INSIGHTS into the chronic problems within the Winchester Diocese have been given by church people on the internet.

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Tim Dakin, ‘stepped back’ last month after facing the prospect of a vote of no confidence at the diocesan synod. Many church people are unhappy at his management style over the last decade. It has seen an emphasis on ‘mission’ work whilst cutting back traditional village posts.

He has been replaced temporarily by the Bishop of Southampton, the Rt Rev Debbie Sellin.

Neither the bishop nor the diocese have commented and no local church people wanted to speak publicly about the issue.

Angela Tilby, a contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, wrote in Church Times giving insight into the background to the crisis: “Dr Dakin’s appointment in 2011 was in line with the diocese’s stated priorities for mission and growth. He came with a conservative theology and extensive leadership experience in Uganda and at the Church Mission Society.

“He quickly made his mark as a mission-orientated disturber: one whose instinct is to ‘move fast and break things’. And he broke quite a lot of things. I remember the shiver that we felt in Oxford diocese when we heard of the sacking of the entire Continuing Ministerial Development team. In Winchester, he broke links with southern-based training schemes and developed a bespoke one; started lay training without selection procedures, and made clear his preference for successful mega-churches over declining rural parishes.

“Parish clergy found themselves being reprimanded if they failed to achieve targets for growth. A significant proportion of priests in the northern archdeaconry have recently been persuaded to accept voluntary redundancy.

“Dr Dakin still has supporters, but, even among those who share his theology, there is disquiet at his style. It is no secret that Winchester has become known as “the North Korean diocese”.

The Thinking Anglican website has more than 350 comments on the story, including David Richards who said: “This has been brewing for some time. While I can appreciate how awful it must be for the Bishop to be in the spotlight like this, and can even sympathise with him, I am afraid the responsibility rests at his feet “in my opinion.”

“From the moment he arrived in the Diocese, he was quite clear that he knew what was needed to wake up sleepy Winchester. He failed (or refused) to listen to the long experience of those already in post, while adopting an “arm’s length” approach. The local media was aghast that he refused to give interviews before his enthronement, because he claimed he was far too busy. He even managed to upset the Lord Lieutenant by declining an invitation to a County gathering by telling her it was his day off!

“Curates were put on compulsory furlough last year, with a lack of pastoral bedside manner that would make Putin blush. Anyone who challenged the direction of travel was, effectively, told to grin and bear it, or leave.”

Fr Dean Henley said: “As to stepping back for six weeks, I’d suggest Dr Dakin spend those weeks in the toughest parish in Southampton saying the office with the clergy there and taking a few funerals at the Crem for ordinary people. He could set aside an hour a day for conversations with Bishop Sellin but otherwise fully immerse himself in parish life. Christians are by and large a forgiving lot and the experience might be educative and also go a long way to rehabilitating his standing in the diocese.”

James Watson said: “To accept a senior bishopric on the grounds that it gives you an opportunity to take a sledge-hammer to an established ecclesiology, without first weighing up the likely consequences, as well as being willing to inflict significant human collateral damage along the way, is just one sign of (what looks like) unfettered arrogance. Second, I am assuming that six weeks is just a temporary measure to allow the Bishop to process the severity of the situation, which has implications well beyond Winchester, before he makes plans to move to a different sphere of ministry. There is very little realistic prospect of him being able to lead a functioning diocese after this. There is too much disaffection.”