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Synod: Care of churches

21 November 2014

IN A brief take-note debate on Monday, before the final drafting and approval stage of the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure, the Dean of the Arches, the Rt Worshipful Charles George QC (ex officio), explained that there would be two "very minor, though necessary, amendments" to be introduced as special amendments.

Timothy Allen (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) welcomed the Measure, which would, he said, help churchwardens, who were "overstretched". But he said it didn't go far enough. He was concerned that the "lawyer-dominated Rule Committee", responsible for drawing up the secondary legislation to implement the changes, "will be so legalistic and cautious that there will be little lightening of the load".

Chancellor George disagreed, describing the Measure as a "major step forward".

The first amendment was necessary because "the Measure is not sufficiently clear" that grazing of churchyards by livestock without the need of a faculty was to be allowed.

The Revd Simon Cawdell (Hereford) welcomed the move, suggesting that the use of sheep to graze churchyards put Hereford "at the forefront of churchyard technology".

The second special amendment was to enable the Court of Arches to hear appeals in cases where the original petition and hearing involved "doctrine, ritual, or ceremonial" issues; if the appeal itself "solely relates to other matters".

Currently, such appeals were heard by the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved, which had last sat 25 years ago. The amendment "does not seek to alter the existing divisions of functions, but solely clarifies . . . which appeal court has jurisdiction to hear the appeal", Chancellor George said.

Both amendments were carried by the Synod on a simple show of hands.

Canon Simon Butler (Southwark) thanked the Simplification Group "for all their hard work", but asked questions about its implementation. He said that faculty jurisdiction "wasn't implemented properly" in the diocese of Gloucester, leading to additional work for parishes and archdeacons.

The Measure was given final approval: Bishops: 17 in favour, none against, no abstentions; Clergy: 102 in favour, none against, one abstention; Laity: 101 in favour, none against, no abstentions.

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