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Miscellaneous provisions

13 July 2012

EXHUMATIONS, overseas clergy, and the disciplining of lay workers came before the Synod when it gave first consideration to a mixed bag of business under the headings of the Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure and Draft Amending Canon No. 31.

Introducing the debate, the Revd Paul Benfield (Blackburn) said that it was difficult to give an overview of the Measure. "If I were to go into all the provisions in the time available, I would be able to do no more than list them."

He did, however, mention some of the provisions, including an amendment to the Burial Act of 1857, so that the removal of a body or human remains that have been buried are subject to either secular or ecclesiastical control, but not both. He said: "At present in some circumstances it can be necessary to obtain both a faculty in the ecclesiastical courts and a licence from the Secretary of State."

Another amendment would give the Archbishops power to grant clergy who had been ordained by overseas bishops permission to officiate on a general basis in certain circumstances. The Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967 already gave them power to do this on an individual basis, but not a general permission to all clergy attending a particular conference, such as the Lambeth Conference.

The Measure would also provide a fast-track procedure to allow a priest-in-charge to be appointed as an incumbent where the patron, the priest-in-charge, and the PCC agreed that this should be done; this would avoid the need to follow the full appointment procedure laid down in the 1986 Measure.

Justin Brett (Chichester) said that the Measure demonstrated a "centralising agenda"; and he was particularly concerned about clauses that dealt with how certain lay employees could be removed from office. "To introduce ways in which we can dismiss one or two classes of lay people in a Miscellaneous Provisions Measure simply isn't on."

The Dean of the Arches and Auditor, the Rt Worshipful Charles George, said that Miscellaneous Provisions Measures were the "bane of lawyers". "It is extremely difficult to establish what the law is. There is a danger when one looks up the Burial Act. You think it may have been amended, so you do a search for 'B' for 'burial' and don't spot that it has been amended in a Miscellaneous Provisions Measure."

The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, said that the Measure would provide a mechanism for bishops to remove permission to officiate from overseas clergy. He told how he almost appointed a priest as a hospital chaplain who was not properly ordained. "I never got around to licensing, because I smelt a rat." He said that there would have been no mechanism for removal once he had been in place.

The Revd Hugh Lee (Oxford) said that the fast-track process for transferring priests-in-charge to incumbents was done with the permission of the PCC, a move that he described as an "admirable idea, but a new departure". This part had previously been played by parish representatives.

He said that the Measure should enable the Archbishops to give permission to officiate to clergy "legitimately ordained overseas by a woman bishop" - something, he said, that did not currently happen.

He also warned against allowing employees to serve on PCCs. "We need to keep this very important principle of English charity law, that employees can't be trustees."

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent (Southern Suffragans), said that the Overseas Clergy Measure, which was "used fairly frequently in London", was becoming increasingly complex. Ought the Synod to review the whole Measure, he asked. Clergy from overseas sought "sensible answers and consistency".

The Revd Mark Steadman (Southwark) expressed concern about the amendment relating to the appointment of the chair of the dioceses commission, which removed the need for the chair to be appointed by elected members of the Synod.

The Archdeacon of Lincoln, the Ven. Tim Barker (Lincoln), asked for "further guidance" on the appointment of parish representatives for large multi-parish benefices.

The Draft Measure was referred to the revision committee.

Mr Benfield then went on to present Draft Amending Canon No. 31, which, he said, would "tidy up or amend certain aspects of the canons". These included Canon 19, concerning "the guardians of spiritualities", which was repealed, but which "should be reinstated in modified form".

During a vacancy in see, "some statutory provisions expressly confer functions on the guardian of the spiritualities", he said. "Given that the guardians continue to have a legal role during the vacancy in see, it is desirable that Canon C19 should be reinstated, but modified to take account of legislative changes that have taken place since its predecessor was promulged."

The amending canon also contained paragraphs dealing with how to remove deaconesses, Readers, and lay workers who were found guilty of misconduct. "The new canons allow a bishop to revoke their licence on grounds of misconduct."

The canon was referred to the revision committee.

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