THE revision stage of the Draft Church of England
(Ecclesiastical Property) Measure was completed on Tuesday morning.
The Draft Measure had received its first consideration in November
The Draft Measure had been prepared in response to the private
member's motion from the Revd Christopher Hobbs
(London) which the Synod passed in July 2013, and which called for
legislation to permit PCCs to hold property.
But, introducing the report of the revision committee,
Robert Key (Salisbury), who chaired it, said that
the draft legislation had not been implemented "in the terms in
which it was expressed" in Mr Hobbs's motion, because the
Archbishops' Council "could not support the removal of the
requirement that the legal title to interests in land and personal
property held on permanent trusts, be vested in the diocesan
"The proposals contained in the Measure therefore retain the
requirement for the title to property to be vested in the diocesan
authority, but will remove the need for the authority's consent in
any case, in which the consideration paid on the transaction falls
below a threshold specified in an Order made by the Archbishops'
Council. . . In such a case, the diocesan authority will be
required to take the necessary legal steps to give effect to the
transaction." Mr Key confirmed that beneficial ownership would
remain with the PCC, and thresholds would be decided by the
Archbishops' Council after consultation.
The Synod took note of the report.
Clive Scowen (London) moved an amendment that
would end the requirement that property belonging to PCCs must be
vested in the diocesan authority.
Timothy Allen (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich)
was concerned that some large parishes might use these new powers
to control church property to loosen their links to their diocese
and the C of E.
The Ven. Christine Hardman (Southwark) said
that, although Mr Scowen's amendment sounded reasonable, the Synod
should resist it. "The diocese won't seek to thwart the parish's
desire for growth and flourishing but to help them achieve what
they want to achieve," she said.
Gerald O'Brien (Rochester) emphasised the
optional nature of the proposal. "A small country PCC without any
expertise can simply leave it to the diocese. A large thriving
congregation packed full of lawyers and accountants would probably
desire to do it themselves."
The Revd Hugh Lee (Oxford)
said that he was worried that the clause that said "without the
consent of the diocese" didn't contain a bracketed sub-clause
saying "which shall not be unreasonably withheld".
In a vote by Houses, the amendment was lost in all three:
Bishops 2-17-0; Clergy 24-89-5; Laity 40-85-3.
Mr Scowen moved his next amendment.He argued that it did not
remove the duty to seek consent or impose any additional duties on
archdeacons. It assumed that best practice was to consult
archdeacons and others, and have regard to that advice before they
sought the consent of the diocesan authorities.
Where a parish had done due diligence, the default position
would be that they would get consent automatically, within 28 days,
unless the diocesan authority gave written notice of refusal,
setting out reasons.The amendment applied discipline to diocesan
His amendment was resisted by Archdeacon Mansell, and
A technical amendment from Mr Scowen was carried.