Bishops, Diocesan and Suffragan, Church of England and the Church in Wales

The Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester have seats in the House of Lords.

At present 24 English Bishops, with the two Archbishops, have seats in the Upper House.

When a vacancy arises it is filled by the senior Diocesan Bishop without a seat, and the vacated See is then placed at the foot of the list of those awaiting seats.

The title "Lord Bishop" is not confined to those English Diocesan Bishops who happen by reason of seniority to have seats in the House of Lords. All Diocesan Bishops of England are described in legal documents as Lord Bishop.

Diocesan Bishops rank below Viscounts and above Barons in the General Table of Precedence.

There has been some controversy as to whether a Suffragan Bishop (see below) is entitled to the style of "Lord" Bishop (i.e. whether this title is ecclesiastical or temporal), and although this prefix is given by custom or courtesy, he is not so styled in an official document.

The Church in Wales became a separate Province of the Anglican Communion as a result of disestablishment in 1920. The office of Archbishop of Wales is held by one of their six Diocesan Bishops.

How to Address Bishops, Diocesan and Suffragan

The recommended (social) style of address is as follows:

Beginning of letter Dear Bishop/Dear Lord Bishop
End of letter Yours sincerely
Envelope The Rt Rev the Lord Bishop of Blank (or The Rt Rev the Bishop of Blank)
Verbal address Bishop (or My Lord Bishop)
Invitation The Bishop of Blank
Joint invitation* The Bishop of Blank and Mrs Smith
Description in conversation The Bishop of Blank
List of Directors or Patrons The Bishop of Blank
Place card The Bishop of Blank

*Note: Traditionally invitations to a married couple, when sent to their home address, should be addressed to the wife alone, with both names being inscribed on the invitation card.

How to Address Retired Bishops

Retired Bishops are addressed by their names, but otherwise as for English Bishops, i.e. The Rt Rev John Smith.

The recommended (social) style of address is as follows:

Beginning of letter Dear Bishop
End of letter Yours sincerely
Envelope The Rt Rev John Smith
Verbal address Bishop
Invitation The Rt Rev John Smith
Joint invitation* The Rt Rev John and Mrs Smith
Description in conversation The Bishop of Blank
List of Directors or Patrons The Rt Rev John Smith
Place card The Rt Rev John Smith

Note: Retired Bishops sign their name after a cross, followed by Bishop.

*Note: Traditionally invitations to a married couple, when sent to their home address, should be addressed to the wife alone, with both names being inscribed on the invitation card.

Suffragan Bishops

In the Church of England the term applies to a bishop who is a full-time assistant to a diocesan bishop, for example, the Bishop of Jarrow is Suffragan to the Bishop of Durham.
The Church of Ireland has no Suffragan Bishops.
In the Catholic Church Suffragan is applied to all non-metropolitan bishops.

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