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Group wants to cut C of E's red legislative tape

16 January 2015

by a staff reporter 




A THOROUGH spring clean of the Church of England's "unhelpful" and "restrictive" legislation is proposed in a report by a simplification task group, published on Wednesday.

The task group, chaired by the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, concentrates on rules that touch on clergy appointment and parish organisation.

The group was given the task of considering "concerns raised about the constraints caused to the mission and growth of the Church of England by existing canons, legislation, regulations and procedures". It was to "bring forward options and proposals for simplification and deregulation" by November 2014. Its work has already been seen and approved by the House of Bishops and the Archbishops' Council. The report goes before to the General Synod next month, and again in July.

It includes caveats. "We are realistic that deregulation and simplification on its own will not bring about a renewal of mission of the Church of England or the re-evangelisation of our nation," the group says. "It is not our purpose to remove important checks and balances, nor undermine rights and duties."

The group believes, none the less, that "the work of simplification can make a vital difference and contribute to the wider missionary task". It complains of "a plethora of legislative complexity which, we believe, acts as a barrier to experiment and innovation - and thus frustrates the Church's missionary calling".

The group targets three areas:

• immediate, serious hindrances to mission, including pastoral reorganisation and diocesan/parochial management;

• weighty and worthy bureaucracy and procedure that is of its time, but is no longer fit for its purpose; and

• matters that generate redundant paperwork which could easily be simplified.

A key point is that each of the simplification group's recommendations emerged from consultations with dioceses. As many as 20 dioceses highlighted particular pieces of legislation which they found troublesome.

The group reckons that it can work fruitfully for the next quinquennium - the five-year life of the next General Synod, to be elected this autumn. Its first recommendations target legislation covering ministerial deployment and terms of service, as well as pastoral reorganisation, contained in the Clergy (Terms of Service) Measure (and Regulations) 2009 and the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011.

It acknowledges that some of the work will be complex, given the tie-in between C of E and state legislation: "Changes to regulations can be achieved by a one-stage procedure; changes to Measures and Canons will need several stages of work." It will fall to the General Synod to agree and implement many of the changes.

For the next stage, the group envisages wider consultation to identify areas that relate to parish ministry.

In a video introduction to the simplification process, Bishop Broadbent says: "Of course, the genius of the Church of England is that it is an ordered Church: our legal framework is part of the law of the land, and has prevented us from sliding into sectarianism and irresponsibility.

"But there has been a tendency over recent years, in framing our legislation, to over-prescribe, to defend against every possible eventuality, and to create a defensive bureaucracy that is in many instances no longer fit for purpose.

"The simplification group recognises that a programme for change runs the risk of being time-consuming, intricate, and at times controversial. There will need to be a balance between the rights and duties that legislation is framed to protect and the need to make a missional difference in the life of our dioceses and parishes.

"Identify the essential: what makes for good governance, proper legality, and a clear process? Eliminate the rest.


Clergy (Terms of Service) Measure 2009 and Regulations

Regulation 29 and short-term appointments

1. Amend Regulation 29 to extend the circumstances in which offices under common tenure may be held for a fixed or limited term by allowing:

a. Extension (for no more than a year) of the short-term licence of a curate who has satisfactorily completed IME 4-7 but is still looking for a post of first responsibility.

b. Appointment of an assistant curate as a locally supported minister provided he or she is not priest-in-charge of the benefice.

c. Appointment to interim or turnaround posts for three years (renewable once only). Before designating a post as an interim appointment the Bishop must obtain the consent of the DMPC, office holder (if any) and PCC.

2. The Archbishops' Council to issue guidance on the designation of posts as interim posts.

Statements of Particulars

3. Streamline Statements of Particulars (SoPS) for Self-Supporting Ministers, including by:

a. Simplifying arrangements for sickness reporting and time off;

b. Amending Regulation 27 so that the need to provide a medical certificate applies only to clergy in receipt of a stipend.

Capability Procedure

4. We do not propose changes to the capability procedure, which rightly reflects best practice in the modern world. The accompanying guidance, however, needs to be revised to emphasise that:

• The periods for improvement (as distinct from the expiry of warnings) do not have to be lengthy;

• Using the procedure should be a last resort;

• Full use needs to be made of other ways of helping clergy to be more effective such as MDR.

Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011

Pastoral Reorganisation

New form of Bishop's Pastoral Order

5. Introduce a new class of Bishop's Pastoral Order covering a range of "administrative" decisions which do not significantly impact on the legal rights of individuals or the status of churches (e.g. creation or alteration of archdeaconries or deaneries, dissolution of vacant archdeaconry, alteration of benefice or parish names, termination of group ministries). Remove the right of statutory interested parties to be consulted about such decisions and to make representations to the Church Commissioners.

Streamlined consultation on draft Schemes and other Pastoral Orders

6. Streamline consultation of statutory interested parties on substantive pastoral reorganisation, limiting this to two stages: initial consultation on the issues, followed by consultation on proposals in the form of a draft Scheme or Order.

Proposals implementing a deanery plan

7. A statutory presumption in favour of proposals to implement a Deanery Plan validated by the DMPC unless material considerations dictate otherwise. For such proposals consultation should be on the draft scheme only (initial consultation stage on the issues is not required).

Arrangements for drafting and publishing draft schemes

8. Drafting, publishing and consulting on draft schemes to be undertaken either by the Diocese or the Church Commissioners, as the Bishop desires.

Mode of consultation

9. Provide for notices to be read out at services in affected parishes, and draft schemes publicised on the Church of England website (with links on diocesan websites), to improve consultation and engagement.

Representations and Public Hearings

10. Simplify arrangements for dealing with representations in respect of draft Schemes and Orders by:

a. Endorsing the Church Commissioners' emerging proposal to simplify its public hearing process through a pre-hearing sift to determine cases which can be dealt with on the paperwork;

b. Giving the Commissioners a power, exercisable with the Bishop's consent, to amend a Scheme or Order, having considered representations, and to determine whether a further second-stage consultation is required.

Teams and Groups

11. Streamline the provisions for teams and groups, including removal of enabling provisions for matters more suitably dealt with by licence, and of administrative requirements, such as holding meetings, which do not really belong in legislation.

12. Conduct a wider review of the operation of teams and groups, particularly in the rural context, taking into account other emerging forms of collaborative ministry.

Church Buildings

13. In respect of church buildings:

a. Amend Canon B14A to enable the Bishop to direct the use of a building for occasional services of worship only to support the concept of "festival churches".

b. Support the establishment of a group to review issues regarding church buildings and, in particular, the options for change on how closed church buildings are dealt with.

c. Streamlining the consultation arrangements for draft schemes providing for alternative uses for closed church buildings by removing the need for statutory public consultation on such proposals (except where there are burials within the building or any surrounding churchyard).

d. Simplify the provisions dealing with membership of the Churches Conservation Trust to enable the appointment of additional trustees.

Bishops' Mission Orders

14. Simplify the arrangements for Bishops' Mission Orders (BMOs) by:

a. Streamlining the recommended practice on initial exploration to address concerns regarding its complexity;

b. Removing the requirement for an initial order to operate for no more than five years;

c. Removing much of the prescriptive provision relating to the role of the Visitor;

d. Providing additional guidance on matters such as charitable status and representation;

e. Serving notice of BMOs on the Church Commissioners to facilitate sharing good practice and collation of statistics.

Compensation for loss of Office (by pastoral reorganisation)

15. Amend the existing provisions for compensation for loss of office as a result of pastoral reorganisation by:

a. Replacing the existing compensation provisions calculated on future service and financial loss with compensation based on the length of past stipendiary ecclesiastical service in years;

b. Providing a lump sum cash payment based on one month's stipend for every year of service, capped at twenty one months' stipend in total (but providing for a minimum cash payment of six months stipend regardless of length of service);

c. Providing suitable housing for a period of six months;

d. Compensating clergy for loss of pensionable service as part of the lump sum;

e. Applying the compensation arrangements to all office holders regardless of when they took office including clergy on historic freehold

Other Measures/ Areas

Endowments and Glebe Measure 1976

16. Remove the requirement to consult incumbents and PCCs on glebe transactions.

Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986

17. In relation to the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986:

a. Provide for the right of presentation to lapse to the Diocesan Bishop rather than the Archbishop of the Province after nine months.

b. Examine the scope for further streamlining of processes and paperwork. Other aspects of the Measure could also be simplified and brought up to date.

c. Consider whether a more fundamental review of the Measure should be undertaken.

National Clergy Payroll

18. The Church Commissioners to provide clarification and improved guidance on when a post is an office and thus eligible to be paid through the clergy payroll (in addition to further planned discussions with HMRC on the tax implications of HLC and provided housing where clergy are not full time office holders).

Availability of Guidance

19. Encourage further consideration of how best to publicise the availability of guidance on legislation and encourage greater ease of access through the Church of England website.

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