Sharing the Ministry of Archdeacons

In the first outcome from the Fit for Mission paper Bishops Council agrees plans to rework our Archdeaconries to form more manageable areas with a shared ministry.

Bishops’ Council has agreed an innovative scheme that will result in the creation of four new Archdeaconry areas to enable a greater focus on mission, pastoral and strategic engagement. The changes will take effect later this year after Archdeacon Peter retires.

Inevitably there are certain complexities around what we are trying to achieve. The role of Archdeacon carries legal burdens and responsibilities enshrined in canon law. This is not something we can brush aside and we will want to carry out wider consultation before we can formally create the new Archdeaconry areas. But the leadership challenge is more pressing so we cannot afford to wait.

We are understaffed. Compared to every other diocese we have a poor ration of Archdeacon to Deanery. It creates burdens on our Archdeacons, it increases the burden on our bishops and it creates a situation where increasingly our Archdeacons’ time is spent tackling emergencies. Through sharing the ministry we will have a greater ability to support clergy, Area Deans and parishes in their work to grow a bigger church to make a bigger difference.

“I have been increasingly frustrated by not being able to be as proactive as I would like, and I know Peter feels the same” explains Archdeacon Ricky. “By bringing about these changes we will have a greater opportunity to get alongside clergy and key lay people and through mechanisms such as the Archdeacon’s Parish Reviews get to encourage, support and develop the mission of the church.”

At first Archdeacon Ricky will be sole Archdeacon for the whole of our diocese while we sort the legalities out. But in the next couple of weeks we will be advertising nationally for three suitably qualified clergy to have the role of Archdeacon - carrying out the function on the clear basis that they will legally be installed into the role when we have sorted the formalities. Our aim is to have the three new Archdeacons designate in place by November - after Archdeacon Peter's retirement - so they can start work as Archdeacons on the ground even though they won’t by then have the formal title of Archdeacon.

This will mean the creation of three new Archdeaconry areas. Alongside Archdeacon Ricky as Archdeacon of Liverpool (a smaller Archdeaconry than at present) we intend to have an Archdeaconry of
  • Knowsley and Sefton
  • St Helens and Warrington
  • Wigan and West Lancashire

In organising the boundaries we are looking to base them on local authority areas as this will make much more sense for the wider public. To do this may involve some parishes moving from one deanery to another but we will be carrying out the appropriate consultation before making any changes. Our aim is to create more manageable areas which can then become places where the Archdeacons can form and support good and close relationships.

In agreeing to the creation of the new Archdeaconries both the Bishop’s Council and the DBF were adamant that they should not represent an additional charge on Parish Share. The Finance Committee is confident that it can work on that basis.

In his paper – Fit for Mission – which Diocesan Synod approved in March, Bishop Paul wrote: “I want to ensure our archdeacons are able to respond not only as an ‘emergency service’ in a crisis but also as a resource in the routine life of the parishes, giving quality and quantity time to their people and congregations”.

This is a first significant step on this journey, a journey to make us all fit for mission.

We need a college of Archdeacons with the time and capacity to smooth the way to growth, so that parishes are able to get the things done quickly and easily that they need to get done to be fit for mission.

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