CONGREGATIONS in four Essex parishes are said to be “stunned and dismayed” after a patron of one of the parishes blocked the appointment of a new priest.
An anonymous press notice sent to the Church Times said that parish representatives in the two benefices of Tollesbury with Salcott Virley, and Tolleshunt D’Arcy and Tolleshunt Major were unanimous in their wish to have the Revd Jo Dudley as Priest-in-Charge. Chelmsford diocese is creating a united benefice of the four parishes: the North Blackwater Group.
But the press release suggests that one of the parishes’ patrons blocked the appointment, a decision it describes as “astonishing” and “unprecedented”. It criticises the patrons for not voicing any objection before the interview process.
Exeter College, Oxford, is the patron of Tollesbury with Salcott Virley; the Church Pastoral Aid Society (CPAS) is the patron of Tolleshunt D’Arcy and Tolleshunt Major.
The Bishop of Colchester, the Rt Revd Christopher Morgan, who represents the Bishop of Chelmsford in the appointment process, said that he could not comment on the decision, which was made in atmosphere of confidentiality.
Speaking in more general terms, he said that appointments did not happen “if it was felt someone has insufficient experience, or if there were particular parts of the job which someone’s profile or ministry does not address”.
He said that any objection would not have been made on the grounds of gender, as no church council in the episcopal area had carried Resolutions A or B for those parishes opposed to women’s ministry.
A statement read out last month in the four parishes confirmed that two shortlisted candidates had been interviewed by eight parish representatives, the Bishop of Colchester, and representatives of the patrons. It said: “Following interviews with the two candidates, agreement could not be reached about who should be appointed. . . it is hoped that another appointing process will take place in January.”
Martyn Sargeant, director of operations at CPAS, said that the society could not comment on this particular case, but that, generally, if consensus could not be reached between patrons, the Bishop, and parish representatives, no appointment would be made.
The Rector of Exeter College, Frances Cairncross, said: “It would be inappropriate . . . to comment on the particular circumstances of any appointment.”