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New tenure found inflexible

28 February 2014

SHUTTERSTOCK

THE Church of England is reviewing the operation of Common Tenure, after complaints have been made that its provisions are too inflexible to meet the requirements of dioceses and the clergy.

Introduced in 2009, Common Tenure was designed to regularise the way in which clerics were deployed to parishes, and increase the security and protections for those who were appointed without the freehold. But dioceses are discovering that one of the provisions designed to protect the clergy - a restriction on the use of fixed-term deployments - is too inflexible to meet the needs of some parishes.

One priest's move to a part-time, temporary house-for-duty post, while he also undertakes voluntary work for an overseas diocese, has been put on hold because the position does not fulfil the criteria for time-limited appointments set out in the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations 2009 - the statutory instrument that sets out the rules for Common Tenure.

"I want the post, and I'm prepared to take it on a time-limited basis, but I'm not allowed to," the priest said. The receiving parish requested that the appointment be time-limited so they could review the position after 12 months, and evaluate whether too much time was being spent serving the overseas diocese.

Even though the priest, the parish, the Bishop, and the diocese have all agreed to a time-limited appointment, the law as it stands does not allow this to happen. "I feel very annoyed about the process. It seems to me that the legislation is so unclear that it is difficult to know what procedures to follow in anomalous cases," the priest said.

"The regulations are almost completely inflexible. In their attempt to give security to clergy, they've actually made it impossible to do short-term appointments," the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, said.

The Bishop is currently consulting dioceses about the impact of Common Tenure, but is in no doubt about its effect: "I've put a priest into a parish to give transitional care, but, when he finishes, I'm going to have to carry on paying him, because he is protected under Common Tenure. It's a joke.

"The only other way of doing it is to appoint people on contracts, and put them on the diocesan payroll. That way we can end their payments. On Common Tenure, we can't."

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