Anne Gray looks at the make-up of The Society

Today there are 420 parishes which have passed a Resolution under the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests which are under the pastoral care of Society Bishops. These figures do not take account of Evangelical parishes which have passed a Resolution and are under the pastoral care of the Bishop of Maidstone. The total number of all Resolution parishes we are aware of is currently 535.

Earlier in the year, staff of the C of E Research and Statistics Unit most helpfully provided statistics extracted from the latest CofE statistics available at the time and a map of Society Bishops’ Resolution Parishes. During the past few months I have spent time analysing the data and compiling tables and charts to help create snapshots of the health of the constituency and tools for the bishops to use for deployment, ministry and mission. All parishes are shown on the map; here they are colour-coded to show pastoral areas of each bishop.

Statistics provide information about a variety of categories, which are too numerous to include in this short presentation. One example comes under the heading Parishes & People:

  • We know that the 413 parishes make up 356 benefices with 473 churches. The combined population of all these parishes is over 3 million people.

That is equivalent to the combined population of the dioceses of Exeter, Salisbury and Bath & Wells.

However, one of the most striking conclusions gained from evaluating this data is the irrefutable confirmation of what many people have reported anecdotally and the subject of Fr Ian McCormack’s presentation: that ministry and mission to the poor and deprived in Anglo-Catholic parishes is as much a hallmark of their commitment today as it was in the past.

Relative deprivation is assessed nationally by Government departments according to seven distinct categories including finance, health, employment and education and is recorded in the Index of Multiple Deprivation – ‘IMD’ for short. Every parish in England is ranked from 1 (the most deprived) to 12,599 (the least deprived). So it follows that nationally, 50% of all parishes are in more deprived areas and 50% in less deprived areas.

In Society Bishops’ Resolution parishes the proportion is starkly different: 84% are in more deprived areas and just 16% in less deprived areas.

Concentrating on the most deprived areas of the country the trend continues: of the 10% most deprived parishes in the country (1,260 parishes) – 176 (14%) are Society Bishops’ Resolution Parishes.

The population of these 176 parishes alone is greater than 1.4 million people.

Most striking of all is when the spotlight is turned onto the 1% most extremely deprived of all parishes – 126 of them nationally. Of these 126 parishes, 23 (18%) are Society Bishops’ Resolution parishes.

So whilst Society Bishops’ Resolution Parishes comprise 3% of all parishes, they have cure of:

  • 6% of the population
  • 14% of the 10% most deprived areas and
  • 18% of the 1% most extremely deprived areas of the country.

A version of this report was given to the Forward in Faith National Assembly

(Note from Jay – This article came with a few diagrams that might be essential for context, Colin may want you to omit this one.)