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
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."