BEFORE the Clergy Discipline
(Amendment) Measure came to the Synod for final approval, members
were able to debate a take-note motion on a report from the
Opening the debate, the Bishop
of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, said that
"important lessons have been learned and a number of improvements
put into place" since the original Measure, which came into force
in 2006. The amendment Measure would also fulfil the request made
by the Synod in 2009 to "bring back proposals to the effect that
clergy in membership or support of racist organisations should be
cognisant of discipline".
The Measure would make it a
disciplinary offence for clergy to be a member of, promote, or
solicit support for an organisation if the House of Bishops
declared that the organisation's "constitution, policies,
objectives, activities, or public statements" were "incompatible
with the teaching of the Church of England in relation to the
equality of persons or groups of different races". The House of
Bishops would need a two-thirds majority to proscribe any
Bishop Hill said: "The Synod itself
would have the opportunity to endorse or otherwise a decision by
the House of Bishops to proscribe membership or support of a racist
organisation in relation to the clergy."
He said that the revision committee
had "also had to deal with changes in government policy with regard
The Dean of the Arches and
Auditor, the Rt Worshipful Charles George, who chairs the
appeal tribunal under the Clergy Discipline Measure, wanted to
record his entire support for the Measure "as it now stands". While
acknowledging that the Clergy Discipline Measure was "little loved"
by parish clergy, and "perhaps even less loved" by diocesan
bishops, he was "satisfied that the Measure has settled down", and
that "the system is working reasonably well."
In 2011, only one case had come before
a provincial tribunal, and only one to the Court of Arches. The
fear that there was going to be "very extensive litigation" as
result of the Measure had proved to be "totally unfounded". The low
number of referrals was "largely because of the strong action taken
by diocesan bishops when they have played their part under the
Measure", and also the "rigorous approach" taken by the president
of tribunals in ensuring that only serious ones came before it. The
Synod owed a "huge debt" to Lord Justice Mummery (the
The amendments tabled were "relatively
small", with the exception of the addition to categories of
misconduct of participation in certain proscribed political parties
and organisations, which had got "very general Synod support".
The new requirement for leave to
appeal contained important safeguards, in that he was not to sit
alone (as chairman of the appeal tribunal), and the criteria for
granting leave meant that it was likely to be granted. He commended
the Measure to the Synod.
The Revd Stephen
Coles (London) suggested that the amendment indicated
"something very healthy about what we are prepared to do": the
Synod was prepared to revise a Measure when problems arose. He
raised a concern about clergy who were suspended, particularly
those who lived in the parish. The suspension could often be
prolonged, and in itself could look like a form of discipline.
He thus made a request that was "not a
matter for legislation but for the outworking of it". Was it
possible to speed up the process without jeopardising a proper
investigation? Or to provide or offer other accommodation for the
duration of the investigation? He would like to hear about the
experiences of those who had experienced "this sharp end of the
Discipline Measure", and make sure that "we share best practice and
improve it as much as we can."
Bishop Hill acknowledged that the
Measure "would restrict the political options of clergy", but noted
that "Synod has overwhelmingly supported this principle in the case
of extreme parties and organisations." An amendment to Clause 1(3)
Bishop Hill then moved a "technical
special amendment" to address the fact that the definition of a
summary offence - for which a bishop has the power to impose a
penalty after a conviction - differs in different
The amendment was carried.
Bishop Hill, seeking final approval
for the Measure, said that, while it was "necessarily technical",
it was "still about something of vital importance to the Body of
Christ: our care and concern for the equality of all human beings
as created and redeemed in Christ; our care and protection of the
innocent and the victim; [and] our care and concern for the
integrity and reputation of the Church".
The Measure received final approval in
all three Houses: Bishops: 22-0; Clergy: 90-0; and Laity: 100-2
with one recorded abstention.