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Church's own paper puts cost of bishops under microscope

By Alf McCreary

The cost of bishops is under the spotlight in the latest Church of Ireland Gazette.

The Gazette looks at spending on maintaining an episcopal ministry - the bishops and archbishops.

In an editorial, it said the General Synod was told in May the total cost was "close to €2million".

However, it noted the Commission on Episcopal Ministry and Structures (CEMS) also indicated that "any detailed analysis of funding and financing issues" had not been a priority.

The Gazette, which is edited by Canon Ian Ellis, is funded by the church, but has a strong tradition of independence.

Yet its scrutiny of church finances may cause surprise among some.

The Gazette stated: "If one is thinking about episcopal provision, a key question is bound to be how many bishops are needed (and)... how much having bishops actually costs, or needs to cost.

"So, CEMS not having looked at finance in any detail is a surprising omission."

On June 10 the Gazette asked for a meeting with church authorities to help it better understand the financing situation.

This was declined, but following a further inquiry, the Gazette was asked to put its questions in writing to Church House in Dublin.

The newspaper submitted 26 detailed questions on July 27. The church sent an equally detailed reply on November 25, but did not mention figures.

This reply is printed in the current Gazette, which concludes in its editorial: "Many parishioners give very generously to the Church of Ireland, and they deserve straight answers to straight questions.

"While it is true that questions can be posed by members at General Synod meetings, and answers will be given, the prevailing culture in the Church of Ireland would make such a move far from easy for the individual concerned, especially in seeking information about episcopal costs."

The Gazette adds: "Church of Ireland House in Dublin can do better than stonewall a legitimate enquiry.

"The immediate issue here is not so much about whether circa €2million per annum is too much for the Church of Ireland to spend on episcopal ministry, but is more about access to the information that is an important first step towards reaching a good judgment on the matter."

The Church of Ireland press office declined to comment on the church's earlier reply to the Gazette or to the current Gazette editorial.

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