Church Commissioners support Diocese of Liverpool proposals for a new church structure in Wigan.

The diocesan scheme is to create seven new parishes from the existing 29 parishes.

The Church Commissioners approved the Diocese of Liverpool’s proposals for a new structure of church in Wigan.

This followed a consultation process which saw several representations from those concerned about diocesan proposals. As a result the Commissioners held a formal hearing in Wigan to enable interested parties to present their cases.

The Commission have announced the reasons behind their decision on their website.

You can read the judgment here
You can see the background here

The Church Commissioners have also set out a right to appeal for those who submitted a written objection. They have sent details to those entitled to appeal. Those wishing to appeal will have until October 28th to submit a written notice.

In their judgment the Commissioners stated that they were satisfied that the Diocese had done all that was required in terms of their consultation process which resulted in amendments to the proposals. They were satisfied “it would be right to allow the scheme to proceed, notwithstanding the representations made against it”.

However they “noted the degree of hurt expressed by many of those making representations and that the tone of some of the communication from Team Wigan had not been helpful in this respect”. The commissioners said they were “grateful for Bishop Paul’s honest acknowledgment of the mistakes that had been made, and of the hurt experienced and strongly recommended that, as part of the process of implementing the draft scheme, he and his team take steps to address the hurt caused with parts of the Deanery.” 

We have taken that feedback seriously. We know we have made mistakes in some aspects of our consultation and as the Commissioners themselves said we see the Public Hearing as a watershed in bringing members of the community back together. As a first step Rev Neil Cook, who we have appointed to head the leadership team, will be visiting parishes across the deanery to listen to people across Wigan and continue the process started at the hearing.   

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes said “I am deeply grateful to all who have taken part in this important consultation around these proposals. I have always stated that to be fit for mission and to see a bigger church making a bigger difference then we need to challenge the way we organise ourselves. However, I am aware that all changes, especially those which affect the traditions generations have been accustomed to, create challenges. 

I hear, and take seriously, the sincere criticisms and objections that have been put forward and thank all those who have taken time to make their view heard. I will continue to encourage Neil and the Church Wigan team to listen to all voices in the debate and to support them as they do. This judgment enables us to move to the important work of encouraging yet more people in Wigan to start on a discipleship journey.”
About the scheme
The diocesan scheme is to create seven new parishes from the existing 29 parishes. These parishes will be united into one structure – called a Benefice – which will have one overall leader (Team Rector) supported by a variety of vicars and church leaders working together. The new parishes will be
  • Wigan Central
  • Wigan East (Chapelfields)
  • Wigan North East
  • Wigan North West
  • Wigan South
  • Wigan Town Centre
  • Wigan West
This is a local response to many of the challenges facing the Church of England. Wigan clergy started discussions about their future many years ago. They realised that they could achieve more together. That the way of church having small units spread around the place was not helping the church flourish and serve communities well. By having too many smaller places to maintain they were frustrating their efforts to grow and to serve. They remained committed to a presence in every community but needed to change the way they organised that presence. A successful bid to the Church Commissioner’s Strategic Development Fund, supported by the Diocese of Liverpool, enabled them to invest over £1m.

This change will take effect in early 2020 and we will be working to put all necessary structures in place. We have recruited Rev Neil Cook, currently Priest in Charge at St James with St Thomas, Wigan to head up the clergy leadership team. When the scheme comes into effect he will be presented as Team Rector.
The aim of this scheme
The church in Wigan, supported by the Diocese of Liverpool, wish to see a bigger church making a bigger difference. This scheme aims to help clergy focus on helping their churches, worshipping communities and leaders fulfil that purpose. If we are to see more people knowing Jesus we need leaders who are less encumbered by bureaucracy and more able to help others on a discipleship journey.

Through this scheme we believe we will reduce the number of meetings church leaders are caught up in. We can centrally manage buildings, finances and administration as we work in a more concentrated fashion. This will enable our vicars and the hundreds of volunteers and worshippers who regularly attend church spend more time on what they want to do - serving others.

We also see this scheme as helping with the isolation and burden of responsibility that clergy shoulder for their church and parish. 

In each of these parishes we will be aiming to have a range of different styles of worship - from traditional to modern – so that people have choices. Local people will have the right to be married in any church building in the new parish. They will also be able to access the grave yards where their loved ones are buried and have the right to a funeral in the new parish should they so wish. We will also be offering Christenings in the same manner.

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About the consultation process

Any reorganisation of the parish system is governed by Church Law under the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011. This sets out the legal, administrative and consultative steps that must be carried out by a diocese wishing to make changes. The changes are overseen by the Church Commission.

About the Strategic Development Fund

The Church of England established the Strategic Development Fund to support diocesan projects aimed at bring about change in the Church of England. Dioceses have to bid for funding with clear plans which are fully scrutinised. The fund enables dioceses to try new approaches to enable learning and growth.