Clergy partnerships, in line with other partnerships, do, sadly, encounter periods of difficulty and may break down. These situations are never easy for anyone, but for clergy partnerships there may be additional pressures resulting from other people’s expectations and projections, and a particularly acute sense of failure, guilt and shame. The breakdown of a clergy partnership may impact not only the couple and their family and friends but also the worshipping and wider community. It can also have implications for ministry roles and housing. Clergy partnerships and family life are often more public than in other spheres of life, and boundaries between personal and professional can often be blurred. Some partners of clergy see themselves, and are seen by others, as an integral part of the ministry offered by their partner. This role is often not formally acknowledged or renumerated.
In recognition of this, the Church of England has support networks in place to assist clergy, their partners and their families when relationships come under strain or break down. Chief amongst these is the role of Bishops’ Visitors.
How Bishops’ Visitors can help
Bishops’ Visitors act on behalf of the Diocesan Bishop in cases where a clergy partner may need advice, practical help and emergency financial provision because the couple are contemplating separation or have made the decision to separate. As a couple, you may not have made a decision to separate but for various reasons you have been considering it and may be unsure of what would happen regarding such things as finances, children, where would you live etc.. In such cases, a confidential conversation with a Bishops’ Visitor may help.
Bishops’ Visitors are usually the first port of call in such a crisis. Bishops’ Visitors are appointed by the Bishop; they do not offer marriage guidance or counselling but offer an understanding and compassionate listening ear. Bishops’ Visitors are selected for their skill and experience; they can signpost and support you to access sources of support, and always maintain strict confidentiality. If you feel you would value this kind of support, for which there is no charge, please contact directly one of the Bishops’ Visitors listed below. Please be aware that the Bishops’ Visitors work as a team and support one another in their work. They also work closely with diocesan, archidiaconal and Bishops’ Office colleagues to ensure that you get the help that you need. In such collaborative working, they will only disclose your identity if you give permission for them to do so, unless there are immediate Safeguarding concerns.
You are, of course, also able to contact the Bishops, their Chaplain or the Archdeacons directly if you prefer to have a conversation with them.
Our Bishops' Visitors
My name is Ann Faulkner and I live in the south of the diocese. I am married with two grown up children and currently work as a music teacher and choir musical director. I have a background in counselling, with a particular focus on Post Traumatic Stress work and used to work as a workplace counsellor. My husband has been in ordained ministry for 14 years, which gives me an understanding of the dynamics of clergy family life.
I was invited to take on the role of Bishop’s Visitor by Bishop Peter Price in 2005. My background is as a therapist for over 20 years and have been a spiritual director for over 25 years. Although I have now stopped as a therapist I am still involved with the world of spiritual direction.
I spent my working life in the regulated financial planning world. Now retired, I am regarded as having a specialism in dealing with clergy families for over 30 years, and excellent relationships with the Church of England Pensions Board. I bring this background to the Bishop’s Visitor role together with a genuine interest in trying to help find solutions and ways forward.