The vocation to public ministry as an ordained minister of the Church is a high calling. It demands much of those who serve as deacons, priests and bishops. For those who are married or in a civil partnership, this can have significant implications on family life for spouses, partners and children which can be both joyful but also stressful.
Like everyone else, clergy and their families come with fragilities and are not immune from the troubles and challenges of life and relationships. With the joys and the demands of ministry, sometimes clergy marriages and civil partnerships come under pressure and strain.
The Church, and its bishops, bear a responsibility to support clergy families, but sometimes clergy marriages and civil partnerships will irrevocably break down and lead to separation. It is vital that the spouses and partners of divorced and separated clergy are clear about the pastoral, practical and spiritual support they can expect of the Church in such a time of trauma and transition. This is why our bishops appoint and deploy 'bishop’s visitors' to support the spouses and partners of divorced and separated clergy.
The Role of the Bishop’s Visitor
A Bishop’s Visitor supports the spouse or partner of clergy in the event of the marriage facing difficulties or coming to an end. The Bishop’s Visitor will meet with the spouse/partner as often as is required to begin with and work together to agree a plan for immediate, medium-term and longer-term needs. The Bishop’s Visitor support and helps to identify needs such as housing, spiritual, worship, independent financial advice, therapeutic and provide signposting to ensure those needs are met. But they are not there to provide formal advice and will not use a 'one size fits all' approach. Their interractions are tailored to the individual.
If appropriate, the Bishop’s Visitor should encourage any spouse or partner who has not advised the bishop of their circumstances of their marriage to do so, but they will not themselves disclose this to the bishop unless agreed in writing. The Bishop’s Visitor will at all times operate within safeguarding requirements to ensure that the spouse/partner, member of clergy and any child(ren) are kept safe.
If you are the spouse or partner of a member of clergy and you are experiencing marriage difficulties, please make contact with Mrs Charnelle Stylianides, Director of People at the Diocese of Oxford via email, or on 01865 208 770. to arrange contact from a Bishop's Visitor