A growing chorus of critics in the Church believes the houses are too expensive to maintain* and perpetuate an anachronistic image of Prince Bishops living in luxury while parishes struggle.
But Bishop Wright is adamant that neither Auckland Castle, the magnificent home of the Bishops of Durham for 900 years, nor other historical houses should be sold. "It is not nostalgia," he said. "It is actually wrong."
The bishop, a leading theologian and bible scholar, said the Church was under constant assault from sceptics who argued that its days were numbered and it was no longer wanted.
"Every time the Church destroys one if its deep-rooted symbols, it is conniving at that," he said. "That is why it is wrong, not just sad."
Sitting in front of a log fire in his book-lined study, he said that western culture was losing the ability to speak about buildings as places that encapsulated the memory of society, which could enrich future generations.
"Of course the Church, in following Jesus, must always be ready to travel light. That is a given. However, that imperative in our culture easily gets bound up with an inverted snobbery which is really the old politics of resentment which I thought we had grown out of."You can read the story at the Telegraph here. And the Bishop is right: the fundamental problem here is a lack of respect (at very best) for the Church. What an easy way to get rid of the Church of England! So many of her old churches are now bars and restaurants...let's just stick their officials in some bauhaus monstrosities.
One General Synod member said: "Auckland Castle is the most glaring example of a building we can do without. It is costly and gives out an entirely inappropriate message."
* follow that link, it's to a background story, and begins with this delicious quote:
"Heaven may have many mansions but Church of England bishops are queuing up to dispose of their imposing residences."