Civil Service to get a valentine

23 January 2008

by Bill Bowder

The Archbishops’ Council was still revising its report to the General Synod on proposals for the Church to take more control of the appointment of its bishops, the Synod’s general secretary, William Fittall, said at a pre-Synod press briefing on Monday. It had received hundreds of responses to its consultation exercise, after the Prime Minister’s proposal to withdraw the Government from its part in appointing bishops.

On 14 February, the Archbishop of Canterbury would ask the Synod to approve proposals that invite the Government to agree to a continuing, and not a merely formal, place in the appointment of bishops, Mr Fittall said. “This is not a U-turn by the Church. The Church’s voice will still be decisive,” he said. But the Crown would be asked to advise by appointing a senior civil servant to work with the Crown Nominations Commission.

The central part proposed for the diocesan bishop in the appointment of a dean to a Crown appointment had also been modified in the proposals, in the light of the consultation, Mr Fittall said. A lay person, rather than the bishop, would now chair the appointments committee, though who that chair was would be agreed on by the archbishops, the diocesan bishop, and the senior civil servant.

Pastoral debate may be lively. Sleeping Synod members who have let current legislation on mission through so far might wake up and realise what was happening, Mr Fittall said on Monday. .

The draft Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure 2007 sets out in detail how a bishop could establish what is, in effect, a parallel church structure, complete with its own paid clergy and clergy housing, alongside and extending beyond the existing parish and even diocesan structures and boundaries.

One way of knowing whether an initiative could be Anglican would be to use the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, said a proposed code of practice, which will be discussed at Synod.

Mr Fittall said the Mission Orders were “an important innovation in the life of the Church”: “If this turns out to be a lively debate, it is because people are waking up to what has passed by them before.”

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