The Role of the Bishop
The relationship between the Bishop of Maidstone and individual parish churches is substantially shaped by the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests. The full text of the Declaration can be read by clicking on this link – https://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/general-synod/about-general-synod/house-of-bishops/declaration-on-the-ministry-of-bishops-and-priests.aspx.
The Declaration says that when a parish church has passed a resolution asking for arrangements to be made under the Declaration, then all those who have a role in ‘making appointments … or in exercising the power conferred by Canon C 8.2 to allow occasional ministry in a parish, should do everything possible to achieve an outcome that does not conflict with the nature of the (theological) conviction on this issue underlying the PCC’s resolution.’ It seems likely that there will be many cases where a Diocesan Bishop will propose oversight by the Bishop of Maidstone as a way of achieving this.
The Declaration goes on to describe the nature of the episcopal ministry that a Diocesan Bishop might ask another Bishop to provide: ‘The precise extent of the ministry entrusted to the bishop is for the diocesan to determine and is likely, for practical reasons to vary according to the pattern of episcopal ministry in that diocese and the extent of the bishop’s other commitments. But the expectation is that there will be many similarities with the range of responsibilities carried by any suffrage bishop within a diocese.’
The Bishop of Maidstone’s role is not, however, simply one of availability to dioceses. In approving the resuscitation of the See of Maidstone for this appointment, the Dioceses Commission also understood the need for there to be a Bishop who could articulate the views of conservative evangelicals who took a ‘complementary’ view of men’s and women’s ministry from a standpoint of personal conviction. As a result, the Bishop of Maidstone not only has a place in the College of Bishops, but is also invited to participate (but not vote) in meetings of the House of Bishops. The Declaration too acknowledges that the presence in the College of Bishops of at least one bishop who ‘takes the conservative evangelical view on headship’ is important for sustaining a climate of trust.