Terms of service

15 July 2009

THE SYNOD approved the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations 2009.

Introducing the debate on Monday morning, the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Stephen Venner, said that the motion would bring the full imple­menta­tion of common tenure “significantly” closer. Training and preparation was already under way, and dioceses had been refining the processes necessary. The draft regula­tions “put flesh on the bones of common tenure”. They sought to embody “the principles of fairness, support, and collaborative working which are the foundation stones of this legislation”. The regulations would come into force on 1 January next year, but common tenure was still expected to be brought in at the end of 2010.

The regulations made provision “for the capability and grievance procedures to take the form of codes of practice rather than directions”. This was important, because pro­cedural niceties had aready been used in cases before employment tribunals rather than the issues themselves.

When capability procedures were progressing, the cleric had the right to be informed of the procedure that would be followed in assessing his or her performance. “Any subsequent departure from that procedure would be a ground for legal challenge and would need to be fully justified.”

If a priest-in-charge was not appointed to that incumbency or to a comparable post when the suspension of a living was lifted, then he or she would be entitled to up to a year’s stipend and housing. Where pastoral reorganisation was already on the table, a priest could be appointed for up to five years as incumbent, after which he or she would be confirmed in office or given up to a year’s com­pensation. He urged that this would go some way towards reducing the need for suspension.

Canon Robert Cotton (Guildford) spoke of Teresa of Avila, who had placed herself under the authority of the Church because she knew that it would itself be judged by the reality of God incarnate. She had spoken of her self-doubt, her unhappiness, and her feelings about conventional piety. But, in all her difficulties, what she complained about was that no one challenged her on those matters. “We want a shared episcope that chal­lenges, motivates, and enhances our parish ministry,” Canon Cotton said.

Gavin Oldham (Oxford) said that support for parish priests was inferior to support for managers in business. He recommended Investors in People.

Jenny Dunlop (Chester) wanted to give approval, but, as a family lawyer, expressed concern for clergy families when a marriage or civil partnership broke down. Provision must be included for when a clergy spouse vacated the property, so that the family had a right to the accommoda­tion for the next three months.

Anne Sloman (Archbishops’ Council) said that the regulations had tried to achieve a balance between the expectations of a priest and his or her parish. There was need to allow room for common sense and discretion, but the ground rules had been set. She hoped that they would work to support the clergy and keep faith with them and their ministries.

The Archdeacon of Cornwall, the Ven. Roger Bush (Truro), sought clarification about dual posts and how they operated under common tenure. Were those in such posts (e.g. social-responsibility officers) employees of the diocesan board of finance? Would dual-role posts become even more difficult to define?

Dr Philip Giddings (Oxford) said that if ministerial reviews were to be developmental, they needed to be honest, frank, and secure. What would happen to the records of such meetings? Who would have access to the material? Safeguards must be there for the effectiveness of the project. Agreement was important from those who were there about what was reported. Disagreements should also be recorded if the review was to be a genuinely developmental, not disciplinary, tool.

William Nicholls (Lichfield) wondered how well prepared PCCs and others were in matters of employ­ment law. Priests harassed either inside or outside the church had recourse to employment tribunals, and PCCs and DBFs had to “get their act together” by the end of 2010.

The Revd Paul Ayers (Bradford) was concerned that the code of prac­tice had disappeared from the docu­ment. Was there evidence that dio­ceses were getting to grips with this?

The Revd Dr John Hartley (Bradford) believed the document put bishops above contradiction, under no constraint to take into account the views of the clergy. Common tenure was “a stitch-up. We ought to be ashamed of it.”

The Revd Hugh Lee (Oxford) asked whether common tenure applied to non-stipendiary ministers and those in secular posts and dual posts. Com­mon tenure should apply whatever priests were doing: they were priests “24/7”.

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