unchanged, but the parishes within them would be linked geographically.
This system, says the report, "could take the form of a district pastoral council—midway between the parish council and the diocesan pastoral council—on which both clergy and laity would sit.
The Diocese of Arundel and Brighton has recently confirmed a number of changes in parochial boundaries, and other dioceses—including Hexham and Newcastle—are understood to be contemplating similar action.
Some clergy advocate the setting up of parishes along sociological rather than merely geographical lines. This could result in parishes for professional people, farming communities, working-class communities and so on,
Priests in favour of this system underline the difficulties of preaching to congregations consisting of mixed sociological groupings.