CANON ROBERT COTTON (Guildford) moved the
Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution 2014, which is
designed to simplify a number of rules and regulations regarding
parish administration, particularly about PCC meetings.
The rules had been devised after consultation with diocesan
offices and parishes about "ways where we could open up our church
structures and processes and remove burdens that would release
parishes, lay leaders, and clergy to reimagine mission and
"The view of the simplification group was that we should look at
the Church Representation Rules because . . . the nature of
parochial ministry has changed since the early 20th century. The
way charities are expected to run and devise suitable governance
arrangements for themselves has changed very significantly and very
Sister Rosemary CHN (Religious Communities) was
"horrified" by the suggestion that the minimum number of PCC
meetings be reduced to one a year. She recognised the "very
demanding burden" on priests with many parishes, but this was not
the solution. One option was to allow the vice-chair to take some
meetings; another would be to make the benefice the unit for a
council rather than the parish.
Cllr Robin Lunn (Worcester) also had concerns
about reducing the minimum number of meetings. It would lead to
"storing up a huge amount of problems" and the creation of more
sub-committees. He also questioned whether it was necessary to
enshrine in legislation the ability to change the order of business
at a PCC meeting.
The Revd Tony Redman (St Edmundsbury &
Ipswich) reminded the Synod that it had been suggested in last
year's debate on evangelism that one meeting of the PCC every year
should be given over to mission. If the number of meetings were
reduced to one, how would this be fitted in?
Philip French (Rochester) suggested that some
aspects of the legislation went beyond simplification to
recklessness. To allow a PCC to meet just once a year would be
"downright dangerous". How could members exert their responsibility
as charity trustees? The risk was that parishes would be "captured
by a narrow and perhaps narrow-minded group". It would be
"parochialism of the worst sort". The Bishop of
Gloucester, the Rt Revd Michael Perham, said that
sometimes the bishop and diocesan synod wished to consult parishes,
but this would not be possible with a PCC that met only once a
year. Also, if a parish intended to have only one PCC meeting a
year, he suspected that this meant that the parish was
dysfunctional: "The answer is not just to make it easier for them,
but to make them face their issues."
Canon Sue Booys (Oxford) argued that in some
communities, PCCs would be able to deal with all their business in
just one meeting a year, "and do other kinds of mission in
partnership with other parishes". Being relieved of the
responsibility of putting on extra meetings would "help them
The Revd Neil Patterson (Hereford) also spoke
of small parishes. Many PCCs did not need to meet four times a
year: "Do not presume that what you think is best practice in the
places you know will work everywhere."
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, emphasised
that the proposal was to reduce the minimum number of meetings a
year to one: PCCs would be free to have more.
Dr Graham Campbell (Chester)spoke to an
amendment that sought to encourage churches to hold more than one
PCC meeting a year. He said that "alarm bells" began to ring when
he looked at the proposals. "This could mean a cabal of an
incumbent with two wardens running a parish for a whole year
without any accountability. My amendment seeks to introduce some
checks and balances. This leaves it to the annual parochial church
meeting to determine how many PCC meetings need to be held to
prevent a cabal of three."
The amendment was not voted on because it did not have enough
backing from members.
Canon Jonathan Alderton-Ford (St Edmundsbury
& Ipswich) spoke to his amendment, which would insist on a
minimum of two meetings, which had to take place a least one month
after the annual parish church meeting. He wanted to ensure that
churches could not be run by a small group. "Things should be
scrutinised and debated," he said. "If you don't do it properly,
the opportunity for financial malpractice looms large."
Canon Cotton accepted the second part of Canon Alderton-Ford's
amendment, which stipulated that a meeting soon after the annual
parochial church meeting did not count towards the minimum number
of PCC meetings throughout the rest of the year.
Dr Philip Giddings (Oxford) said that building
a sense of togetherness was a crucial part of PCC meetings. "We
need to give people the opportunities to develop that sense of
corporate identity so they can contribute to the development of the
mission of the parish."
Christopher Fielden (Salisbury) said that
reforming the Synod had to begin with reforming PCCs. "If we don't
encourage a powerful PCC that meets regularly, we don't get the
people going through to deanery synod, diocesan synod, and then
this august institution."
The first part of Canon Alderton-Ford's amendment was
The second part of his amendment said that the first of the two
PCC meetings could not take place within four weeks of the
Dr John Beal (Ripon & Leeds) challenged
Canon Cotton's assertion that the amendment would prevent a PCC's
meeting at or shortly after the APCM. "He could have that meeting
if he wants, and then two other meetings. It seems to me a very
Peter Collard (Derby) asked how a church could
function if it could not appoint its officers for a month after the
In a point of order, Canon Alderton-Ford clarified that this was
not what the amendment said. "You can have your APCM and a brief
PCC to appoint officers. That doesn't count as your two. The
purpose of this amendment is to ensure that your two PCC meetings
happen later in the year."
The amendment was carried.
