Masding warns his fellow clergy to be on their
guard with the arrival of Common Tenure and its radical change of church culture
Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure has passed Parliament
and received the Royal Assent. Parts are now being implemented. The Regulations
have been made. The (binding) Code of Practice is being prepared.
you read them? They are available online (on the Church of England’s website).
Do not believe everything you may be told, of course. Your informant may be wellintentioned,
but wrong, or wrong-headed. Understandably – these are complex matters.
English Clergy Association advises those with freehold of office not to agree to
surrender it, and not to go over to the basis of common tenure, under which you
may at times feel rather like a mere serf. This is our advice to all
archdeacons, rectors and vicars, deans and canons, and even bishops themselves.
When the Measure
is fully in force, future appointed such persons will all be on common tenure,
so far as office is concerned. But the freehold of parsonages will remain vested
in rectors and vicars, something for which we campaigned, and where the
Archdeacon of Berkshire and others in Synod were so elective.
new legislation does not affect the freehold of the church and parsonage that
the incumbent will continue to enjoy; but future rectors and vicars will have no
freehold of office given to them in their institution and induction,
merely the property freehold, still very important in itself.
have campaigned for a better deal for curates and other licensed clergy in the
past, and in the Eighties succeeded, through the Ecclesiastical Committee of
Parliament, in persuading General Synod to give curates and others a legal right
of appeal against summary withdrawal of a licence by a bishop. Of course, a
bishop remained able to givethree months’ notice, even so.
therefore we are glad to see that licensed as distinct from beneficed clergy do
gain a little security under common tenure. Summary dismissal will not be
possible: due process of law will be required. What this may actually mean in
practice has yet to be seen, and case studies will be revealing.
will probably take some time for the full elect of these radical changes to the
underlying culture of the Church of England to become fully apparent. It has
been said that fewer presentations to livings will now be suspended, so that
there will be fewer priests-in-charge; and there will therefore be more rectors
and vicars appointed by patrons of livings, subject as before to the usual
consents, by the bishop, and by each of the parochial lay representatives. We
shall see. Dioceses may still be motivated to suspend by a desire to get the
house – and in future maybe the church itself, as anecdotal evidence is
beginning to suggest.Bullying is an issue raised by the trade union Unite. One
ought to be looking carefully at the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of
Service) Measure, the Regulations made thereunder, and the draft Code of
Practice crucially covering capability and
grievance - procedures – all now to
be mandatory, and not matters that will ‘go away if you don’t look’.
Equally to be compulsory are ministerial review and continued ministerial
education – not a Chinese labour camp, of course, but still a matter of
episcopal direction rather than something for a clerk to undertake at his or her
own choice. So there are improvements in aspects of the position of those clergy
who merely have licences, and are not beneficed, I agree, but even for them not
all is improvement.
Under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure (and even under the revised version of the Incumbents (Vacation of Benefices) Measure), there was an element of judicial objectivity) – a jury-like system of persons sitting with the totally independent judge, the Chancellor, under the EJM, and a requirement that proof be beyond all reasonable doubt.
new tribunals under the Clergy Discipline Measure not only are obliged to
have regard to the bishop’s position of authority in these matters, but, made
up wholly of unelected people, they make their judgement against an accused
clerk on the balance of probabilities, the so-called ‘civil standard’
the case of capability proceedings under which, no less than under the Clergy
Discipline Measure, a clerk may be deprived of his or her benefice or
licence, appeal will lie to unfamiliar industrial tribunals – and a steep
learning curve for all involved! At every stage the bishop and his officers will
be heavily dependent upon a new breed for the Church, the HR-adviser…
‘Human resources’ is a revealing term –
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