The House of Bishops' Declaration: 3
– Arrangements for Parishes
ColinPodmore looks at what the House of Bishops' Declaration says about parishes
The arrangements for parishes are set out in paragraphs 16 to 29 of the Declaration. Forward in Faith will be issuing guidance to parishes on passing Resolutions under the Declaration later this autumn.
Paragraph 16 says that there is not to be a `postcode lottery'. This is a quite different approach from that of the previous legislation, which envisaged `diocesan schemes' interpreting a 'code of practice'.
Paragraph 18 is important. In the Church of England the responsibility for such decisions is neither with the priest nor with the congregation as a whole, but with the PCC. Members of the congregation maybe invited to express their views, but the FCC must exercise its responsibility and not effectively delegate it to a congregational referendum.
The quorum and majority requirements are different from those under the 1993 Measure and the Act of Synod. For Resolutions A and B to be passed, at least half of the FCC members had to be present and a simple majority of those present had to vote in favour. For a petition under the Act of Synod (`Resolution C'), at least half of the PCC had to be present and two-thirds of those present had to vote in favour.
By contrast the quorum for resolutions under the Declaration is the normal FCC quorum (one-third), but the majority required depends on the number present. If two-thirds are present, then only a simple majority of those present need to vote in favour, but if fewer than two-thirds are present, there must be a simple majority of the whole membership of the PCC.
So, for example, if there are 20 members of the FCC and all are present at the meeting, Resolution C would have required at least 14 to vote in favour, but a Resolution under the Declaration will be passed if only 11 vote in favour. If 14 members are present, only 8 (instead of 10) need to vote in favour. But if fewer than 14 attend, 11 will need to vote in favour.
Another important difference is that Resolution C could only be passed if the incumbent or priest-in-charge agreed with it. The Declaration contains no such restriction.
The form of words is only a recommendation. Forward in Faith is likely to recommend a somewhat fuller text for the Resolution.
Re-viewing the resolution can involve reviewing how the arrangements under the recommendation are operating: are they satisfactory or do they need to be revised? Having this on the FCC's agenda from time to time will also serve to remind people (and inform new members) of why the Resolution is needed.
Reviewing the Resolution does not mean that the PCC has to vote again. All that is needed is for a FCC agenda to include as an agenda item To review the Resolution under the House of Bishops' Declaration: If the PCC is content with the working of the Resolution, the Minutes of the PCC should simply record that a discussion took place and include a distillation of the view arrived at.
A Guidance Note from the House of Bishops has been published. The covering note says This is...aguidance note. It neither adds to nor subtracts from the contents of the Declaration: Any attempt to give it a status that it does not claim to possess should be resisted.
The purpose of consultation between the diocesan bishop and the parish's representatives is not for the bishop to attempt to persuade the PCC to modify its theological conviction, but simply to find out what the conviction is, so that appropriate provision can be made. A Conservative Evangelical parish mightbe happy with a male bishop or a male priest, regardless of who ordained him, but a Catholic parish will not be.
A Catholic parish will understand that in receiving the ministry of a priest it is receiving the ordaining ministry of the bishop who ordained him, and that if there is doubt about the sacramental ministry of women as bishops, there will be doubt about the sacramental ministry of those they ordain. And a well-taught Catholic parish will understand that a priest can only flourish if he is in full communion with a bishop and with all those whom that bishop ordains to the priesthood — a full communion made visible when he stands together with them at the altar. This will require the ministry of a bishop who ordains only men to the priesthood.
Forward in Faith will issue guidance to facilitate this consultation between the diocesan bishop and the parish.
Paragraph 23 means that if the PCC has passed a Resolution, an incumbent or priest-in-charge must comply with it when appointing curates or inviting other clergy to minister in the parish, regardless of his (or her) own views.
Paragraph 24 means that if a patron presents a candidate whose appointment would not comply with the Declaration, the bishop must use his or her power to veto the appointment in order to protect the lay representatives from having to use theirs.
Note that paragraph 25 refers to `appointments to the benefice; not ministry within the benefice. What is contemplated here is that, when it comes to appointing an incumbent or priest-in-charge, the needs of parishes that pass a Resolution and the needs of parishes that do not pass a Resolution are weighed. With regard to ministry within a parish that has passed a Resolution, the Resolution will stand and those responsible are charged with finding a way of giving effect to it.
Paragraph 29 says that the ministry of a bishop under the Declaration willbe like that of a suffragan bishop (not like that of a retired Assistant Bishop who may visit a parish to do a confirmation). As the fifth Guiding Principle says, the provision is to be `pastoral and sacramental: That means that it will not only be sacramental but will involve responsibility for the life of the church.
The House of Bishops Guidance Note says, The aim should be to explore options that will avoid, on the one hand, a single parish being able to frustrate the wishes of the others in the benefice and, on the other, that parish being denied the pastoral and sacramental provision that the PCC has sought: Thus, the House of Bishops contemplates a situation where the incumbent or priest-in-charge of a multi-parish benefice cannot exercise priestly ministry within a parish in that benefice (just as the diocesan bishop maybe unable to exercise episcopal ministry within that parish).
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