THE Synod has asked the Archbishops’ Council to bring forward legislative proposals to enable job-sharing for clerics.
Introducing a diocesan-synod motion from Bath & Wells, Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) spoke of the difficulty when the diocese was presented with a couple who wished to pursue a job-share. The response of the Deployment, Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee amounted to “excuses for not starting to do anything about it”.
John Freeman (Chester) said that job-sharing for the clergy was an issue that had “got to be solved”. He gave examples of its working in the field of education.
The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer, said that hierarchy was the real issue. The Synod’s definition was of a cleric as an office-holder, not an employee, and an office could not be held by more than one person.
The Revd William Raines (Manchester) said: “We still lag behind the secular world in the provision we give to job-sharing couples.” It was time to devote attention to fresh expressions of ministry.
Dr Christina Baxter (Southwell & Nottingham) said that at St John’s College, Nottingham, she had seen the challenges couples faced as they tried to enter ministry together. “The Church seems to be saying that couples are a problem, but they are a strength,” she said.
Prebendary Colin Randall (Bath & Wells) said: “Job-sharing takes place in education, social work, retail, and commerce, but not in the Church. That is wrong.”
The Archdeacon of Bath, the Ven. Andy Piggott, who chaired the panel that looked at the appointment of priests on a job-share, said: “All our motion asks is that the Archbishops’ Council makes possible what we believe is right.”
The Archdeacon of Berkshire, the Ven. Norman Russell (Oxford), urged the Synod “not to go for an easy solution which wipes away off-holder status”.
Christine McMullen (Derby) said that there were fears that boundaries of confidentiality might be breached by a married couple in ministry, during “ecclesiastical pillow-talk”. There were also worries that if one of the married couple finished in the job, it could be difficult to find a replacement.
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, supported the idea of job-sharing, but said that to implement it, some other work would have to be dropped, because of the cost.
Canon Pete Spiers (Liverpool) said that there was difficulty in bringing forward legal proposals for job-sharing, but that there were imaginative options available.
The Revd Richard Moy (Lichfield), whose wife is also a curate, said that not every bishop was prepared to be accommodating. “We think the sum of us together is better than two separate parts.”
The Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Price, said: “This is not a situation that is going to go away.
The motion was carried. It read:
That this Synod, having regard to:
(a) the benefits to be gained from job-sharing arrangements in the parochial deployment of ordained ministers, in particular married couples where both parties are ordained;
(b) the absence at present of any effective provision for job-sharing in the ordained parochial ministry; request the Archbishops’ Council to bring forward legislative proposals for the making of such job-sharing arrangements.