Clive Scowen (London) moved an amendment that
would remove the requirement to post a notice of PCC meetings on
the church door ten days before a proposed meeting: "The current
requirement . . . is somewhat out of date and no longer meets its
purpose. But that purpose is important and should not be
The amendment gave discretion to the person convening the
meeting to decide whether to use a notice sheet, parish website,
email lists, or Facebook pages - "or even a notice on the church
door, if that is what suits local circumstances".
Canon Cotton resisted the amendment: while "the intention is
absolutely laudable and right, I'm just not sure that the amendment
as phrased here achieves that". Sending emails to everyone "may not
Prudence Dailey (Oxford) supported the
amendment: "If we don't carry this amendment, there is no
requirement for meetings to be announced."
The Revd Paul Ayers (Bradford) said that the
proposals in the draft order were "anti-democratic". The rules were
meant to protect the interests of the laity, but the proposed
changes were "a recipe for clerical dictatorship".
John Freeman (Chester) said that some people
were playing "fast and loose" with the rules; so the Church had to
be "very careful in introducing more flexibility".
When the debate began again on Wednesday morning, after an
adjournment, Canon Cotton moved a new amendment to clarify the
rules that had been debated. His amendment would ensure that the
rule blocking PCCs from meeting until four weeks after the APCM
would apply only to those PCCs that intended to only hold the
minimum two meetings that year. He described his amendment as being
"to ensure the rules mean what Jonathan Alderton-Ford and Synod
Canon Alderton-Ford said that he was happy for this new
amendment to go ahead.
The Revd Ruth Walker (Coventry) said that the
new rules would cause concern for some parishes, even as they
reduced the burden for others. "As a Church, we are all in very
different places, and one size does not fit all."
The amendment was clearly carried.
Canon Alderton-Ford stood to propose his amendment, as part of
what had already been agreed.
Canon Cotton urged the Synod to accept this amendment.
The amendment was clearly carried.
Mr Scowen proposed an amendment to stop the new representation
rules deleting the existing rule that business not on the agenda
could be discussed by a PCC only with the consent of 75 per cent of
He said: "That is and continues to be a very important
safeguard, and is common in many other organisations. Good
practice, good order, and prayerful deliberation requires that
business not on the agenda should not normally be taken." The rule
needed to be kept to prevent controversial business's being
rail-roaded through a PCC.
Canon Cotton said that wisdom and good intentions could be
thwarted by the imposition of rules. "By keeping this rule, we're
making protection against bad behaviour and flexibility into a
zero-sum game. . . There are others ways of protecting PCCs from
bad behaviour, but what we are trying to do is increase
flexibility, so if things are urgent, they can still be discussed."
He also said that, elsewhere in the charity sector, most rules
required a 75-per-cent margin only for foundational change. "Here
we are trying to make things simpler."
Mr Ayers said that Mr Scowen was "absolutely right" and Canon
Cotton was wrong. "Seventy-five per cent is a high margin, but zero
is a very low margin. I've been at many meetings where people have
tried to bounce items on to the agenda, and where vague items have
concealed what it's really about, where financial matters have been
brought up with no chance to work though beforehand. Simplification
is very often the rhetoric of people who want to get things done
The Archdeacon of Cleveland, the Ven. Paul
Ferguson(York), said that he had hoped the debate would focus on
how good PCCs generally were, but instead it had focusedon the
problems. Nevertheless, he called for the amendment to be
Peter Smith (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) said
that there was a risk that the Synod might draw up very different
rules by amending them clause by clause. He suggested that draft
rules should not be drawn up in this group of sessions, but that
the Synod should wait, and allow legal officers to check the
The amendment was carried.
Dr Campbellintroduced an amendment that would retain the minimum
size of a standing committees. He warned that if the minimum was
reduced to three, a disruptive faction could infiltrate the
committee by electing themselves churchwardens and then outvoting
Canon Cotton said the draft rules were about flexibility and
allowing standing committees to be only three members where that
was advisable. "It's worth remembering that the standing committee
only receives power from the PCC," he said. "This is a useful bit
of flexibility." He urged the Synod to resist the amendment.
Canon Martin Wood (Chelmsford) said that he
would also resist the amendment, as many small parishes had PCCs
that were so small that having a five-member standing committee
would be disproportionate.
The Revd Simon Cawdell (Hereford) said he would
resist the amendment because of parishes with PCCs of only eight
The amendment was lost.
The Archdeacon of Tonbridge, the Ven. Clive
Mansell (Rochester), made a point of order, asking for an
adjournment until July. He said that a long debate over two days on
technical issues needed a delay to make sure there were not
Canon Cotton said: "Our objectives must be about strengthening
capability of groups of local Christians as they take wise and
innovative and responsible decisions for the sake of the church,
neighbourhood. and parish. We don't control bad behaviour by rules.
We control it much more by encouraging, empowering, giving people
responsibility, and helping them fulfil that wisely."
He also supported adjourning the debate: "We can resume the
entertainment and enjoyment of Church Representation Rules in
The Synod voted to adjourn the debate until the sessions in York